Generation Z loves Spotify, older generations less convinced

As the music streaming platform lists on the New York Stock Exchange, Streetbees spoke to over 1,100 people across the UK and US to find out their listening habits.

Norval Scott
Apr 3, 2018 · 5 min read
Image: Pixabay

- 2 in 3 under-25s use Spotify to listen to music

- Over 50% of them would be happy to pay for Spotify in future

- YouTube is more popular than Spotify across all age groups for listening to music

Who still pays to listen to music?

That’s the multi-billion-dollar question investors want answered as shares in Spotify are listed on the New York Stock Exchange today. But how do people listen to music now — and will they still pay for the privilege?

To find out, we asked over 1,100 people, in the US and UK, about their listening habits. The results show a huge generational split, containing both good and bad news for Spotify — while also identifying the biggest threat to its success.

Generation Z gives Spotify a seal of approval

The good news for Spotify is that Generation Z is behind the idea, and the platform continues to recruit under-25s en masse. Almost 2 in 3 (63%) use it to listen to music, slightly less than the free YouTube service (67%), but much more than the radio (41%), iTunes (29%), and CDs (20%).

In addition, over 1 in 3 under-25s (36%) actually pay money to listen to Spotify (instead of the free version with adverts). That’s not just more than those who pay via iTunes (26%) or buy CDs (21%), but it’s also more than those who say they never pay for music — ever (26%).

Even more positively, over half of Generation Z (57%) say they are likely to pay for music via Spotify in the future — indicating a healthy flow of customers from the next generation of music listeners.

Finally, almost 3 in 4 (74%) said they prefer a subscription that gives them access to music, as opposed to buying individual tracks or albums — effectively indicating that this group has been convinced that the Spotify solution works for them.

Old habits die hard for over-35s

For other age groups, the outlook is less positive. For them, Spotify hasn’t substantially differentiated itself from other listening formats — or even from other streaming services.

Currently 37% of over-35s listen to music through Spotify — less than the radio (62%), YouTube (47%), and CDs (39%), and only just more than ‘other streaming services’ (33%).

Of this age group, only 1 in 5 (19%) ever pay for music via Spotify, substantially less than those who buy CDs (35%) and fewer than the number paying via iTunes (24%). It’s also less than the number who said they never pay for music (26%).

Only 40% of this group say they are likely to spend money through Spotify in the future, and only about half (47%) said they prefer the subscription model instead of buying tracks or albums. Clearly, Spotify isn’t perceived by this group as being as effective for filling its music needs as it is by younger listeners.

YouTube — the Spotify killer?

There’s one clear constant across our results: more people listen to YouTube than Spotify.

Overall, of all those surveyed, 58% use YouTube to listen to music, against the radio (57%), Spotify (46%), CDs (30%), other streaming services (29%) and iTunes (26%) — and the preference for YouTube is more entrenched amongst older age groups.

Why YouTube? Well, it is free (with adverts) — and 59% agreed with the statement that ‘music should be free to access for everyone.’

“Millions of songs are available for free on the internet,” said one 20-year-old respondent, “so why would anyone pay for it?”

This sentiment spreads across generations, too: “I’d rather have it free of charge, even with the adverts,” said another, aged 62.

What next?

Spotify is clearly a leader within Generation Z — traditionally, the age group most interested in listening to new music — and is outperforming both traditional physical media (CDs) and direct rivals (iTunes and other streaming services) in that market.

“I love that you can find pretty much any song in the world and download it with a click of a button. To not have adverts running in between songs — that is definitely worth paying for. I listen to music all the time — whilst commuting, walking the dog, even in the shower — so it’s a service I’m very happy to pay for,” one 24-year-old respondent said.

And with almost half (44%) of our respondents stating they would be likely to spend money on Spotify in the future, that’s still a huge potential share of an enormous media market — and one reason why the company’s IPO will be closely watched today.

[Disclaimer: this author pays for Spotify, and also uses iTunes, buys CDs and vinyl, and watches YouTube. He doesn’t listen to the radio much.]


A quick word on our methodology: The figures in the article are taken from 1,189 people across the US and UK, carried out in April 2018. All of the data was collected by mobile and web surveys, and is accurate to within 3 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

Streetbees is an independent research platform, founded on the principle of humanising how we collect data. Join our community today by downloading the Streetbees app.

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