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UK Consumers Want Their Music Digital for Christmas

CD sales still dominate, but digital services are surging in popularity

Music has always been a staple of the Christmas gift, whether it’s Phil Spector’s “A Christmas Gift for You” or Cliff Richard’s latest effort. But these gifts tended to be physical products—for decades vinyl or tapes, but latterly CDs.

New figures from BPI suggest an increasing proportion want their music to be digital, as digital music listening is widespread. Almost one in five respondents (19%) wanted download credits, while another 6% desired streaming subscriptions such as Spotify. Somewhat surprisingly, the oldest of products—the vinyl record—is making a comeback, with 7% preferring that format.

That physical CDs still dominate music gifts at Christmas is interesting, as it jars with the habits of UK audio listeners surveyed by AudienceNet in May 2013. The most listened to format among respondents was online audio—either radio or streaming services—at 48%, followed by physical formats, with one-third of respondents. Digital files were not far behind, at 27%.

AudienceNet’s results indicate there is a clear shift away from physical formats, and possibly even digital files, toward streaming. Those streaming music tend to be at home, and digital radio has more than one-third of the total radio listening audience—and growing.

But children are not as keen on the radio. The same research found that 42% of those ages 15 to 24 agreed with the statement, “If I can obtain my favorite music via streaming service, I do not need to own it,” but this proportion diminished to 30% for 25- to 44-year-olds and 17% for 45- to 64-year-olds.

So while Christmas this year favors the physical version of Phil Spector’s festive classic, in the future this might lean to virtual streaming versions as part of subscriptions.

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