Country music fans are faring well financially, optimistic about the future and engaged with popular digital technologies, according to a survey by the Country Music Association (CMA).
Every year the CMA reveals some research findings aimed at highlighting the size and makeup of the country music audience around the country. This year's data, presented Tuesday at the Country Music Summit by Karen Stump, Senior Director of Market Research, comes from the CMA's survey of nearly 13,000 country music fans.
The top-level numbers show country music fans are a large, well-to-do group of consumers. There are 96 million adult country music fans in the U.S. that comprise 42% of the U.S. adult population. Forty-eight percent of country fans are male, 52% are female, 57% are married and 40% fall in the 18-to-39 age group.
Although country has a reputation as a poor, rural genre, 37 million country music fans -- or 42% of the total -- have a household income of $75,000 or greater. The average U.S. household income in 2010 was $49,445, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Most country music households are doing better financially or are at least staying even. Fifty-five percent of people surveyed are in the same financial situation as they were a year ago while 12% said they are better off this year. Many country fans are already spending more on groceries (25%), travel (17%) and country music concerts (16%) than they were last year. Some of them are putting more into savings and investments (17%) and retirement accounts (15%).
The CMA's findings on country fans' financial confidence echo other studies of consumer confidence. Nielsen's Q1 2012 Global Consumer Confidence Report found that U.S. consumer confidence rose to 92 in the first quarter of 2012 from 83 in the first quarter of 2011. On a global basis, more consumers expect to buy new clothes and spend cash on vacations than a year ago. More recently, the Discover U.S. Spending Monitor found more consumers plan to spend money on personal expenses than the previous month.
But the economic recession has led some consumers to cut back on out-of-home entertainment and put more emphasis on home entertainment. Forty-two percent of country music fans entertain in their homes at least once a month compared to 37% of general population. Music plays a big role in those gatherings -- 66% of them play music during those gatherings, up 9% since 2007. People are thinking more about the future, too. Nearly three in four country music fans are spending more or the same on retirement funds, savings accounts and investments.
Country music fans have a reputation for being slow to adapt new technologies. While country music sales has indeed lagged behind other genres in moving from physical to digital sales, the CMA believes country music fans are no laggards when it comes to digital hardware and services.
Ninety-six percent of country music fans own a cell phone, 17% of them own a tablet computer (70% of those owners have an iPad) and 18% of them plan to buy a tablet in the next year, according to the CMA's survey. That puts country fans about even with the overall population: Pew Internet found that 19% of the U.S. population owned a tablet in mid-January. Many country fans live in rural areas, but 96% of country fans have Internet service in their household and "near all" have a high-speed connection.
Social media is second nature to country music fans: 89% are on Facebook (although 49% never comment) while 58% are on Twitter (although 28% never tweet). That's a high rate of Twitter usage. A recent Pew Internet study found just 15% of online adults were using Twitter in February 2012.