Music Downloads Jump

Audiophiles cringe at the idea of downloading blurry, compressed representations of once-detailed recordings (even CD seems high-rez these days). But that hasn't stopped average music fans from trying online music services.

New findings from Ipsos-Insight's quarterly Tempo study of digital music behaviors reveal that in July of 2004, more than one-third (35%) of American downloaders aged 12 and older had paid a fee to download music or MP3 files off the Internet, a roughly 50% increase over levels witnessed in late 2003 (the figure was 22% in December 2003).

The researchers point out that this translates into roughly 20 million people within the current US population. Ipsos-Insight's Matt Kleinschmit said, "While these data are a clear indication that American downloaders are embracing the concept of fee-based digital music in growing numbers, existing music services have yet to truly penetrate the population of young file-sharing stalwarts. Given their age and associated financial or credit restrictions, increasingly youth-oriented service features and purchase options may be beneficial in attracting this critical mass of future-generation digital music purchasers."

The study finds that thus far, adult downloaders aged 25 to 54 are most likely to have paid to download digital music (40% among 25 to 34 year-olds; 46% among 35 to 54 year-olds). Downloaders aged 12 to 17 were the least likely of all American downloader age groups to say they have paid for digital music (16%), perhaps reflecting the lack of non-credit-card-based payment methods available on current fee-based services.

In addition, the findings suggest that American males are moderately more likely than their female counterparts to have paid to download digital music files off the Internet: 37% of US males age 12 or older report having engaged in this activity compared to 30% of American females. However, American females are gradually narrowing the gender gap, as current female fee-based downloading experience levels have doubled compared to one year ago (15% in June 2003).

Ipsos-Insights correlates the jump in downloads with portable digital-audio player ownership. One quarter (25%) of American downloaders currently own a portable digital audio player, up from 16% in late December of 2003. Kleinschmit adds, "These findings not only support the notion that portable MP3 players are an increasingly critical item in the digital music enthusiast's toolkit but, more importantly perhaps, they suggest that these devices may be in fact fueling experimentation with the expanded suite of fee-based online digital music offerings. For competing services in an increasingly crowded and commoditized market, this is critical: These devices appear to have the potential to provide both a gateway to an associated fee-based digital music service as well as a means of building loyalty and retention to a service that is most compatible with the consumer's chosen device."