Online Music Expands Its Audience

Almost one-quarter (23 percent) of the U.S. population over the age of 12 has downloaded a music or mp3 file off the Internet, a study by Ipsos-Reid found.

That’s more 50 million downloaders within the current U.S. population. By comparison, Napster claimed to have more than 40 million users at its peak.

Similar proportions of Americans report having listened to Internet radio (27 percent) and streamed audio (21 percent) and 37 percent indicate they have listened to a pre-recorded music CD that was playing in the CD-ROM drive of their PC.

Not surprisingly, young Americans continue to lead the Internet music market. Approximately two-fifths of 12 to 24-year-olds have downloaded music or mp3 files off the Internet, along with 44 percent of 12 to 17 year-olds and 42 percent of people in the 18 to 24 age group). Among adults aged 25 to 34, one-third (35 percent) have also downloaded music, demonstrating that older age groups are beginning to dabble in the new digital music arena as well.

Nearly 60 percent of the Americans who have downloaded a music or mp3 file in the past indicated that they are somewhat, very or extremely likely to download again in the next 30 days, Ipsos-Reid found.

“For many, music is becoming more and more of a PC-centric activity”, said Matt Kleinschmit, senior research manager for Ipsos-Reid. “While various issues continue to limit widespread legitimate online music distribution, we can see that Americans are downloading music, listening to Internet radio and streamed song clips and playing pre-recorded CDs all from the same appliance. In a way, the PC has become a personal jukebox for many downloaders, an almost unlimited and constantly changing source of music, new and old. If legal developments allow more Americans to appreciate the ease and convenience of digital music, this trend will likely accelerate, possibly in ways not yet foreseen.”

In addition, the research shows that females are rapidly increasing their presence in the online music community and have narrowed the long-standing Internet gender gap. This is especially evident among teenage females, aged 12to 17, as 48 percent report that they have downloaded music online.

“This suggests an imminent turning point in the demographic makeup of music downloaders,” Kleinschmit said. “From early-adopting tech-savvy males to a more diverse, broad-based consumer group. In the long run, this trend could prove to be beneficial to major record labels and their recently launched, fee-based online music services.”

A two-stage research approach was used to collect the data for the report. For the first stage, a nationally representative U.S. sample of 1,112 respondents aged 12 and over was used to gather prevalence data on Music Downloaders. The second, more in-depth survey stage targeted a sample of 834 Music Downloaders ages 12 and over across the United States.

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