Only 5% of music buyers would switch to a la carte online music subscription

Ipsos-Insight studied a representative sample of US music downloaders aged 12 and older, who were presented with simulated digital music acquisition environments consisting of various options for obtaining online music. One of these simulated environments included an online peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing network, an on-demand streaming PC-tethered subscription-based service, and an a la carte pay-per-download service.

24% of current downloaders indicated a preference for obtaining music through a fee-based online offering, with an a la carte pay-per-download method most preferred (19%; compared to 5% preferring an on-demand PC-tethered streaming subscription service). When a new portable online music subscription service (which allows an unlimited number of songs to be transferred to associated portable devices) was introduced to the market scenario at $14.99 per month, the proportion of downloaders who would choose this method was 5%, one-third fewer than the 17% who would choose an a la carte method at $0.99 per song, yet greater than the 4% who would choose an on-demand PC-tethered streaming subscription service. This suggests a potential limitation in rapidly migrating current downloaders to this new method of fee-based online music acquisition.

Downloaders who have experience paying for online music are most pronounced in their preference for pay-per-download methods, as 28% of these consumers reported a preference for the a la carte option, 4% for an on-demand streaming PC-tethered subscription-based service, and 8% preferring the new portable subscription service. Meanwhile, downloaders with past experience using fee-based online music subscription services and those who currently own a portable MP3 player are most receptive to the new portable online subscription service, with 17% and 11% respectively choosing this method of purchasing fee-based online music in a simulated competitive context.

Adult downloaders aged 25 to 54 are the most likely to have paid to download digital music (50% among 25 to 34 year olds, 53% among 35 to 54 year olds). And while younger downloaders have typically been less likely to report having paid for digital music, in the most recent findings, over half of downloaders aged 12 to 17 report that they have paid for digital music (52%), suggesting that recent efforts to promote pre-payment methods to teens are proving successful.

Nearly equal proportions of male and female downloaders have paid to download digital music files off of the Internet: 49% of U.S. male downloaders aged 12 or older report having engaged in this activity compared to 45% of American females. American female downloaders are continuing to narrow this gender gap, as women’s current fee-based downloading experience levels have nearly tripled compared to one year ago (16% in December 2003), whereas men’s have nearly doubled (24% in December 2003).