Millennials & Music Discovery

In the radio business we talk regularly about how people use music radio to discover new music and new artists. Some major market PD’s are invited to talk to developing artists or sit in on recording sessions. It’s the dance between records and radio that’s been going on for over a half century.

As teens or pre-teens, most of us began discovering new music by using the radio. Listening was free. Players (radios) were inexpensive and there was probably one in your bedroom or one your parents would allow you to control. Radio gave us access to a wide variety of popular music. Many of us believed that DJ’s were experts in knowing which were the best new songs or at least they were connected to the recording industry and had access to the best new songs. It was exciting – and those of us who found it the most exciting often ended up … working in the business.

There are many no-cost routes teens can take to discover new music today. The study of Millennials we unveiled at Worldwide Radio Summit 2016 in Hollywood a few weeks ago showed significant TSL being taken up by YouTube among 14-17’s (a channel many young people use as an audio source for “free” on-demand music).

When we asked these young people if discovering new music and new artists was an important reason they listen to FM radio, we saw significantly lower numbers among the youngest cell in our sample. Among the demo where music discovery has always been very important, reliance on FM radio for music discovery is lower.

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We’ve observed depressed numbers for new music as a lure to FM radio. We’ve seen lower satisfaction with FM radio as a source of new music among 14-29’s overall in our biannual national studies. But, we’ve never had sufficient sample to break up the demo as granularly as we have in this latest study. Bottom line: younger people are still interested in new music, but they have many sources they can use to connect with it.

Most of these youngest consumers have grown up with broadband access in their homes and access to wireless internet (starting with use of their parents’ smartphones as a kind of pacifier). They’re adept at finding what they want online and Social Media has allowed them to share their knowledge quickly and efficiently with peers. They know they don’t have to wait for their favorite new song to come up in rotation on the radio – it’s available online … somewhere. Their friends will tell them about new songs in Social Media or they’ll find recommendations online. They are masters of the work-around.

Stations that want to serve these young consumers need deeper online/in-app resources to showcase new music that’s on the verge of airplay. They need to include these younger consumers in conversations about new music. They need to allow access to the newest songs online/in-app. They need to give listeners the ability to have a voice about the new songs they love with both their peers and with the hosts at the station.