DiMA, the US-based trade body representing music streaming services, has published a report offering findings from a survey of 3,000 music listeners in the US.
‘Streaming Forward: Fan Engagement Report 2023‘ is based on the online responses given by 2,000 people who use streaming services, and 1,000 who do not. The idea being to compare ‘streamers’ and ‘non-streamers’.
The obligatory caveat was there in our first sentence: DiMA is the trade body representing streaming services, so the findings chosen for its report are – unsurprisingly – ones that reflect positively on those companies.
That’s the case for most market-research reports put out by trade bodies and companies, and while this means it’s a good idea to have a pinch of salt handy while reading them, it doesn’t make them value-less.
You just have to look for the more interesting stats. Also, these reports can be a very helpful snapshot of how the company or sector behind them wishes to present itself: what their pitch is to the music industry and the wider world.
The pitch here is partly about personalisation. “Five of the top six features in which streaming services outrank every other music format either relate to customization/ personalization or the impact of unlimited shelf space,” noted DiMA in the report.
(Those other formats being satellite radio, social media platforms, downloaded content and traditional radio. So your first read-between-the-lines moment here might be the sight of DSPs actively comparing themselves to social media platforms. The shadow of TikTok and its music ambitions looms large!)
One interesting stat: according to DiMA’s survey, the two most popular ways that streamers listen to music are customised playlists created by music fans or friends (45% said they do this) or by the streaming service itself (43%).
The report also looks to reinforce the value of streaming as a way to discover music, citing the finding that 86% of streamers surveyed said that they find their streaming service’s recommendations for new artists and songs useful.
It also paints a picture of where this discovery leads: an important point of debate in an era where many musicians worry that they’re just a line on playlists, and that listeners won’t remember them afterwards even if they liked the track.
“Almost three quarters of streamers (72%) are more likely to continue listening to the new artists and songs recommended to them by streaming services,” is DiMA’s reassurance on that. It also claims that 62% say they are “more of a fan of a new and different artist or genre due to streaming”.
DiMA’s report also makes the case for streamers as being more valuable to the industry in revenue terms, saying they spend an average of $387 a year on music compared to non-streamers’ $242. That includes subscriptions, downloads, physical music, tickets and paid livestreams.
(So, the price of a subscription will be part of that difference for many of them, although how much depends what kind of plan they’re on: standalone, family, student etc.)
More stats: 72% of streamers listen to music on a daily basis compared to 49% of non-streamers, with the former averaging 1,283 hours a year listening across all formats, and the latter 792 hours.
Some of the findings pulled out in DiMA’s report relate to very specific music industry debates, or arguments. For example the question of whether songwriters are relegated even further into the background in the streaming era.
DiMA says that 75% of streamers “tend to research or look up the songwriters of the songs they listen to compared to less than two-thirds of non-streamers (62%)”. Both figures are higher than many songwriters would expect.
(63% of streamers say they read the album liner notes or song credits when available. That may be a useful prod for more streaming services to make this content available, if they do not already.)
Elsewhere, the report looks to quantify streaming’s role as an introducer of new, global genres to American listeners, noting that 73% of streamers discovered Afro-Pop and Afrobeats through these services; 68% discovered K-Pop and 55% discovered Latin music.
Now the section of the report that’s most likely to cause a rumpus on Twitter. DiMA’s survey found that 93% of streamers surveyed, and 83% of non-streamers, agreed with the statement that “streaming has had a positive effect on the music industry”.
“Making music more accessible to everyone anywhere on the planet is perceived to be the biggest benefit of streaming by streamers (49%) and non-streamers (34%) alike. Additionally, about one third or more of streamers (42%) and non-streamers (31%) believe streaming provides up-and-coming artists with a better opportunity of being discovered compared to traditional formats,” is the report’s take.
It’s worth comparing that finding to some of the recent surveys of musicians, which offered a less rosy assessment of streaming’s impact. Last September, the International Artist Organisation (IAO) published a report based on a survey of 200 professional artists, and found that 69.5% were ‘very dissatisfied’ with their current revenues from streaming, while another 17.5% were ‘somewhat dissatisfied’.
German collecting society GEMA commissioned its own survey of its members for a report the same month, and found that 89% of the music creators quizzed thought the remuneration they get from streaming was ‘inadequate’.
This mismatch between listeners (who think streaming has had a positive effect on the industry and musicians) and musicians (who worry about the effect it’s had on their earnings) is not a huge surprise, but it’s good to have data highlighting it, to underpin the ongoing debate.
That’s why DiMA’s report is a useful contribution, read (like all studies on these issues) with an awareness of who has commissioned it. Having played an important, constructive role in last year’s shockingly-amicable settlement of the next set of streaming mechanical royalty rates with publishers – something DiMA boss Garrett Levin talked about at the NY:LON Connect conference last month – the body’s new report is worth a read.
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