Music Experience and Behaviour in Young People in the UK

The study Music Experience and Behaviour in Young People is the third survey of its kind – after 2008 and 2009 – for 2011. After a presentation of the key findings of the study in the 3rd Vienna Music Business Research Days, it’s now an honour and pleasure to exclusively present the results of the current study on the blog. The 2011 study is based on a comprehensive online survey of 1,888 of 14-24 year olds across the UK. The main conclusion of the current research is “(…) that when it comes to music and young people, everything is different, and yet everything is still the same”; compared to 2008 and 2009.

The key findings of the 2011 study are:

  • The computer is no longer their main entertainment hub.
  • Digital music collections are still huge.
  • Digital music collections still contain 50 percent “free” music.
  • Ownership is still important.
  • Music is no longer the most popular entertainment type.
  • There remains a very clear “value gap”.
  • The popularity of file sharing has changed significantly.
  • The 14-25 years olds are prepared to pay for digital music.
  • But there are still challenges for streaming music online.
  • Digital music consumption is still complex.
  • They have a clear understanding and grasp of what copyright law is.

Please read further if you want to know more about the research results.


The technological background of music consumption

85 percent of the respondents declare that they use the Internet access at home and 61 percent, therefore, rely on their parents. A small minority accesses the Internet from school and university. Mobile phones are also hardly used by the young generation (3 percent) to get online. The four most popular Internet service providers (out of 60 operating in the UK) are Virgin (26 percent), British Telecom (24 percent), Sky (12 percent) and Talk Talk (9 percent). They account for 71 percent of the young Internet users’ market. The mobile phone market for the youngsters is also dominated by four companies: o2 (23 percent), Orange (21 percent), Vodafon (11 percent) and T Mobile (9 percent).

The MP3 player (such as the iPod) is the top playing device for music. 65 percent of the respondents use it on a daily basis. The computer is still an important music hub for 56 percent, but only 36 percent use computers for music streaming. Radio is used by 47 percent and TV by 34 percent to listen to music. However, social media (such as Bebo, YouTube, Facebook) are used on a daily basis to consume music by 43 percent of the respondents. The mobile phone has become increasingly important. It is used for music listening by 34 percent, whereas the CD player has become a less important music playing device – 18 percent use it on a daily basis.


The size of music collections

MP3 players have become increasingly important as a storage device for music since 2008/2009. Whereas 1,800 music tracks were stored on MP3 players in 2009, the number of digital tracks has increased to 2,800 in 2011.

On average each respondent has a digital music collection of 3,802 tracks stored on several devices. And it’s worth mentioning that for half of the tracks it has not been paid for.

In comparison the average CD collection of 100 of a young person is relatively modest. 20 percent of the respondents have more than 100 orginal CDs on their shelfs at home and 4 percent even more than 500 CDs. However, 9 percent state that they own no orginal CDs. The collection of copied CDs is significantly smaller. Only 4 percent of the youngsters have more than 100 CDs, whereas 18 percent do not have any copied CDs at all. CD burning, therefore, is a less popular activity among the young generation and they prefer original CDs to copied ones.


Music copying

As compared to 2009, it is still very important to 87 percent of the respondents to copy music between different devices (e.g. from computer to MP3 player and mobile phone). The practice of music copying, therefore, is widespread among the youngster. 88 percent ripped music from a CD onto a computer and other devices respectively, but a smaller group of 56 percent ripped an original CD (they have paid for) to another device. 67 percent received a copied CD from friends and 56 percent received music files via email, Bluetooth or Skype. 54 percent sent music this way to friends. 44 percent downloaded someone else’s entire music collection from a computer and 38 percent copied the music collection to other computers. 34 percent used cloud based music services and music lockers to copy music and 29 percent practised stream ripping. Despite the high affinity to music copying, only 32 percent of young people agree that device manufacturers should pay a fee to compensate artists when their work is copied.


Music file sharing and the awarness of copyright law

The use of music file sharing is in decline. In 2009, 61 percent confirmed to share music on P2P networks, whereas by 2011 the share of file sharers has declined to 40 percent. However, the use of file hosting services was not separately asked. But also the frequency of file sharing use changed. Whereas in 2009 32 percent of the respondents used file sharing on a daily and weekly basis, only 13 percent are heavy file sharers in 2011. In addition 46 percent said that their file sharing activity decreased more or less dramatically.

74 percent fileshare because it is free. 61 percent wanted to get music they cannot buy. 63 percent of the respondents experimented with filesharing and 53 percent use P2P networks to find new music. A smaler group of 24 percent wanted to find new music before release.

