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How To Sell And Market Your Music Using The Latest Research  

If you keep an eye out for the latest research on music consumption habits, you can use these statistics to help guide you in creating an effective sales and marketing plan for your music releases.

After all, that’s how the marketing department of a major record company would operate - basing their plans on the latest market research.

If you’re despairing at the idea of having to add market research to your “to do” list, don’t worry - there’s an easy way. Just google for Google Alerts, and set up a few alerts such as “music consumption research”, “music consumer survey”, or “music market research”. The latest research will just appear in your email inbox.

Then, all you have to do is choose the studies and surveys relevant to your own music market, and ask yourself how these statistics could shape your music sales and marketing plan.

You don’t have to go into too much detail here - taking note of the general trends will guide your strategy quite effectively.

Take the following example of worldwide music consumption statistics in 2010, courtesy of

A global survey of music consumers by Nielsen (Sept. 2010)

Nielsen (one of the most highly regarded market research firms) conducted a global survey of 26,644 people in September 2010 on their music purchasing and listening habits. It surveyed people’s music consumption for the previous 3 months.

What can we musicians learn from this research? 

  • We need multiple ways to reach music consumers worldwide: The survey found that there is considerable diversity in music consumption habits globally, and that no single channel dominates.
  • We need to make videos: Watching music on video is the most popular way to consume music. 57% of those surveyed had watched music videos on computers in the preceding 3 months. 44% watch internet videos several times a week.
  • Giving away some of our music as free downloads is likely to be a good promotional strategy: Downloading a song without paying for it was the second most popular form of music consumption. The survey did not distinguish between “legal” (free downloads - often promotional) or “illegal” downloads (pirate copies), so many of these free downloads could have been obtained legitimately. Obviously there is still a great deal of interest in downloading music, and people like to get it for free … legally or otherwise.
  • People aged between 21 and 34 are the “core digital music audience”: People in this age range have a generally higher level of music-related activity. They watch the most music videos (on computer or TV), download more songs (both paid and free), and stream more music.
  • It’s worth selling digital downloads; particularly if aimed at a younger audience: The survey found that just over 20% of people under the age of 34 had paid to download a music track to their computer in the preceding 3 months.
  • We need our own artist website, with our music readily accessible for streaming and buying: About 18% of people surveyed had accessed music from an artist’s own website in the preceding 3 months.
  • A Facebook fan page is worth having: 35% consume music via social networking sites. Check out the usual suspects - but also keep an eye out for niche social networks that relate to you and your music, for a more targeted audience.
  • Streaming services are worth factoring into our promotional strategy: 36% stream music via a computer. The survey doesn’t go into details about this streaming figure, so it’s an amalgamation of all the different ways someone could stream music these days. However, it tells us that services such as Spotify, Pandora, Last fm, Jango, etc, are a viable option for getting our music heard.
  • We should look into the sales and marketing potential of creating our own music apps: 30% listen to music via their mobile phone, and 20% of respondents had downloaded or used music apps on their mobile.
  • We should promote our music on internet radio: Just over 30% of those surveyed say they listen to music on web radio several times a week. The vast array of genres and sub-genres catered for by specialist radio shows online means that, if we take the time to investigate, we are likely to find the perfect audience for our own music.

Creating a realistic music sales and marketing plan

You can see that, just through interpreting the statistics of this one study, we can lay out the basis of a sales and marketing plan that is rooted in the realities of the here and now.

It would be best to take note of a number of different studies, of course, for the greatest accuracy. And it is important to update your information regularly. But thanks to Google Alerts, this is not the time-consuming chore it used to be.

I hope this is helpful to those of you who are confused about which of the countless marketing strategies to adopt, and who have precious little time available for trying to figure it all out.


Nielsen white-paper for Digital music consumption and digital music access published January 12 2011.

Nielsen Music ( ) is a division of Nielsen ( ), the leading global market research company.

MIDEM is “the most important event for the world’s music community”

Catherine Hol is a singersongwriter based in Cork, Ireland, currently working on her debut album.

Follow her on Twitter if you like, @Artistsownmusic. 

Reader Comments (12)

This is great info, Catherine! I have a few Google Alerts already set up, but those search terms are invaluable! I wonder how many other search terms could help independent musicians?

