Edison study of Millennials: FM and Internet competing for mindshare

meet the millennials 350wEdison Research presented its new study, #MeetTheMillennials, at the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville yesterday. The survey, months in the making, was conducted by phone and via in-person interviews and queried 1,550 individuals around the U.S. about their taste in music (Country Music in particular) and their listening sources. Slides and videos of the interviews are publicly available here.

The report was tailored to the Country broadcasters in the audience, and featured data regarding the growth of the genre’s popularity. (Country is the #1 category today, up from #4 in 2010.) More broadly, the surveys and interviews assessed how Millennials listen to music at home, at work, and in their cars. All interview subjects were between 18 and 34 years old. The video interviews seemed to feature people on the young end of that spectrum.

In this cohort, FM radio plays an important role in music discovery and casual listening, especially in the car, but is clearly encroached by satellite and Internet listening. Over 80% of respondents owned a smartphone, but 84% would be disappointed “if the FM station you listen to no longer existed.” More than half of those surveyed forecast a serious downfall of FM, by agreeing with this statement: “In the future no one your age will listen to FM radio because everything will be on the Internet.”

In the video interviews, Pandora was mentioned often as a listening resource, conveying the impression that it is well-known and well-used in this survey population. One notable quote: “”Pandora really changed how I listen to music. It essentially is a radio station.” (See our reader poll on the question of whether Pandora is radio.)

Perhaps the most provocative question that Edison put to its interviewees was this: “Why listen to AM/FM at all?” The responses added up to a fairly robust defense of terrestrial radio, based mainly on ease-of-use — but also favoring its radio’s hit-curating ability to keep listeners up-to-date in music:

  • “It’s convenient; it’s right there in the car.”
  • “With Pandora, you have to choose your station. Sometimes you just want to be lazy and let someone else pick the music.
  • “They play new songs I wouldn’t think of if I haven’t heard them on the radio first.”
  • “It is a way to find new music, still. It’s nice to have mindless listening instead of having to choose, or make a playlist.”
  • “It keeps you up date, and current on your music.”
  • “It’s the best way to hear new music. I’ll hear it in the car, then go listen on the computer.”
  • “So easy.”

A few remarks indicated some degree is disaffection for FM listening:

  • “Honestly, there are better ways to listen to music.”
  • “My car doesn’t have an AUX connection. If it weren’t for that, I’d probably just plug in my phone and listen to that.”
  • “It’s not a last resort, but it’s an easy option.”

Edison’s interpretations is that the 18-34 set is looking for filtered content of all sorts (not just in music), and that “Country radio IS the filter for Country Music.” The study’s recommendation to broadcasters is to engage audiences via social networks, and emphasize radio built-in advantages of personality and locality. “It’s never been more important to play up your localness,” Edison recommends, showing pictures of uniquely designed Starbucks stores.

Brad Hill