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UK Consumers Dance to the Beat of Music Streaming Services

Listeners favor free, ad-supported services

UK consumers are taking to streaming music services in growing numbers—to the detriment of both digital downloads and physical music sales. However, very few of these listeners pay to subscribe to such services; rather, they are willing to accept advertising in order to continue streaming music for free. The opportunity for marketers to reach these consumers is huge, though imprecise targeting could be harmful to their chances of success, according to a new eMarketer report, “UK Digital Music: Marketing Opportunities Coming into Focus as Consumers Go ‘Full Stream Ahead.’”

Streaming posted overwhelming growth last year. In 2012, music listeners in the UK streamed 3.7 billion tracks, according to BPI (The British Recorded Music Industry); in 2013, that figure doubled to 7.4 billion. These figures, it should be noted, do not include streams from audiovisual services such as YouTube or VEVO.

As popular as digital music has become among consumers, earlier forms not supported by ads didn’t offer marketers much to work with. But with streaming—particularly, ad-supported streaming—a new opportunity is striding onto the scene.

However, consumer opinion suggests that delivering ads in the traditional manner of, say, radio—that is, placing a 30-second ad prior to each track or group of tracks—is less likely to be tolerated in the streaming realm. According to a Research Now study commissioned in July 2013 by smartphone-focused music streaming service Bloom.fm, only a tiny fraction of consumers in Great Britain (5%) were willing to put up with advertisements in order to stream music for free. This runs counter to the consensus that UK consumers are increasingly doing just that and indicates a real ambivalence about having their listening experience interrupted by marketing messages that are delivered in a fashion not too dissimilar to radio.

Fortunately for marketers, straightforward advertising is not the only option when it comes to music streaming. Brands can create playlists, for example, as blinkbox music has. “We’ll do a branded playlist with audio, reinforcing a brand message. We curate that playlist in a way that’s sensitive to the brand position, and we find that we get really good engagement,” said Cathal Naughton, the company’s COO.


The full report, “UK Digital Music: Marketing Opportunities Coming into Focus as Consumers Go ‘Full Stream Ahead,’” also answers these key questions:

  • How big is the audience for streamed music in the UK compared with the wider digital music market?
  • Which demographic groups are taking to streaming, and how and where are they doing so?
  • What opportunities does streaming offer to marketers seeking UK audiences?

This report is available to eMarketer corporate subscription clients only. eMarketer clients, log in and view the report now.


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