How We Discover Music In 2021

By Garrett Levin, President & CEO of Digital Media Association (DiMA)

Music streaming has revolutionized how fans enjoy music. At the push of a button, vast catalogs of recorded music are available at our fingertips. How, where, and when we listen to music has profoundly changed. What is also dramatically different is how we discover music. One of the superpowers of the modern streaming service is its turbocharged ability to help fans discover — or re-discover — the music we love or may come to love.

The old methods of listening were fine enough, but there were limitations — shelf space, limited air play time, fewer routes to success outside the “establishment.” Streaming shattered that paradigm, empowering fans with a newfound freedom to control their own music discovery journey and find the artists, songs and genres they want to listen to without limitation. The result has been nothing short of incredible: genres that were previously underrepresented such as Latin music have exploded in popularity and talented new artists with no to little established backing, such as Lil Nas X, Arizona Zervas, AJR, or Tones and I, have broken through to become nationally recognized successes. Fans are listening to more music more often than at any time in recorded music history.

And that discovery is not only about hearing a song for the first time (or re-hearing it for the first time in a long time). It is also about what fans do after they hear that song — investing their time and attention to exploring an artist’s other music, creating new stations and playlists tied to the music they’ve discovered, and buying tickets to concerts or watching livestreams. This virtuous cycle benefits musicians, rightsholders and the broader ecosystem as fans stay more engaged and continuously immerse themselves in music.

To delve deeper into the streaming superpower of discovery and what it means for creators, we partnered with MusicWatch and A2IM to explore how fans are discovering music, and — just as importantly — how that shapes their listening experience. Surveying 1000 music listeners across the United States, here is a little of what we learned:

Streaming music platforms are the #1 way fans say they are discovering music, whether it’s new music from artists they already love, new songs from unknown artists, or rediscovering songs they had forgotten.

Streaming services such as Amazon, Apple Music, Pandora, Spotify and YouTube are the most prominent way fans discover new music. The ability to reliably deliver new music and discover new favorites is why fans consider streaming services the “most influential” source to expand their musical experience.

That’s not to say all music fans listen in the same way.

While nearly 60% of music listeners are “music discoverers,” how they approach finding new songs and artists or rediscovering old ones depends on the individual. Some are “Music Explorers” — listeners who actively spend time seeking out new music, value an ever-expanding group of artists they can listen to, and focus on up-and-coming artists and the latest releases. Others are more “Music Comfortable,” whose discovery journey is more focused on their favorite artists or those they’re already aware of from their listening. While less interested in new songs or artists, they like to go deeper into the catalog, exploring deeper cuts from their favorite bands and similar artists.

How do you discover music? It turns out there are multiple ways to answer that question, but many start — and all end — on a music streaming service. We think this survey immeasurably contributed to our understanding of how fans discover music. Discovery is the linchpin of the modern music economy. And now, I hope you will — like I am about to do — go discover some new music on your favorite streaming service.

For more on music discovery and the streaming industry, follow (DiMA) on Twitter and please visit our website DiMA.org

President & CEO, DiMA www.dima.org