Country Radio Broadcasters and Edison Research have released their 2009 study of U.S. country listeners that was originally presented on March 6 at the Country Radio Seminar. Edison conducted over 13,000 online interviews between January 30 and March 1. Respondents were chosen from the databases of 18 country radio stations, which implies these people are more frequent country radio listeners than both country fans and the general population.

The study gives a good glimpse into respondents' listening habits and preferences, purchasing habits, adoption of technology and financial outlook. Of note are the percentage of people who buy most of their music at mass merchants (52%) and the fraction that has reduced CD spending in the last 12 months (31%). Country sales are heavily dependent on a few mass merchants. Digital adoption is increasing, though. The percent of respondents who own an MP3 player has grown to 61% (95% for teens) and 17% buy most of their music from download stores.

As labels look to mobile for future growth and innovation, they should recognize the study's finding that mobile phones do not appear to currently be an attractive way for country fans to listen to music. Fifteen percent own a smartphone - 4% own an iPod - and only 22% are interested in listening to country music on their phone. Consumer adoption of smartphones will be critical in the development of mobile music. According to Nielsen Mobile, the iPhone had a 3% market share in Q3 2008 and 70% of iPhone owners use the device to listen to audio tracks.

Here are some highlights from the study:

-- Radio is the most frequent source of music discovery. Country music video channels are second.
-- Downloaded/Share files are a more frequent way of discovery for teens than social networking sites
-- Slightly more people are listening to country radio than in years past
-- 31% spent less on CDs in the last 12 months, 47% same and 12% more
-- 52% buy most music at mass merchants vs 17% who buy most at digital stores
-- 14% feel country music today is worse than what was released a few years ago, but 46% feel pop and rock has got worse in recent years
-- Only 13% dislike hearing current crossover artists (Bon Jovi, Jessica Simpson) on country radio
-- CMA Awards viewership rose to 83% from 81% and 76% in the previous two years
-- 61% own an MP3 player, up from 42% in 2007, 28% in 2006 and 15% in 2005
-- 95% of respondents aged 12-17 have an MP3 player
-- 4% own an iPhone and 15% own some sort of smartphone
-- 22% are interested in listening to country music on a mobile phone
-- 14% subscribe to satellite radio
-- Radio station websites and CMT.com are by far the two most popular sources of online music discovery.
-- 42% have a Facebook page, 35% have a MySpace page and 2% use Twitter
-- Employment status has got worse in last six months for 18%, for the better for 9%
-- 20% said somebody in the household has lost a job in the last six months
-- 64% will spend same on concerts in the next 12 months, 27% will decrease and 9% will increase
-- 46% are politically moderate, 23% somewhat conservative
-- 56% voted for McCain, over half are either excited or optimistic about Obama