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Country fan spending declines

Friday, February 26, 2010 – Total country fan spending on CDs, legal music downloads and concerts declined an estimated 28 percent since 2008, according to a study done for the Country Music Association released released Thursday.

Fans fell slightly in 2009 from 2008: 37 percent versus 39 percent of adults 18-54.

On the positive side, two in five fans feel better about country music than they did in 2008. Country's unique characteristics and connection to "real life" make it appealing in challenging times. And they are more optimistic about their own economic future. Twenty-eight percent of fans now rate their personal finances as "Excellent/Very Good" versus just 7 percent in 2008.

"Overall, the impact of the U.S. economic downturn is impossible to ignore," a press release said. "The country music industry is facing revenue pressure from a range of consumer-based fronts including the economy, a decline in the country fan base, reduced consumer country music spending, and a continued move away from buying full albums to single songs or acquiring "free" music.

The role of country radio has been strengthened by the challenged economy, the study found. Usage and average hours spent listening are up significantly. The study identified radio, along with word-of-mouth from friends and family, as the number one influencer in fans' music taste and behavior.

Monthly country music radio listening is up from 79 percent of fans in 2008 to 93 percent today. Weekly country radio listening hours are up to an estimated 9.9 hours per fan from 6.4 in 2008.

Listeners were not so happy with radio. One third of the fans said they would listen to country radio more if there was less repetition and a wider variety of songs.

The study showed strong industry-building potential of "deep cuts" radio programming. Thirty-seven percent of these fans rated a "go deep" idea "Extremely Relevant/Relevant." The consensus was that playing a wider, deeper variety of songs by an artist would influence genre investment, with 44 percent of fans saying it would increase the likelihood that they would by more CDs. Country fans are adopting new media and technology at a brisk pace. An estimated 18 percent of country music radio listening is via online streaming, podcasts, or cable TV "radio." Nearly one in four visit country radio station Websites on a monthly basis.

The survey said 78 percent of country fans have home Internet access and 61 percent of fans go online monthly to explore country content.

YouTube has become the dominant web destination for country content with 40 percent of online fans visiting monthly. This is likely the primary destination for viewing music videos. While the web is increasingly important, the frequency of fan web engagement with Country content should not be overestimated.

YouTube has become the dominant web destination for country content with 40 percent of online fans visiting monthly. This is likely the primary destination for viewing music videos. While the web is increasingly important, the frequency of fan web engagement with Country content should not be overestimated.

Four online destinations attract one in four country fans in an average month - YouTube, iTunes, country artist/band websites (as an aggregate), country radio station sites (as an aggregate). Only YouTube and Pandora achieve weekly visitation by more than 1 in 10 fans (all other measured destinations are 10 percent or less). Social networking sites are growing as country content destinations, but still visited monthly by only a minority of fans: Facebook (20 percent), MySpace (18 percent), and Twitter (10 percent).

Some 93 percent listen to country radio, 55 percent watch CMT, and 25 percent watch GAC monthly.

Key retailers and e-tailers - such as Walmart, iTunes, Target - are becoming more important. With fewer brick and mortar retailers carrying CDs and physical product, Walmart's domination and Target's number 2 status is solidifying. Walmart was the source for 48 percent of fans' last CD purchases (up from 44 percent in 2008) and Target was up to 16 percent from 12 percent in 2008.

iTunes accounted for 72 percent of last country musicdownloads, up from 56 percent in 2008. Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and all other sources showed relative declines of 28 to 46 percent as last purchase source. Nearly half of last "free" downloads were acquired through legal methods including free from iTunes, company promotions or artist web sites.

Over the past two years, CMA in partnership with The Right Brain Consulting and Chicago-based Leo Burnett Co., has interviewed nearly 10,000 adults.

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