Home » Feature » Impact of digitisation on music listening behaviour

Impact of digitisation on music listening behaviour



Over the past decade, digitisation has changed multiple industries and markets, one of which is the music industry where digital music streaming has enforced a market and business transformation.

Transformation addresses the importance and strategic role of new digital technologies and their ability to disrupt customer behaviour and corporate business models. A large number of external and internal drivers enable digital transformation, although the music industry is primarily driven by the customers’ adaptation to technology, through which easy access to music and a desire for a wider range of songs has become crucial to improving the listening experience.

Therefore, the digital transformation has significantly affected music listening behaviour and the way listeners experience music. The development of technology has resulted in the disruption of traditional, tangible forms in which music, historically, has been bundled, such as LPs or CDs to become intangible and retrieved through technical mobile applications.

Due to these changes, music is no longer limited to a certain time and place, indeed, music has become accessible 24/7 and users can stream unlimited amounts of songs, on demand. Thus, listeners have more opportunities than ever before to integrate music into all their activities, and this has allowed listeners to change the way they interact with, listen to, and experience music.

This digital transformation also has had a major influence on music listening behaviour, as the listener has gone from being social and ‘collectively’ oriented in the ‘tangible age’, to becoming private and individually oriented in the ‘digital age’. As part of this development, digital streaming has impacted traditional concepts where, among other things, albums have been replaced by digital music playlists.

The music industry’s rapid technological transformation has enabled significant and extensive adaptation in listeners’ digital music streaming, through channels such as Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube.

The year of 2015 represented a key milestone year for revenue growth globally when digital music revenues overtook income from physical music formats for the first time (IFPI 2016). The global digital music market in 2018 (IFPI 2019) shows that the primary revenue stream for recorded music is streaming, accounting for 46,9% of total revenues, compared with 24.7% attributable to physical sales.

In mature markets such as Scandinavia (e.g. Nor- way), streaming accounts for more than 72% of total recorded music; in still emerging markets such as the United States, only 55.7% of recorded music is streaming (although an increase of 33.4% from last year). Therefore, it is imperative for record companies and other music industry stakeholders, regardless of the maturity of the streaming market, to understand how digitally driven music listening experiences are created and what contributes to users’ reliance on digital music streaming playlists.


Playlists influencing music listening

As digital music streaming has grown, playlists have become more important, such that they provide a common method for listening to music.

As Sam Lee, the U.K. and Ireland editor for the music-streaming service Deezer has argued, “A playlist is far more than just a track listing. It’s about the entire journey: you have to match and exceed the user’s expectations throughout. It’s not just about sticking together some tracks and off we go.”

Accordingly, an argument was placed that a new type of listening strategy results from the increased use of playlists because the playlists grant listeners more control over the specific music they hear, including both the song content and their sequence. Such listeners likely regard music as a resource to meet their needs; a sort of adjustable soundtrack that supports their identity, emotions, activities, and social environments.

DeNora (2000) asserts that listeners act as “personal DJs,” adjusting their music to different situations and times to tailor the appropriate music to how they feel, the purpose, or the situation. A playlist via a digital streaming service thus introduces new practices and habits and is an appropriate context to use to study the everyday music listening experience.

Experience is a key research priority, and yet, considerations of digitally driven experiences in general and in particular digital music streaming experience remain scarce. The vast number of customer interactions enabled by digitisation together with decreased control of the experience requires firms to integrate multiple business strategies in creating positive customer experiences.

Thus, it has become increasingly intricate for firms to create, manage, and attempt to control customers’ experiences. Managers in digitally exposed industries such as the music industry recognise the need to invest in other experience strategies, spanning their offerings, categories, and channels, all to remain competitive in the rapidly evolving technological markets.

Music playlists provide a vital foundation for ensuring popularity because for a song to become a hit, it needs multiple plays. To increase the number of plays, each individual listener must be motivated to be loyal to the digital playlist.

The music industry, therefore, seeks ways to design and create digital music playlists, that enhance superior listening value and prompt recommendations as well as the effect of using a music playlist based on loyalty.


Leave a Reply


Get Music Plus’s top stories, interviews
and gig updates delivered to your inbox.

We won’t spam you. Promise!