New survey analyzes iTunes Radio listening and buying behavior

not buying it w itunes radioA study authored by Sam Milkman of Music Forecasting seeks to understand why iTunes Radio does not drive iTunes music purchases in greater volume. The report is called: They’re Not Buying It: Why iTunes Radio Isn’t Selling Music.

The premise is observational rather than wholly metric: the study acknowledges that 2013 music sales were down, and digital download sales suffered their first year-over-year decline in the history of iTunes. That is a tempting and reasonable foundation upon which to launch a discovery survey. At the same time, since Apple does not break out the exact metric needed to verify the funneling power (or impotence) of iTunes Radio, Milkman is forced to suppose that download sales would not have been much worse without iTunes Radio operating in the final three months of the year.

The report acknowledges that iTunes Radio is new, and the future of its role in the iTunes ecosystem is unknowable. Besides that, the important part of the survey is what Milkman learned about usage habits and attitudes in a pool of users.

Along those lines, the key learnings are that respondents are aware of the Buy button which links iTunes Radio to the iTunes music store, and sometimes use it for impulse purchases. The survey indicates that owning a personal collection is at least somewhat important to respondents, even as they use non-purchasing alternatives. The main drag against buying, according to the report, is “mindset.” Radio listening (of all sorts, we presume), is a lean-back experience, and purchasing is lean-forward. The two are not easily combined in real-life use cases. If that is a guiding principle, then a good sales funnel in theory (linkage between radio and store) is not necessarily an effective sales funnel in practice.

Milkman wraps up with a few suggestions to Apple. The PDF report is freely available here.


Brad Hill