04 oktober 2014

Do People Like Music?

A study described in Digital Music News has highlighted the weight of a group of music customers dubbed the lean-back listeners, revealing a supposed mismatch that appears to be happening between the kind of listeners music services think are out there compared to what is really going on. 

Digital Music News has released the findings, showing that people just aren’t that into music, and that the streaming services that serve them are targeting the wrong audience. Do services like Spotify offer too much choice for most? Will the likes of Beats Music take over? We take a closer look at the research and a couple of industry professionals tell us what they think.
types of music fans
The first table shows the four groups of listeners. Those younger fans who proactively discover music through interactive software, making use of the technology and online services available to fuel their tastes, belong to the ‘Lean forward’ group, and incudes the active fans and the core enthusiasts. At the other side of the spectrum is the ‘Lean back’ listeners, these include your indie followers and lean-back listeners, those older customers who don’t use technology as much, and prefer to receive less choice and more recommendations.
The next table illustrates how music services see these types of listeners. Emphasis is placed on the lean forward group, with focus on the active fans, those that demand a wide range of choices and prefer to discover music on there own. The lean-back listeners, interested in mainstream music through passive listening and recommendations seem to have fallen at the wayside in the eyes of music services.

The article points out that most consumers don’t care that Spotify has millions of songs, and that this less-interested group of listeners is where services such as Spotify and Beats Music should be targeting.

“The problem for the music industry is to ensure its services and features appeal to the lean-back listener, an easy-to-eat rather than all-you-can-eat approach. Lean-backs are looking for help to discover their musical taste, and are big listeners of hit radio stations, looking to have digital music recommended, curated, themed and packaged for them.”

The research comes from Ovum Research, and according to their report, too much focus on lean-forwards could be killing the music streaming industry. “Without an appropriate model with refined focus, programming, ‘packaging’ and marketing to attract and keep the lean-back listener, the music industries expansion beyond the core listener to the mainstream majority could be weak.”
The matter of size

According to Digital Music News, Beats Music and Pandora have got the right idea, while the other services, such as Spotify and Deezer seem to have missed the memo.

James Moore, CEO of Independent Music Marketing and author of ‘Your Band Is A Virus’ doesn’t think the research is an accurate reflection on what is happening in the industry, and says that streaming services do more than enough for the lean-backs. “Most people are heavily into some music – only the amount differs, and it doesn’t make streaming services necessarily worse for having millions of songs as opposed to a more curated option. Having both is best for everyone, and generally, the services are easy to use.

I’d argue that streaming services ARE “easy to eat” and that services such as Rdio do curate through their recommendations option. If these lean-back listeners don’t want to take the time to provide any info on their favorite artists, I’m not sure what kind of curated picks can be provided to them.”

He says streaming services cater for everyone, “fanatics can drill down to all the relations to their favourite obscure artists, while more casual listeners can simply pull up the charts, which will only display major acts.”
Curators or curated

I posed the question to music industry professional, Steve Rennie, AKA RENMAN. He agrees with the article in that the majority of music listeners belong to the lean-back group.

“I do believe that the vast majority of music listeners are more passive and are happy to have someone do the ‘curating’ or programming of a format of music. That’s why old fashioned radio is still around. Those laid back listeners might have a specific genre of music that they like but may not be interested in ‘finding’ all the artists that might fit in that genre. My wife is a big Pandora listener because when she wants a specific mood of music, flamenco guitar for example, Pandora serves it up.”

He says he’s a big fan of Spotify because it allows you find artists quickly and easily, and the social media dimension is also important. “When somebody mentions a new artist or song to me, I can type in the name and BANG I’m listening to their music. I’m also trying to build an online business so I’ve become a believer in the Social Media aspect of Spotify where when I post songs I’m listening to on my playlist I get new followers. I think that is very cool.”

Rennie concludes saying that there isn’t really a right or wrong answer, “every consumer is deciding how they want to listen to the music that they want to hear and today there are a lot more options than listening to the radio or buying an album on Tuesday.”

The research provides an interesting outlook on the different types of listeners, but whether music services like Spotify have it wrong and the likes of Beats Music are leading the way, is questionable. Moore thinks that the research is an over-analysis of minor changes in the industry, including “inventing terms such as ‘lean-back’ and ‘lean-forward’ listeners, doesn’t really say anything substantial.” He’d be more convinced if the evidence came from the users of Spotify, rather just providing the background information.

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