NARM: Back Announcing Could Improve Music Discovery And Sales

NARM (National Association of Recording Merchandisers) recently unveiled new research on how consumers discover music completed by the NPD Group. This topic was last examined in 2007 and the current findings have “changed significantly,” due to the introduction, since that time, of social media, TV and other digital services as major influencers.

Top line findings show music discovery remains vital to the industry, but “applies differently to various consumer groups.” Interestingly, “80% of all respondents were interested in learning about new music from artists they were already fans of, and 60% were interested in learning about unfamiliar artists in genres that they usually buy.”

The most common means of music discovery is via am/fm radio plus family, friends and co-workers. For active music fans, online radio and web videos were also important. The report notes that TV (competitions, awards, online video outlets, scripted series) were extremely influential overall. Not unexpectedly, the importance of retail has lessened since 2007 when the previous study was completed.

“We have identified several areas where we believe we can move the needle and convert that discovery to a retail experience of some kind,” said Jim Donio, President of NARM. “For example, people hear music they like, but because of lack of identification, they don’t learn the artist’s name or the song title, so they cannot seek out that track again – more promotion of song recognition apps and stressing the importance of back announcing could go a long way to improve that situation.”

This is not the first study to urge radio to adopt more back announcing (the naming of a previous song) to increase music sales. The CMA segmentation studies in 2009 and 2010 also reached that conclusion. However, radio still does not seem to have incorporated back announcing on any wide scale.

The study also segmented consumers into five groups; “Committed,” “Convert,” “Comfortable,” “Casual,” and “Content,” plus examines various discovery tools.

[Press Release Excerpt] “Committed” consumers are the youngest group, with a mean age of 32 (20 percent are age 13 to 17; 42 percent are 18 to 35).  They represent 10 percent of all consumers who listened to or purchased music within the prior three months. “Committed” consumers also account for 46 percent of per-capita spending on music, and they are the most engaged consumers in the report. While they use a variety of discovery sources – including radio, video, streaming, and movies – they also value ownership, and they are the most open to discovering new artists. They find their current means to discover new music is good, but still wonder if they are missing something.

“Converts,” who make up 30 percent of musically active consumers and account for 34 percent of per-capita spending, are the second youngest group, with a mean age of 34 (13 percent teens; 23 percent are 18 to 25 years old). They also listen to music in a variety of ways and are more likely than the average consumer to purchase CDs or digital downloads. They are generally satisfied with their means of music discovery, but they would still consider other options.

Those in the “Comfortable” group make up 30 percent of musically active consumers and account for 15 percent of per-capita spending on music. With a mean age of 50, they are considered the mainstream segment. These individuals mostly listen to music on CD or on AM/FM radio, and they prefer to discover new music from familiar artists. They also rely primarily on television and radio to find new music, and they feel those methods are adequate for their needs; they are not interested in new ways to discover music.

“Casual” listeners, who make up 14 percent of musically active listeners and account for 3 percent of per-capita music spending, have a mean age of 43. They are also lighter listeners than average, they rarely buy music, and they have low interest in digital sources and discovery.

The “Content” group, which make up 11 percent of musically active consumers and account for 2 percent of per-capita music spending, have a mean age of 55. They are the lightest buyers and listeners, and while they periodically buy CDs, they do not find current music engaging.


Consumers cited TV as the second most influential tool for music discovery, trumped by am/fm radio, which was most important. According to the study, “most of those who cited radio also reported they would wait to hear a new song again, rather than purchase the track. This finding suggests a need for more back announcing, since three out of four of those who said they would wait also said they would shop more if there were more announcements revealing artist names and track titles.”

“As technology and music distribution has evolved, it’s fascinating how diverse the music fan base has adapted since the last time we conducted this study,” said Russ Crupnick, Sr. VP of The NPD Group. “On one hand you have fans who can’t find enough ways to learn about new music, whether it’s at retail, through apps and social networks, or on radio and TV. On the other hand there is still a large core group who learns by listening to AM/FM radio and on family shopping trips. Regardless of the type of music fan, there are actions the industry can take to improve the discovery process, and help drive revenue.”

The study was conducted by NPD Group in August 2011 and based upon 3,771 completed online surveys. The full research deck is available to NARM members only.


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David M. Ross has been covering Nashville's music industry for over 25 years. [email protected]

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