musicwatch boomers

Strong growth in music-streaming subscriptions can’t be taken for granted. Within the music industry there has been growing talk about how to deal with any approaching ceiling or plateau in subscriptions in the biggest and most mature markets.

Focusing on growth in the less mature markets is one strategy that’s being energetically explored, as is unlocking revenue from other kinds of services: social media, gaming and fitness being the three mentioned most regularly (and often as a trio) by rightsholders.

Persuading streaming services to increase their prices – regularly, not just as a one-off – is another current industry drive.

And then there are demographics: persuading more older people to begin subscribing to streaming services. The latest data from research firm MusicWatch brings good and bad news.

The good news is that there is plenty of room to grow in the ‘Baby Boomer’ demographic. The bad news is that many of those people may simply not be interested.

(The usual definition of boomers is those born in the mid-20th century, during a post-war birth-rates spike that’s commonly dated between 1946 and 1964. So we’re talking 59-77 year-olds.)

In its Annual Music Study, MusicWatch found that there are 52 million internet-using boomers in the US, and that only around eight million of them currently pay for a music subscription.

Room for growth, then: “If you could convince close to half to pay for an on-demand service, that would grow the US subscriber base by 20 percent,” noted MusicWatch’s Russ Crupnick, before dropping the hammer.

“Boomers woefully underperform when it comes to likelihood to convert. Only ten percent indicated they were likely to pay to subscribe to an audio service in the coming year.”

Crupnick suggested that boomers are satisfied with radio, CDs and/or downloads, and that if they do stream, they’re happy with ad-supported services. His conclusion is that there is more mileage in persuading younger Gen-Z and millennial listeners who don’t pay for streaming to sign up. “The likelihood of converting them is much better.”

We’d add an obvious point: streaming may be a large part of the recorded music industry’s revenues, but it’s not their entirety. Many music-loving boomers still buy music in physical form; they still buy merch; they still attend concerts and festivals…

There may be challenges in selling them streaming subscriptions, but that doesn’t mean they can’t continue to be a valuable part of the music audience.

Music Ally's Head of Insight