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Teen Music Habits Shift Again: NPD

Port Washington, N.Y. — Teen CD and digital music purchases surprisingly fell 19 percent in 2008 as buyers cited dissatisfaction with the music available and said that their current music needs were met.

The study of 4,000 consumers, conducted by The NPD Group, said CD purchases by teens, 13 to 17 years old, had been expected to decline and fell 26 percent, but in a surprising turn, paid digital downloads dropped 13 percent. Another unexpected move was the 6 percent falloff in the number of tracks downloaded from peer-to-peer music sites and the 28 percent decline in the number of CDs borrowed from friends to rip or burn.

The reasons given by the teens ranged from already having a suitable music collection, 23 percent, to an overall cutback in entertainment spending, 24 percent.

“These declines could be happening due to a lack of excitement among teens about the music available, but it could also reflect a larger shift in the ways teens interact with music, given that so much music is now available whenever and wherever they want it,” said Ross Crupnick, NPD’s entertainment industry analyst.

One reason NPD cited for sales and downloading declines is the increase in music choices for teens. The survey found a jump in online and satellite-radio listening, with 52 percent using online radio last year, up from 34 percent in 2007. Satellite usage jumped to 31 percent in 2008, from 19 percent in 2007.

The other new music venue is social-networking sites. NPD said 46 percent of the respondents reported listening to music on these Web sites last year, compared with 26 percent in 2007.

“In fact, a recent NPD MusicLab survey revealed that 54 percent of teens who heard a song they liked on MySpace Music were likely to simply listen to that song again on the site, compared with only 1 percent who claimed they would click through and buy the song on AmazonMP3, which is MySpace’s online partner for purchased music downloads,” the survey stated.

These trends will once again force the music industry to adapt, Crupnick said.

“Perhaps the next wave for teens comes when just listening to music replaces purchasing actual files, which might end up creating new revenue streams, such as brand- and ad-supported music. It might also put a premium on selling downloads, merchandise and show tickets directly to teen fans.”