Sound Off: Mobile Music On The Rise

NPD studyStreaming on mobile devices is making inroads on traditional radio and CDs when it comes to music listening, according to a new NPD study. Nearly two-thirds of Americans say the majority of their music listening takes place while driving. Even so, the research firm says adaptive- and on-demand-streaming radio is now gaining more traction, complementing pay-per-download music options like iTunes and AmazonMP3.

The recent launch of popular U.K.-based Internet radio service Spotify in the U.S. and growth of rival Pandora should help accelerate adoption. For example, Pandora reported in August that total listening hours had more than doubled to 1.8 billion from a year ago. And its estimated share of total U.S. radio listening at the end of the second quarter was 3.6%, up from 1.8% a year prior.

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According to the latest update to NPD’s “Entertainment Trends in America” report, 80% of people listened to music on the radio in the prior three months, representing a two-percentage point drop since last year. More than half (53%) listened to music in their cars on CDs, down four points from last year. And nearly a third (29%) listened to music using a smart device -- including the iPod touch, iPhone, or Android smartphone -- a nine-point increase.

The 3.5 hours a week Americans spent listening to music on smartphones also rose 9% in the last year while listing to music on CDs, and dedicated portable music players fell by a similar amount.

The firm predicts that a tipping point is approaching when cars and mobile devices will shift from a tethered connection to a more integrated one. “Smart devices streaming music could end up being the largest threat to CDs and broadcast radio since the dawn of digital music,” said Russ Crupnick, senior vice president, entertainment analyst at NPD.

Traditional radio companies are trying to avoid getting tuned out by adapting to changing listening habits. Clear Channel Communications, the country’s largest radio operator, has recently been beefing up its iHeartRadio service to better compete with Pandora. This week, it announced adding programming from WNYC, the nation’s largest public radio station.

Findings in NPD’s “Entertainment Trends” report were based on 10,058 completed surveys from people ages 13 and older and conducted in the third quarter of 2011. Final survey data was weighted to represent the U.S. population.

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