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THE NUMBERS ON NIELSEN'S U.S. MUSIC 360

Nielsen’s sixth annual U.S. Music 360 Report is a tell-all for how the average American engages with and consumes music. With technology and social media increasing their already profound influence on music consumption, this year’s report detailed everything from radio’s relevance to how the average person is listening to music─and perhaps most intriguingly─how much they’re paying for it.

As streaming becomes more prevalent, users are sticking to the free tier. Most claimed that the subscription fees were too expensive, so the free-tier options available are keeping 45% of consumers happy without the monthly fee. Indeed, the report suggests that most consumers are spending less than $15 per year on streaming, that's less than 9% of the already paltry $156 being spent on music annually.  

The leader in streaming services, Spotify, currently has more than 90m users on its ad-driven free tier, which is about equal to the number of paid subscribers on all the streaming majors combined. Compared to the 60m+ users who subscribe to Spotify Premium, and you find paid subscribers to be very much the minority—comprising just 29% of the sample.

Tidal and Apple Music, of course, are both kept behind a paywall; Pandora just recently created multiple paid tiers with varying degrees of access as it works to gain a foothold in the on-demand space.

Undoubtedly as a result of technology enhancing access to music, the average weekly hours spent listening to music has gone up five hours in 2017, to 32.1 hours a week. So, according to Nielson’s statistics, that’s five more hours of largely unpaid listening. A trend that looks likely to continue growing as it has for the past three years.











While streaming grows in tandem with efforts to ensure artists are getting appropriately compensated, streaming’s free-tier looks to be a step backward, despite its popularity. To get more users on board with a paid tier streaming services would either have to lower the monthly subscription rate, which Spotify has in a way already done with its very easy-to-rig student subscription, or offer more to make the $10 monthly rate appear more worthwhile.  

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