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SXSW 2013: Serious fans spend more than $422 a year on music

March 12, 2013|By Todd Martens
  • A sampling from Nielsen's study on music.
A sampling from Nielsen's study on music. (Nielsen Entertainment )

AUSTIN, Texas -- The most serious of fans can spend upward of $422 per year on music in the U.S., according to the results of a new report from Nielsen Entertainment released today at South by Southwest. Those who can be classified as music fans, Nielsen proclaimed, account for nearly 75% of all music spending in the U.S.

There is a catch: The most avid of fans in Nielsen's sampling of 4,000 consumers downloaded the most tracks for free, approximately 30 in a year. What's more, those classified as "music fans" account for just 40% of the music-buying public in America.

Nielsen has identified three core consumer categories. The "aficionado" is willing to spend more than $422 per year on music, concerts and artist merch, and does so via sites such as iTunes, Amazon and indie outlets. The "digital fan" was determined to spend about $363 per year and views a smartphone or tablet as the entertainment hub. Finally, the "big box" fan shops at mass retailers, is partial to pop and country and spends, on average, $196 per year on music.

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Less engaged consumers still spend on music. Occasional concertgoers, ambivalent music consumers and background music consumers were found to frequent discovery sites such as Pandora and were willing to spend between $44 and $121 per year on music. The concert attendee, of course, spent the most. 

What, exactly, is an ambivalent music fan? Someone, Nielsen wrote, who is "seeking more -- not particularly engaged with the music but are using Pandora ... Willing to pay for streaming concerts and willing to pay for special/unique content."

Those with the most intense relationship to music are still the most likely to frequent peer-to-peer file-sharing sites. The likes of PirateBay and LimeWire were popular with music aficionados and digital fans. The ones who spent the least on music were the ones who expressed the most interest in a music recommendation engine such as Pandora, and the big box fan seemed particularly disinterested in such services.

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When it comes to on-demand paid streaming services such as Rhapsody and Spotify, the services thus far appear to target the music afficiando. Yet there was interest among all consumers in an on-demand streaming service, and even 25% of those classified as "ambivalent" music listeners have sampled one.

Nielsen Entertainment executive David Bakula estimates that there's a growth era of between $450 million and $2.68 billion still for the industry to reach. "Consumers really want more and they want to be engaged," he said. 

There's plenty of half-full/half-empty moments throughout the detailed study. For instance, of those who don't meet the criteria to be classified as one of Nielsen's core music fans, 60% have never seen their favorite band live and in concert. Yet more than 60% of ambivalent fans use free services such as Pandora and, in what could be a good sign for the potential growth of paid streaming services, about 25% of ambivalent fans use Spotify and Rhapsody.

How the latter can grow will continue to be a focus of South by Southwest, beginning later today with a talk by Spotify founder Daniel Ek.

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