The main reason for not filesharing is worrying about viruses. 95 percent of the non file sharers said that. 77 percent argued that file sharing is illegal and 52 percent even said that file sharing is stealing. Less than half of the respondents did not want to fileshare since artists are not paid and 47 percent critized the poor sound quality of shared music files.

There is a high awarness of copyright law. 92 percent knew that sharing music without the owner’s consent is illegal under UK law. However, 35 percent would not stop their illegal behaviour if the Internet account holder is made aware that their connection could be disrupted. Only a minority of 31 percent would clearly change their infringing behaviour and 34 percent maybe would do. However, it is striking that exactly the same percentage of respondents (31 percent) supported graduaded response measures whereas 35 percent opposed them.


The need for new business models

There is, however, a strong interest of young persons to pay for an unlimited music download service which allows the easy tranfer of music to several devices. 69 percent of the respondents are in favour of such an all-you-can-eat download flatfee model. It is worth mentioning, however, that 85 percent demanded this kind of service in 2009. 74 percent of the respondents indicated they would not use P2P networks if they had such an unlimited download service. A small minority of just 6 percent would still fileshare music despite such a service would be available. In contrast, 59 percent indicated that they would still buy orginal albums (as CDs, downloads, vinyls) in the presence of such a service. Furthermore, 60 percent prefer to buy original albums because of the high sound quality. In 2009, the main reason for purchasing albums was artwork and sleeve note. Also important was the financial support for artists (51 percent of the respondents) and the desire to own a physical product (48 percent of the respondents) in 2011.

Thus, it is a fact that the younger generation still wants to own music, also in a digital format. 79 percent, therefore, agreed to the question: “With access to so many streaming services, are you still interested in ‘owning’ music”. Nevertheless, music streaming is also popular among youngsters. 74 percent indicated they would no longer use filesharing networks if they used a streaming service. However, an overwhelming 88 percent said that they never had paid for streaming service such as Spotify. Spotify is by far the most popular streaming portal. The awarness for other service such as Play.com, Last.fm, YouTube, HMV, Napster, Grooveshark, We7, Soundcloud and 7digital is significantly lower.

Cloud-based music services are incleasingly popular among the the younger generation. 45 percent indicated that they are interested in such a service. 44 percent would even consider to switch the mobile phone operator or broadband supplier to another if it offered a music service as part of its monthly fee.


The valuation of music

Young people invest nearly a third of their disposible montly income for their mobile phones. The rest of the expenditures are evenly allocated to film (14 percent), games (13 percent) recorded music (12 percent), live music (12 percent) and books & magazines (10 percent). Live and recorded music, however, account for 74 percent of the expenditures for Top 3 things they spend money on.

Music is highly valued by the 14 to 25 years olds. 81 percent of the respondents indicated that music is an essential item for them. Actually, however, only 24 percent pay for music. The authors, thus, identify a significant value gap compared to other essential items such as mobile phones, film and sport.

The ratio of spending on live and recorded music is 50:50. There are, however, very clear differences between the two age groups with the younger group (14-17 years olds) spending more on recorded music and the older group (18-25 years old) prioritising live music

The authors also asked for the most favoured music genres and rock and pop music gained the top position. Independent music was also very popular, whereas R’n’B & Urban, HipHop & Rap, metal and dance were less popular among the young generation.

Unsurprisingly, friends are still the dominant factor to discover new music, followed by YouTube, radio (!), social networks, MTV, other music channels and TV in general. However, the low relevance of file sharing networks alongside with the national press and music press (beaten by music blogs and online music sites) for discovering new music is surprising.



The authors come to the final conclusion: “The continued passionate support for music amongst young people remains undiminished and provides grounds for optimism. However this support cannot be taken for granted and there is evidence of considerable antipathy to the music industry. It must embrace the new paradigm of consumer choice and the need to better meet the expectations of their future customers.”


Dennis Collopy and David Bahanovich, Music Experience and Behaviour in Young People, University of Hertfortshire, September 2012.

Dennis Collopy and David Bahanovich, Music Experience and Behaviour in Young People. University of Hertfordshire, 2008.

Dennis Collopy and David Bahanovich, Music Experience and Behaviour in Young People. University of Hertfordshire, 2009.



1 Response to “Music Experience and Behaviour in Young People in the UK”

  1. December 5, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Another trend that’s worth mentioning is appearance of business models for musicians like Poptop Talent Agency I think it will be growing quite well in that market

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