10 (major) keys for understanding how millennials discover new music

As many of you know, I’ve spent the bulk of my second year at Kellogg working on a project about millennial music discovery. With graduation impending, I’ve wrapped up the project and the full report is available for viewing.

View and download the full report from Dropbox

[For auditory learners, listen to this recorded 20-minute presentation]

Top 10 takeaways

  1. Discovering happens everywhere, with millennials using an average of 4.6 discovery sources each month (including recommendations from friends, listening to internet or FM radio, watching music videos, following artists on social media, following public playlists, following Top Charts or New Releases lists on streaming services, and following artists on streaming services).
  2. Although a wide variety of discovery sources are being used, tried and true discovery methods of recommendations from friends and listening to FM radio remain the most common. Over the last month, 64% of millennials surveyed discovered a new song from a friend and 62% discovered from listening to online radio.
  3. Radio remains a popular format for music discovery, with 24% of the sample selecting FM radio as their primary source of discovery (#1 choice) and 13% selecting internet radio (#3 choice).
  4. Once a song is discovered, listening also happens everywhere, with millennials using 4.4 music platforms each month. Even those who pay for one or more music services are still likely to be supplementing their primary source of music listening with multiple platforms. No one platform meets the discovering and listening habits of millennials. They simply use whatever is most convenient in the moment.
  5. Approximately ~50% of millennials are actively looking to discover new music, investing a lot of time in finding new music, paying attention to what new music is released each week, and updating their own playlists every month. This 50% of the sample accounts for 70% of dollars spent on music (including music subscriptions, downloads, and concerts).
  6. Active discoverers fall into two segments: Backstorians who are interested in learning more about the artist and Songsmiths who are focused on diving deep into the music itself. Backstorians want to be in the know about all the artists in a particular genre wheres Songsmiths seek out meaning and connection in the music they listen to across multiple genres.
  7. Backstorians are likely to “store” new discoveries in their memory by following an artist on social media. To market effectively to these millennials, music makers should create a constant stream of content across all platforms to remind the Backstorian of their new discovery and publish content that makes Backstorians feel uniquely “in-the-know.”
  8. Backstorians want more content built around the type of music they already know they love. Music platforms should deliver new content based on a known and narrow taste profile.
  9. Songsmiths want to know more about the creative process behind the music and to understand what inspired the artist to write a particular song. Music makers should create content with open and vulnerable insights into the creative process.
  10. Songsmiths have a wide variety of tastes and are typically open to many types of music as long as they can find an emotional connection. Music platforms should try and push the boundaries of the Songsmith’s music collection by finding them music they didn’t already know about.

Note: this research is based on a 1500-person nationally representative survey and qualitative, in-depth interviews with 16 millennials in the Chicago area.

Libby Koerbel loves to analyze ambiguous questions, listen to live music, and meet new people. She is an expert strategist with experience at the Boston Consulting Group, Pandora, Universal Music Group, Muzooka, and Pritzker Group Venture Capital. She is currently a MBA student at the Kellogg School of Management.

This post is a part of a series on how millennials discover content. Read some of the findings from her research on millennial discovery segments, discovery journeys, discovery sources, millennial trends, & new music discovery, as well as some musings on: serendipity, innovation in music production, your adventuresomeness quotient, framing uncertainty,curation wars, music tastes, sticky subscription models, and abundance.

Download the full millennial music discovery whitepaper from Dropbox

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