@Chris - Glad you found it helpful.

There are quite a few similar terms you could try for Google Alerts. For example; "digital music research" or "music consumer research".

Another tip is to search for the biggest names in market research, such as Nielsen or Forrester Research. You could try: "digital music Forrester Research" or "music consumer research Nielsen". The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) publishes music market stats, so you could include "IFPI digital music statistics".

Small word tweaks can bring up different results, or a variety of analysis that could be of interest.

Enjoy experimenting!

January 25 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine Hol

Thanks for posting this. It's way too easy to make decisions based on personal bias, anecdotal evidence and edge cases, so it's nice to see a case for using actual market data, even if it's just a summary of a deeper analysis.

January 25 | Unregistered Commenterscottandrew

I definitely agree with the concept, Catherine, but I think the example you use is wildly misleading. Data and statistics about global consumption habits and behaviors are of extremely limited use to a rising artist.

Take, for example, the idea of music apps. The overwhelming majority of musicians do not have the coding savvy necessary to build a customized app that extends their brand. They will therefore be forced to spend money on either a) a developer or b) on a service like MobBase. They will be spending this money in an attempt to get the attention of a group of people that has no idea that they exist: the overwhelming majority of the 20% cited in that study are using well-known apps like Pandora, or Spotify, or, or Iheartradio to listen to well-known, established artists. I would guess that artist apps comprise under 10% of that app-using group, and that apps for non-stars comprise less than half of 1%. On the other hand, a look at those numbers might suggest that there is value in selling your music on Amazon, so that you will be eligible for playback on Pandora. But if you hadn't already thought of trying to get your music onto Pandora, then you should probably find someone to help you as a manager.

On the other hand, using more specific data about artists that make similar music (and who enjoy a similar level of popularity) can be tremendously helpful. For example, every artist should use Next Big Sound to decide how much time to devote to certain social media channels: is that band that's similar to you very popular on Facebook, but not at all popular on Twitter? That kind of granular information - actionable intelligence on artists whose fans are likely to be receptive to your music - is tremendously helpful.

January 26 | Unregistered CommenterMax Willens

@Max - thanks for your thoughtful comment.

It's certainly true that all data and statistics need careful evaluation before applying them to any strategy.

I take your point about music apps being of questionable effectiveness for unknown artists these days. That's why I suggested we should "look into the sales and marketing potential" of these, rather than dive straight in. It's obviously an area of massive growth and development right now, and I'm guessing we'll see a lot more services (like Sound Around) aimed at independent artists this year.

It's a great idea to use Next Big Sound to identify the most productive use of social media for your target audience. This tightly focussed use of research is invaluable.

I think we need both the "micro" and "macro" viewpoints when working on our strategy, hence I'd encourage independent artists to inform themselves on global trends - particularly in these fast moving times.

January 27 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine Hol

Nice post Catherine, another great way to check google alerts is using a tool called google reader.

You can just take an RSS feed from google alerts and a bunch of sites and have your research waiting there for you each morning.

Speak soon,

- Chris

Great advice Catherine, thank you! It can be overwhelming to keep up with trends but your article is helpful in creating an adaptable marketing strategy. In an ever-changing industry, these tools are vital for the survival of independent music. Thank you for sharing this information!

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterMarkus

Thanks so much for your informative post. I will add the terms to my google alerts. Will add healing music to the search as well.

Thanks for the post it was most helpful. As an up and coming artist especially in the gospel scene doing this on your own can be overwhelming and deflating at times. But this input from you has given me more confidence concerning me being able to market my music in the ever changing music industry. Thanks again and God bless!!!!!!!!!!

February 16 | Unregistered CommenterDaworshipa

This is a very helpful article. I'm interested what kind of music apps for a specific artist or band could actually prove profitable without a good amount of creativity, though.
I just signed up for this course at and it discusses all of this in-depth except for the music apps, thing, which I've never heard before.

September 21 | Unregistered CommenterJay

Hello Catherine,

Really useful tips! Im trying to research on this subject but it seems so broad at first. I'll have a look on that links and I'll see what I can do.

Thank you! :-)

Thank you so much!!! This is awesome information and save you a ton of time. I am speechless........

February 10 | Unregistered CommenterTywon Bailey

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