Retailers face the music

The nature of the challenge facing traditional high street music retailers is highlighted by figures from YouGov. Findings from the ‘Music Consumption’ report show that the large variety of places people can now access new music digitally has undermined physical music sales as younger people choose to stream songs for free.

Our report reveals that a plurality of 16-24 year olds in the UK who look to discover new music are much more likely to listen on free streaming sites or buy downloads than purchase the physical product. Competition from online rivals helps explain why one of the best-known music retailers on the high street, HMV, has been forced into administration, as younger generations move away from buying new music in shops.

  • 40% of men and 47% of women aged 16-24 acquire new music by listening to playlists on a free streaming site. This is double the amount of this age group that listen to music on paid-for streaming sites, (19% of men and 23% of women aged under 25).
  • Almost four in ten (37%) men under 25 and almost the same number (36%) of women aged 16-24 say they purchase downloads of new music
  • 29% of men and 26% of women aged 16-24 buy CDs to acquire new music

Over 40s stick to CDs

However, a majority of the UK’s older generation buy CDs when buying new music and are the least likely to listen to songs on streaming sites.

  • 57% of men between the ages of 40-54 and 65% of men over the age of 55 buy CDs to attain new music, while 58% of women aged 40+ do the same
  • Among 40-54 year-old Britons, 37% of men and one third (33%) of women purchase music downloads, compared to a quarter (24%) of men aged 55+ and two in ten (20%) women aged 55+
  • 21% of 40-54 year old men and 23% of women in this age group listen to new music on free streaming sites, while 15% of men over the age of 55 and 13% of women in the same age group say the same

James McCoy Research Director of YouGov SixthSense, says: “High street music stores have been attacked from all sides by all forms of digital – each taking their piece and leaving the likes of HMV with less. Younger consumers, who traditionally have bought most new music, are accessing it through a range of digital options – legal and illegal, free and paid-for. Physical formats have greater appeal among older consumers, who have a range of internet retailers from which to choose. Both these factors have left HMV out in the cold.”

Find out more about the Music Consumption report

Learn more about YouGov Reports