Business Matters: Teens Listen to Music Most on YouTube, Pay for Music More Than Other Age Groups, Nielsen Study Says

A new Nielsen study says teens prefer free, ad-supported streaming over other methods of listening to music. That finding is actually the least surprising item in a report that puts into proper context the ways teens -- and other age groups -- experience and discover music.

Nielsen's "Music 360" report is the result of 3,000 online surveys into the ways people buy, discover and listen to music. There are a number of interesting findings in the report, such as that both digital formats are seen as a better value than the CD. But Nielsen highlights does a good job highlighting the most valuable aspects of study that relate to young consumers.

Common knowledge holds that teens don't buy music, listen to MP3s instead of the radio and acquire all their music through illegal file sharing. Yet the average teen has more normal listening and discovery characteristics than one might expect given the hyperbole easily found in today's media. Teens are obviously more digitally adept than other age groups, but they have not entirely rid themselves of their parents' media formats.

"While younger listeners opt for technologically advanced methods, traditional methods of discovery like radio and word-of-mouth continue to be strong drivers," said David Bakula, SVP Client Development, Nielsen, in a statement.

Here are a few takeaways from the report:

- More teens listen (how often Nielsen does not say) to music on YouTube (64%) than radio (56%), iTunes (53%) and CD (50%). Common knowledge might hold that teens don't listen to CDs, but there's only a 16 percentage-point difference between YouTube and CDs here.

-- Teens are more likely than other age groups to have purchased music of any format (72% versus an average of 68%) in the last 12 months. It helps that teens aren't always spending their own money: 46% of them used an iTunes gift card in the last year.

-- Over a third (36%) of teens have bought a CD in the last year while 51% of them have purchased some kind of music download (could be a single track). The averages for all age groups are 41% and 41%, respectively.

-- The kinds would rather save money than win points for being cool: Teens are most likely to buy a CD at Walmart (39%) and least likely to do so at indie retail (4%). They are also the least likely to have purchased music on vinyl or another format other than CD (3% compared to an average of 5%).

-- Only 17% of teens engage in music sharing. That's well above the 10% average but neither a runaway epidemic nor a prime source of discovery or acquisition.