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Radio remains the top medium for music consumption in Canada

Over the past few months, we have spent some time looking at the way the COVID-19 pandemic has modified certain components of our lives.

Over the past few months, we have spent some time looking at the way the COVID-19 pandemic has modified certain components of our lives.

We learned that half of Canadians have seen their exercise routines altered by the shutdown of gyms and yoga studios. We saw that many British Columbians embraced walks. We also found out that fewer than one in five Canadians are brushing their teeth “three times a day or more.”

Our leisure time has also been affected by the current state of affairs. Motion pictures are now going directly to the small screen, as municipalities around the world struggle with the challenges of reopening movie theatres. With this in mind, Research Co. and Glacier Media decided to take a fresh look at how Canadians are listening to music, with a unique opportunity to compare the findings to the status quo of early 2019.

The preferred option to listen to music continues to be the radio, with 66% of Canadians saying they turned it on at home or in the car over the past week. This represents a three-point reduction since our survey two years ago. The nationwide numbers outline some consistency, even if fewer Canadians are hopping in their vehicles and commuting to their regular workplace.

Radio remains the undisputed music source for Canadians aged 55 and over (70%, but down four points since 2019) and those aged 35 to 54 (68%, down one point). Conversely, just over half of Canadians aged 18 to 34 (53%, down nine points) listened to music on the radio in the past week.

The changes in programming across some Canadian cities reflect an audience that is maturing. We have arrived at the moment when music from the mid-1990s can be labelled as “classic rock.”

Fewer of Canada’s millennials are turning to the radio to hear songs, but they are certainly more active on newer platforms. While 40% of Canadians say they listened to music on a streaming service over the past seven days (up eight points since 2019), the proportion rises to 64% among those aged 18 to 34 (up 10 points). Canadians aged 55 and over remain particularly oblivious to this alternative (28%, down one point), but those aged 35 to 54 are catching up (45%, up 10 points).

A few years ago, the notion of having an entire music collection stored in an electronic device appeared to be a blessing. At the time, hardware made it remarkably easy to copy CDs into a computer. The absence of capable drives in recent models have made this task more complicated, as outlined by the lack of positive momentum for this possibility. Only 30% of Canadians listened to music stored in a computer or phone last week, down one point since 2019.

Fewer than one in five Canadians (16%, down five points) listened to music the old-fashioned way in the past week, on an LP record, a tape or a physical CD. This source of entertainment is a bit more popular among Canadians aged 55 and over (20%), British Columbians (21%) and Atlantic Canadians (20%).

Satellite radio – with a wide range of options – was one of the music providers for 12% of Canadians in the past week (down three points), including 18% of those in the highest income bracket.

The monetary investment from Canadians in music has not transformed drastically.  One in five Canadians (20%) paid to access a music streaming service in the past month, including 40% of those aged 18 to 34. Within the same period, significantly fewer Canadians paid for and downloaded a song (11%) or bought a CD or LP record (10%).

On the issue of compensation for artists, Canadians are now evenly split. While 40% believe that music creators are being fairly compensated for their work (down 11 points since 2019), 41% (up eight points) disagree with this assessment.

Again, there is a generational gap. Canadians aged 18 to 34 – the ones who are more likely to pay for streaming services – are more likely to believe that artists are being fairly compensated (54%) than those aged 35 to 54 (42%) and those aged 55 and over (32%).

Over the past two years, the modifications in the way Canadians listen to music have been driven primarily by age. Baby boomers continue to rely on the radio, while millennials are seeking and paying for streaming services.

One of the battles for marketers will revolve around Canadians aged 35 to 54, who are still looking for songs on the dial, but are showing more interest in streaming services than they did two years ago. •

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted from January 9 to January 11 among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.