As record labels, publishers and pundits debate the pros and cons of music streaming, the consumer has already decided. The popularity of streaming in France, Scandinavia and elsewhere is clear, and the music industry is fond of “blaming” Spotify for the trend. But now Americans – even though denied access to Spotify and almost always without writing a check to any rightsholder – are also streaming as much music as they are downloading, according to a new NPD Group survey.
Music downloads to computers in the U.S. grew slightly from 29% percent in March to 30% in August. But during the same month 29% of Americans streamed music, up from 25% percent in March. The survey covered both free services like YouTube and Pandora and paid services like MOG and Rhapsody, but did not differentiate between them.
“Apparently, the purchasing of downloaded music from iTunes or Amazon – or even the free downloading of songs from peer-to-peer file sharing networks – cannot compete with the allure of clicking a link and having the song play instantly,” according to Eliot Van Buskirk of Evolver.fm and The Echo Nest.
Music fans have spoken: streaming is an essential part of their new music landscape. The music industry must embrace this new reality now or miss yet another opportunity to recapture consumer interest.