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Nielsen 360 Study Finds Consumers Love Streaming Music, But Radio Still Strong

Consumers are flocking to music, with streaming becoming the preferred channel of choice.

Consumers are flocking to music, with streaming becoming the preferred channel of choice. The latest study from Nielsen Music shows 90 percent of the population listens to music and that, on average, they do so 32.1 hours a week. That’s up from 86 percent in the prior annual study, when listening time averaged 26.6 hours a week.

The study, Nielsen Music 360 2017 U.S. Report, also finds that people on average spend $156 annually on music, with live performances snaring the greatest percentage of that. In the prior year, consumers spent on average $153.

Of that, live performances accounted for 54 percent; buying CDs, LPs, downloads and music gift cards totaled 29 percent; streaming 9 percent and satellite radio 8 percent.


Excluding attendance at concerts, the various forms of streaming comprises a 41 percent share of listening time, while terrestrial and satellite radio comprise 24 percent, digital music library 14 percent, physical music formats 11 percent and other 9 percent. 

In contrast, in 2015, those percentages were 32 percent streaming; 26 percent radio; 23 percent downloaded music; 12 percent physical and 7 percent other.

Looking at music streamers, 58 percent used both audio and video services, while 31 percent relied on audio-based services and 11 percent used video services exclusively.

Nielsen data

The study also looked at trends among artists to engage in making their music exclusively available at a particular service or retailer. With that, the study found that 37 percent of music streamers agree that exclusive artist content is important when choosing which music service to use.

On the other hand, Nielsen found that more consumers, 45 percent, prefer to stream music for free, while only 29 percent are subscribing to music streaming services. But the study also shows that providing free trials helps convert free streamers into paid subscribers.

For those unwilling to subscribe, 49 percent said its too expensive, 38 percent reasoned they can just stream music for free and 33 percent said they won’t stream music enough.


Data for this study was collected in August 2017 among over 3,000 consumers over 13 years of age. Surveys were conducted online and data has been weighted to be reflective of the U.S. census population based on age, gender, region, education and household size.

The study also analyzed which channels and formats are best for music discovery, and looks closely at the reach of those channels and formats to listeners, but that data was embargoed from Billboard.

In conducting the study, Nielsen also tracked how different demographics engage with music; and what role different devices, social media, and technology play in music engagement. Finally, the study takes an extensive look into the role playlists have in the streaming channel, and what works to drive brand recognition at music events.

Highlights of the report can be found here.