College students over-index on paid music streaming (and free) in new study

Research firm MusicWatch has released new data from its Annual Music Study, conducted in April. A professor at Monmouth University crunched the MusicWatch survey results to arrive at a snapshot of how college students are listening to music.

The headline of MusicWatch’s blog post is that students are willing to pay for music. The Monmouth University data-crunch indicates that they already over-index on paid on-demand music services, with a usage rate nearly 20%. They also over-index on “free on demand” — which means freemium plans such as Spotify controversially offers.

college students musicwatch chart

Russ Crupnick, managing partner of MusicWatch, made this observation: “Broad accessibility, ease-of-use, getting music they want right away and music discovery are key benefits students see from free or ad-supported music streaming. However, they would be more likely to convert to premium services if it was harder to get their music from free services, if the paid services offered more choices or if music wasn’t available from the free versions until later.”

Interestingly, more than 60% of students surveyed in the study listen to CDs, and over 50% use downloaded music file purchases — both considered to be fading music consumption models, usage of which skews older. At the same time, video streaming of music ranked very high, over 60%.

“We have this habit of generalizing about college students,” said Crupnick, “assuming they are at the bleeding edge of every entertainment technology. In fact, college students are a diverse population, and many embrace old-fashioned values related to music ownership or listening to CDs.”

The analysis was conducted by Joe Rapolla, head of the Music and Theater Arts Department, and director of the Music Industry Program at Monmouth University. Formerly, he was SVP of Marketing at Warner Music Group. “The data shows that price isn’t necessarily the barrier,” he noted. “Free is a price point that needs to strategically and carefully co-exist with other price points.”

Brad Hill