Streaming Music: How U.S. Mobility Redefined the Music Business

The U.S. music business reaped a whopping 45% of its sales from only two sources in 2014: Taylor Swift and the soundtrack from Disney’s “Frozen.” This astonishing fact underlines two key points: The music business is no longer selling albums in a traditional manner; and streaming music, largely aided by today’s smartphones, has reinvented the way we consume music.

How mobility redefined the music businessI’m writing this post listening (but not really listening) to focus@will—“Music Scientifically Optimized to Boost Concentration and Focus.” The theory is that the right kind of music can help you be more productive. Maybe I’m suggestible, but it works for me. And, since I can listen anywhere I can take my phone, I can be productive anywhere, anytime.

Unless you’re in an elevator or dentist’s office right now, the music you’re listening to was not created to be ignored. You know from experience that music is all about attention and mood and memory.

The Nielsen Company recently reported on the power of music to sell. They determined that ads with some form of music—jingle, background, narrative—outperformed other ads in creativity, empathy, emotive force and the ability to convey information. All great things. And what about selling power? Anecdotally, Nielsen reports that Hewlett-Packard used Meghan Trainor’s song “Lips Are Movin’” to showcase its tablets and generate a 26% sales increase among her fans.

Pandora is one of the largest mobile ad sellers—and with good reason. According to Mintel (login required), they have 79 million users and they continue to grow. Once more cars have an active Internet connection, Pandora will have even more listeners.

Ever since the invention of recorded sound, music has gotten more and more mobile—from a fiddle in the cornfield to the transistor radios of the '60s and '70s—to today’s ubiquitous and super-powerful smartphones. Now, streaming content providers like Pandora, Spotify, Apple and Rdio offer an increasingly powerful media platform that can target listening preference, device specificity, geography and other key factors for massively relevant communications.

For the lucky marketers of today, digital music platforms offer up unprecedented targeted access to the hearts and minds of music lovers on a platform they truly appreciate. For today’s lucky consumers, digital music offers up what would have seemed impossible only a few years ago: millions of songs by thousands of artists available instantly on the device you’re carrying in your pocket.