The IFPI is a London-based non-profit whose aim is to represent the interests of the recording industry. This is fairly key in understanding the particular lens that the organization puts on certain pieces of information. In fact, let me just highlight a specific quote from the introduction
of the IFPI’s 2019 report (emphasis mine): “IFPI’s Music Listening 2019 paints a vibrant picture of a world enjoying the widespread availability of rich and varied music. Record companies work every day to make this happen.
Just in case the IFPI’s primary audience wasn’t obvious…
The first statistic that jumped at me was that adults aged 35-64 saw a 9% increase in year-over-year music consumption via streaming compared to younger adults, where streaming grew closer to 6%. It certainly makes sense that younger people are already streaming more music than older generations but a notable takeaway here is that streaming is moving into new age brackets. This is something that even I’ve noticed all year when looking at streaming charts, especially at Apple Music ones, as all of a sudden pop, rock, and country began breaking into Top 50 albums and singles charts. The dominance of rap, which I often thought was overblown
, is starting to make way for other genres.
(To be snarky for a second, a small graphic on page 4 posits: “The main reasons for enjoying audio streaming” and the three reasons provided are essentially variations on the same phrase. “Instant access to millions of songs” (62%); “Listen to what I want when I want” (61%); “It’s the most convenient way to listen to music” (47%). A lot of insights to be gleaned here.)
These next two points are kind of obvious, but I appreciate seeing numbers back them up: Kids love rap, and people love radio. What IFPI’s report clarifies is that while there are many regionally specific genres that perform well on streaming platforms, rap is still massively popular across the globe. In particular, the report states that users aged 16-24 are four times more likely to select rap as their favorite genre than other age groups. I said earlier that rap feels like it’s losing a grip on streaming charts but that says more about who’s entering the streaming market than about the genre losing its appeal to younger listeners. Another statistic mentioned in the report is that people, particularly Europeans, still enjoy listening to the radio, and apparently 51% of those people access it on their smartphone, which captures my phone usage pretty well.
Often I’ll argue, yes I do do this, that the idea of playlists replacing radio is bullshit. A key factor is that one medium’s rise does not replace another medium in a one-to-one manner. Television didn’t replace radio; it simply added another way for one to spend his or her time; recordings didn’t destroy live concerts; etc. This balance can be lopsided and an entertainment form may dip in popularity but crediting it to a single factor always feels more like storytelling than actual fact. Thus, when I see that radio is getting 5.4 hours of play per week globally, it indicates to me that music listening will continue to fragment, not concentrate, as there are more, not fewer, options to consume music. Now there might be few corporate owners of music but that’s a different conversation.
My last note is one that I made last week
about the IFPI’s weird obsession with piracy, which according to its recent report is on the decline. The way this information is framed in the report would appear to scare record executives into spending more money into fighting piracy, which we know always goes well
. Still, even if these reports are billboards for their organizations, between the ideological weeds, there is some fairly useful information about the current state of the music streaming business.