Digital Music Behavior Evolves.

Amid legal decisions restricting peer-to-peer song swapping, concerns over copy-protected compact discs and illegal CD burning, and the recent roll-out of a few legitimate fee-based online music subscription services, U.S. music enthusiasts of all ages are continuing to indulge in Internet-based music activities.

New findings from international research firm Ipsos-Reid show that almost one-quarter (23%) of the American population aged 12 and over have downloaded a music or MP3 file off of the Internet. This translates into over 50 million downloaders within the current U.S. population (accordingly to 2000 U.S. Census figures). By comparison, Napster claimed to have more than 40 million users in its heyday.

Similar proportions of Americans report having listened to Internet radio (27%) and streamed audio (21%), and over one-third (37%) indicate they have listened to a pre-recorded music CD that was playing in the CD-ROM drive of their PC, Ipsos-Reid found in its latest wave of the study, Tempo: Keeping Pace with Online Music Distribution.

Young Americans continue to lead this Internet music phenomenon, as approximately two-fifths of 12–24-year-olds have downloaded music or MP3 files off of the Internet (44% of 12–17 yearolds, and 42% in the 18–24 age group). Among adults aged 25–34, one-third (35%) have also downloaded music, demonstrating that older age groups are beginning to dabble in the new digital music arena as well.

Not only are these individuals trying out music downloading capabilities, they are returning for more. Three-fifths of (59%) of Americans who have downloaded a music or MP3 file in the past vindicated that they are somewhat, very, or extremely likely to download again in the next 30 days.

“For many, music is becoming more and more of a PC-centric activity”, said Matt Kleinschmit, senior research manager for Ipsos-Reid in Minneapolis and the study’s author. “While various issues continue to limit widespread legitimate online music distribution, we can see that Americans are downloading music, listening to Internet radio and streamed song clips, and playing pre-recorded CDs all from the same appliance. In a way, the PC has become a personal jukebox for many downloaders, an almost unlimited and constantly changing source of music, new and old. If legal developments allow more Americans to appreciate the ease and convenience of digital music, this trend will likely accelerate, possibly in ways not yet foreseen.” In addition, the research shows that females are rapidly increasing their presence in the online music community and have narrowed the long-standing Internet gender gap. This is especially evident among teenage females, aged 12–17, as nearly half (48%) report that they have downloaded music online.

“This suggests an imminent turning point in the demographic makeup of music downloaders,” Kleinschmit noted, “from early-adopting tech-savvy males to a more diverse, broad-based consumer group. In the long run, this trend could prove to be beneficial to major record labels and their recently-launched, fee-based on-line music services.”

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