Around the World, Changing Tides in How Consumers Access Music

Karola Riegler/Flickr - Digital or analogue, what's next for the music industry?

Karola Riegler/Flickr

How are people across the world tuning in to their favorite artists?

From the first FM broadcasts of the 1930s to SoundCloud’s takeover of the online music-sharing scene (according to Gizmodo, 12 hours’ worth of new tracks are uploaded to the popular interface each minute), changes in the way that people listen to music have always been exciting.

We take a look at how consumers interact with music today, and what it means for the EDM industry.

The Universal Pastime

For nearly everyone, music is an integral part of life – in Nielsen’s report, ‘Music Mapped Out‘, which investigated how consumers in the U.S. interact with music, listening to music was a primary activity for at least 70 per cent of people in every region.

With so many ways for people to discover and consume music nowadays, this comes as no surprise. We have access to an endless array of media: traditional hard formats (CDs, cassette tapes, vinyl LPs), online downloading, and streaming. But which of these are most common amongst today’s consumers, and where is the most money spent?

Hard Formats: Not So Obsolete?

With the introduction of share-ready mp3 files and the increase of internet use and availability, the consumption of CDs took a massive dive in the 21st century. CD sales dropped 18.2-19.7 per cent per year from 2007-2011, and has since seen a further 20.5 per cent decrease in sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan’s market data, as published on

Musical purists will be happy to learn, though, that not all hard formats have been left to collect dust. The recent revival of once-popular vinyl LPs, according to The New York Times, is a de facto youth movement. Younger crowds are seeing CDs as outdated, and are turning to records – hailed by many for their pure tone quality – for something new.

According to Nielsen SoundScan, six per cent of first week sales of Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” (2013) were on vinyl. Vampire Weekend and the National had similar success with vinyl copies for each of their albums “Modern Vampires of the City” and “Trouble Will Find Me”. Further data from Nielsen’s ‘2013 Mid-Year Music Industry Report‘ showed a 30.4 per cent uptick in LP sales in 2013.

Although vinyl may be making a comeback to hipster-dom, its sales do not compare to the revenues of music downloading and streaming websites. It might be useful to note, though, that the modern audience for vinyl tends to be younger – just like the audience for EDM. This unlikely alternative medium may actually have some traction in the future EDM market.

Downloading Interfaces: News No Longer

iTunes, Beatport, Napster, and Amazon are just a few of the many sites out there where you can purchase and legally download music. Legal downloading became a popular way to obtain music as mp3 players became household items throughout the early 21st century.

Nielsen’s data has shown a recent decline in digital track sales, which decreased by 5.7 per cent, while digital album sales dropped 0.1 per cent.

The culprit behind this sudden shift away from digital downloading – which, as of several years ago, looked like the future of all music – appears to be the downloading site’s closest online relative: the music-streaming site.

A Bright Future for Streaming

While overall music sales (albums, singles, downloadable videos, digital tracks) have trended downwards, streaming music experienced a mind-boggling 32 per cent increase in consumption, according to the ‘2013 U.S. Music Industry Year-End Review’ by Nielsen.

Some say the decrease in downloading is due to the significant boom in streaming via increasingly popular apps like Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, 8tracks and iTunes Radio. These services allow users to listen to unlimited music, of their choice, for free or a minimal fee, and many listeners have found that streaming is a more convenient and affordable way to experience music.

Where Does EDM Fall?

The EDM market has expanded dramatically in last few years – according to the International Music Summit recently valued the entire industry at over six billion dollars. Over two thirds of the total revenue comes from festival and club sales, while streaming services and music sales together bring under a third of total EDM music revenue .

But which is the best platform for EDM artists in particular? Streaming and vinyl LPs have proven to be the only platforms that increased in sales over the last year, and should be on the radar for EDM artists looking to improve their sales.

As streaming consumption grows, EDM fans gain access to all aspects of performance in the genre, since streaming includes live videos in addition to music. According to a survey by Eventbrite, EDM fans are willing to pay for live streaming of EDM concert live performances.

Along with the apparent popularity of festival and events, EDM fans don’t want to miss out on an unforgettable live performance, but they also want to keep up with the latest music that is trending. Streaming remotely is a fast, cost-efficient, and simple way for them to stay up to date.

The Eventbrite data showed that EDM fans are more active on social media than devotees to other genres. EDM fans frequently share music event-related material, including the event artist’s track, so links to live streams of events are boosters for EDM artists’ popularity.

What is more, with nearly three quarters of EDM fans listening to music on smartphones, streaming is destined to reach a point of optimal efficiency on mobile platforms.

The future holds promise for EDM distribution – and who knows what sort of innovations we may see in coming years? There is even a possibility that vinyl could become a feasible medium for EDM access, given its recent revival.

To be sure, though, that they are keeping up with the current pace, EDM artists should maintain their downloadable music sites, but focus on streaming, ensuring that they reach their audience via the internet and social media.

Courtney Healey

Courtney is a freelance writer living in Cape Town, South Africa. She enjoys drum and bass and deep house music. Cape Town has a prevalent electronic music scene with local and international EDM DJs playing regularly at bars and clubs around the city. The frequent deep house and trance music festivals have given her further exposure to different types of EDM. She enjoys learning and writing about new ways DJs can connect and share with their fans online.