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Consumers Now Favor Streaming Services for Music Discovery Over All Other Sources

Don’t take it personally, but your friends and family members just don’t trust you that much when it comes to what they should listen to. In 2020, music consumers are putting their faith instead in algorithms: 62% of people surveyed said streaming services are among their top music discovery sources while just 54% named friends and family, according to the new Music 360 2020 report by MRC Data/Nielsen Music.

In the two weeks leading up to the survey period (June 8 to July 6), 65% of people said they had avoided crowded public areas and 45% had listened to more music than the prior two weeks, according to MRC Data’s COVID-19: Tracking the Impact on the Entertainment Landscape — Release 5. Isolation may have robbed people of companionship, but it gave them more time to explore the deep catalogs on leading services. 

Other research has shown when people choose a single source of music discovery, nearly half of them say either YouTube and Spotify, according to Edison Research and Triton Digital’s Infinite Dial 2020. Drilling down deeper, YouTube is the top source to discover music for 26% of “new music seekers” who keep-up-to-date on music. Spotify is the preferred music discovery source for 19% of people surveyed, and AM/FM radio followed at 11%. Only 10% of new music seekers count the most on friends and families to discover music.


YouTube and Spotify didn’t rise to the top of the heap by accident. YouTube videos are easy to embed in social media posts and websites, and the YouTube app is nearly omnipresent on smartphones. Plus, a Google search for an artist or song brings up YouTube videos at the top of the page. As for Spotify, a larger royalty source than YouTube, it’s arguably the easiest audio streaming service to use, has a free version that adds to its subscription service’s market share, and has focused intensely on discovery with regularly updated personalized algorithmic-based playlists, like the nostalgic “Time Capsule.”

As for long-lasting effects, the pandemic actually helped streaming services’ customer acquisition. For the two weeks ended June 8, MRC Data/Nielsen Music (COVID-19: Release 5) found that 45% of people surveyed added a music subscription in the prior two weeks, up from 38% in the week of March 23. Whatever their ages, new arrivals will be warmly met by human curators and programmed algorithms — further proving the depth of streaming’s influence.