Music streaming platforms have been a game-changer for the music industry, providing music aficionados with a convenient way to listen to their favorite tunes. However, the way different generations consume music has changed, and the music marketing industry is scrambling to keep up with the shifts in consumer behavior.
For many years, millennials were considered the foundation of the streaming industry. They were among the first to embrace streaming formats, and their love for music meant they spent the most time and money on it. However, MIDiA’s latest report, ‘US millennial snapshot | A looming generational blind spot’, reveals that this may no longer be the case. The report focuses on 25-34-year-olds in the US and reveals that this cohort is the most valuable age group for the music industry, yet, they are the ones most in danger of being lost.
Living in a Physical World
One of the most interesting findings from the report is that US 25-34s spend the least time streaming music of any segment under 45, and the most on other formats, such as CD, radio, and vinyl. Nearly half say they would give up music rather than TV/film if forced to make the choice, and many are considering canceling some subscriptions in favor of bundles.
This data highlights the fact that millennials, who grew up amid the transition from physical music to streaming, seem reluctant to give up the listening methods of their upbringing. For many millennials, owning a CD or vinyl is more than just a way to listen to music, it’s a physical reminder of their favorite artists, the album artwork, and the liner notes.
What would get millennials to engage more with streaming? The majority of US 25-34s say it is important to listen to music that is chosen by humans (rather than an algorithm), and would like to have a more social streaming experience, with tools like profile pages and messaging. Overall, this cohort is looking for more human ways to stream.
This is not surprising, considering that the last age segment to experience ownership of music was the 25-34 age group. Their earliest experiences with music were in many ways more human and social than they feel on streaming. If you are part of this cohort, you had to visit a store to buy a band’s new CD, and the CD came with context about the artist via album art and lyric booklets. You probably burned CDs for your friends. Even the early days of file-sharing were inherently social. By contrast, today’s streaming algorithms encourage passive listening and provide a hyper-personalized experience (i.e., “For You” playlists). While there are social features on streaming, the overall experience is leaving much to be desired for millennials.
Who Are You Building For?
The music marketing industry needs to take a closer look at these findings and understand the importance of providing a human touch to streaming services. However, what pleases one generation does not necessarily matter as much to others. The Gen Z-dominant cohort below them, 16-19-year-olds, actually diverge strongly in many of their habits. Thus, it may be difficult — although certainly not impossible — to create a platform that serves both.
Over time, entertainment companies may find it increasingly difficult to serve a broad range of ages. Generations have always had obvious differences, but as the pace of technological and cultural change accelerates, with deep impacts on consumer behavior, these differences are becoming more pronounced and scattered. While 16-19s might grow up accustomed to artificial intelligence (AI), the technology might feel alien even to 20-24s.
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