Baby boomers are now the most important age-group buying CDs, according to a study conducted by the NPD Group, in conjunction with AARP, and on behalf of the National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers.

Baby boomers, those born in the period from 1941-1964, constitute and audience of 76 million consumers, 70% of whom still buy music, mainly in the CD format. Last year, boomers accounted for 33% of all CD sales, up from 30% in 2002, according to the study.

While their market share of physical purchases are growing, baby boomers’ overall purchases have dropped from 252.7 million units in 2002 to 191.2 million units last year, which can be attributed to the overall album marketplace decline of 13.6% during that time period, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Also, compared with two years ago, 35% of boomer say they are buying less music, 22% say more and 43% answered about the same.

"This report proves that there is an increased need and urgency for the music industry to improve the way it communicates, merchandises and markets to this age group," NARM president Jim Donio said in a statement.

For those buying less music, about 38% of them said the main reason is they listen to radio instead. Other reason cited for buying less include 29% of boomers citing less time listening to music nowadays; 28% cited being satisfied with existing music collection; 24% said music is more expensive now; 18% answered there is no new music they want; 14% said favorite artist hadn't release any new music recently; 13% said they spend money on other entertainment products; 11% said they have no time to buy new music, and 11% said they couldn't find what they wanted in stores.

Of the boomers who buy music, 68% of them, or about 36 million, buy physical music product only; 26%, or almost 14 million people, buy both physical and digital product; while 6% of them, or slightly more than 3 million, make digital only purchases.

When making CD purchases, 29% of baby boomers said they most likely will do so at mass merchants, 21% answered online, 12% said record stores; 9% said book stores, and 3% indicated warehouse clubs.

When listening to music, most said they do so in cars, and of those who gave that answer, 79% cited the radio as the number one way, 55% named a CD player, and 16% named satellite radio

The study suggests there is $700 million in potential incremental revenue among boomer music buyers and may hold the key to supporting the CD during the current industry transition period. If each boomer buys one more CD a year, that translates into $330 million in revenue, according to the study. "While the recording industry struggles with piracy and sharing among younger consumers, there's at least one group with the income and inclination to pay for music," NPD entertainment industry analyst Russ Crupnick said in a statement.

In order to increase purchases, the study suggests that music manufacturers partner with AARP, whose membership are the older segments of society. It also suggested that labels take advantage of anniversaries and related events to release compilations, gift sets and remaster, and create boomer-centric merchandising programs.