Teens And Tunes And YouTube

Earlier this year Engage:Teens featured a story on streaming radio and teens. It provided a good overview of the available services and how marketers might take advantage of them for connecting with teens. New data from Niche, a site designed to help people make better choices around education, details the services teens are actually using. This information can help guide marketing decisions and budgets.

In the months since that story, there have been a number of surveys that look at teen music habits. Nielsen’s 2013 Year End US Music Report found that teens listen to more music than any other age group (almost six hours per week) and have the greatest number of music apps installed on their phones (seven).

Which music listening options resonate the most with teens?

Here’s the breakdown from Niche based on responses from almost 7,000 2014 high school graduates:






Use Daily


77 percent

37 percent


71 percent

32 percent


31 percent

14 percent


31 percent

7 percent


17 percent

8 percent


12 percent

6 percent


10 percent

2 percent


6 percent

2 percent


31 percent

15 percent

Piper Jaffray also recently looked at teenagers’ music consumption habits but went beyond digital to paint a fuller (if not clearer) picture.





35 percent


26 percent

Other streaming services

11 percent

Local radio

21 percent


7 percent


What is notable – and curious – in both sets of data is the fact that YouTube doesn’t appear.

This feels like a major omission given the realities of teens, YouTube and music. Consider Sia. Her album, “1000 Forms of Fear,” debuted on the Billboard 200 chart at No. 1 with sales of just over 52,000 units.  On YouTube, the video for her song “Chandelier” has been viewed more than 71 million times since it was posted in May. Clearly, not all of those views came from teens, but, again according to Niche, 55% of teens report using YouTube on a daily basis. 97% say they have used it at least once.

YouTube’s role as a music source – especially among teens – is not new. Two years ago, The Wall Street Journal reported on the trend, citing Nielsen data. According to the story, 64% of 13-17 year olds reported YouTube as their preferred means of listening to music (compared with just 44% of those over 18). Google recognizes YouTube’s potential as a music source and has announced a new subscription service to be launched later this summer.

What are marketers to make of this mish-mash of metrics? Some of the numbers seem at odds with each other and others are missing all together.

First, marketers need to recognize that music is in transition like never before. According to Nielsen’s 2014 Mid-Year Music Industry Report, sales are down in most areas (total album sales -14.9%, digital album sales -11.6%, digital track sales -13 percent and CD sales -19.6%) but are looking up for streaming (audio on-demand +50.1 percent and video on-demand +35.2%) and vinyl (up 40.4%).

Second, streaming is where the action is. Many marketers are up to speed on services like Pandora, Spotify and iHeartRadio. For reaching teens, however, the most popular music service might not be a music service at all.

Third, if YouTube is going to be used to reach teens with music, marketers must realize that the channel has some unique capabilities and limitations. The primary limitation is that it is far more heterogeneous than music-only services, with issues of quality and control far harder to manage than elsewhere.

The capabilities are interesting. Not only can a brand create curated musical playlists but they can also inject other content within a list. This can be either content that is in keeping with a playlist theme, branded content that appears within the playlist or advertising that appears over videos. However, it’s important to keep in mind that, for many teens, YouTube for music isn’t primarily a visual thing. That means any content inserted into a playlist should have a strong audio element.

Music is an incredibly powerful medium in the lives of teenagers. They are constantly looking for new ways to use and incorporate music into they way the connect with friends. Take, for example, apps like Shuttersong, which allows teens to mesh music with images; or DJ Studio 5 and Ninja Jamms, which allow people to remix and share music they make themselves.

Discovering ways to use music to entertain and engage them should be a priority for marketers. To do this well means staying on top of the changing ways way teens are discovering and consuming music. This is an ongoing process that shows no sign of slowing down.

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