Bloom.FmStreaming music service Bloom.fm published some results from a survey this morning. You might be tempted to write it off as a piece of research where the questions asked and answers published were chosen purely to support the company’s own business model.

We think there’s more to it, though.

Yes, Bloom.fm is a streaming music service trying to provide an alternative to piracy, which offers £1 and £5 monthly subscriptions with a limited number of keepable tracks as well as a full Spotify-style on-demand tier for £10.

It’s not a wild surprise to see its survey finding that 49% of Brits listened to music sourced illegally in the last month; that 84% think £120 a year is too much to pay for streaming music; and that 81% listen to less than 200 tracks a month, then. But it’s worth digging into the results a little more.

First, methodology. The survey was carried out by market research firm Research Now on behalf of Bloom.fm in July, quizzing 976 people about their music habits and attitudes. Bloom.fm CEO Oleg Fomenko tells Music Ally that the survey involved a “representative sample” of the British population, not just Bloom.fm users.

Now to the interesting points:

Piracy

The question was worded thus: “In a typical month where does the majority of music you listen to come from?”, with users able to tick multiple answers from a list. 49% said they’d listened to music from an illegal online source. But this is the source for the music, NOT the services they necessarily used. Some of these people may not be getting music illegally any more, but they are still listening to the tracks they downloaded in the past.

That’s why Bloom.fm’s 49% figure is so much higher than other recent estimates for the scale of UK music filesharing.

Earlier this year, the BPI claimed that 7m Brits use at least one illegal service a month, which by our reckoning is 11.2% of the entire UK population, or around 14% of adults. In March, telecoms regulator Ofcom suggested that 10% of British internet users consumed at least some music illegally in the third quarter of 2012.

You might even argue that if Bloom.fm’s results are accurate – that 49% of people still listen to pirated music – the fact that other research suggests that less than 15% are still using illegal services may be good news: indicating that a lot of people have stopped filesharing in recent years. But a lot more data is needed to make that stand up.

youtube-logoYouTube

It’s become something of a music industry cliché to talk about YouTube as the world’s largest streaming music service without really getting into any detail about how big or popular it is. And it still gets forgotten easily – not many people have been talking about YouTube’s payouts to rightsholders (and thus eventually to artists) this week even as the Atoms for Peace v Spotify argument has raged.

Bloom.fm’s survey has some interesting numbers on YouTube, though. The company shared with Music Ally the full data from its question about where people’s music comes from. 49% from illegal online services we’ve covered, but where else?

84% said they listened to music from CDs, 82% on the radio, 70% on YouTube, 64% from ‘iTunes downloads’, 59% from music TV channels, 57% from ‘legal online’ services (which we take to mean streaming), and 49% from ‘online/mobile’ (streaming again, presumably).

It’s the 70% on YouTube that lingers in the mind, although again, more research would now be useful to separate out people who use YouTube lots to listen to music from those who clicked on a link to watch, say, Gangnam Style a few times.

Bloom.fm also tackled the question of artist holdouts on legal digital music services, finding that 60% had experienced times where the artist they were looking for was unavailable on the service they were using. 14% of those people said they turned to illegal services, 46% gave up on that artist, and 70% searched for them on YouTube.

“YouTube has an incredible catalogue, and for a legal service it is quite frustrating,” says Fomenko, although we’ll point out clearly right now that YouTube itself is also a legal service: it’s just that a lot of music on it has been uploaded by people other than the rightsholders.

“YouTube is user-generated, so instead of being limited by what’s available on a service like iTunes, which has around 28m tracks, these guys have 70-80m tracks,” says Fomenko.

“It is a service that has quite a lot of consumption, and if people don’t find a band on a streaming service, it’s logical they’ll go to YouTube and try to find it there. And it’s not a secret that if you compare a stream on our service or Spotify versus a stream on YouTube, they reward artists and labels in a completely different fashion.”

Bloom.fm demand

I wrote that it’s not a surprise that a survey commissioned by Bloom.fm highlights a seeming demand for a Bloom.fm-like music service that’s cheaper than the standard £10-a-month for web and mobile access to the likes of Spotify, Deezer and Rdio. But the obvious follow-up question is this: is Bloom.fm growing fast as a result?

“We are in the zone of 200k registered users: that’s not just downloads, it’s people who downloaded the app, registered their email address and started using it,” says Fomenko. That’s up from 100k registered users in mid-April, three months after it launched. Bloom.fm remains iPhone-only and UK-only.

“Android and web versions are only a few weeks away,” adds Fomenko. “We’ve been marketing on a low level so far: we’re keeping our powder dry until we have those live. When I heard about  £7.3m being spent on marketing the [rival] O2 Tracks app, I was shocked! We have certainly not been spending anywhere near that.”

(O2 Tracks launched in March and had signed up 500k registered users by early July, although it has not said how many of these then converted from the free trial to paying customers.)

Registering for Bloom.fm is free, and so is using its personal radio features. Users pay if they want to ‘borrow’ (i.e. cache) tracks on their phone for on-demand listening: 20 for £1 a month, 200 for £5 and as many as space allows for £10. So how many of those 200k registered users have gone on to pay?

Bloom.fm isn’t talking conversion rates for now. “But we have seen that more than a third of our users who are paying are on the higher tiers,” says Fomenko. “We are not a ‘£1 streaming service’. We have different usage levels, and we’re working at helping people to decide what’s right for them. I am encouraged by the dynamics, although I wouldn’t say I am satisfied with the absolute numbers yet.”