Millenials and streaming redefine music marketing


There are hundreds of FM radio stations classified as “top-40” stations, following a playlist based exclusively on Billboard Music charts. In contrast, streaming services like Spotify and Pandora generate playlists tailored specifically to individual music tastes, regardless of the popularity of a song or genre. The past five years have given way to the rise of several of these on-demand streaming services. These programs have provided a massive library of music to everybody and have aided millions in their ability to discover music. For the first time in decades, people are finding their musical taste for themselves rather than being told what to like by a music marketing company or radio DJ.

The millennial demographic, who makes up the overwhelming population of college campuses nationwide, has grown up in a musical environment different than any other generation. They are the first generation with the technology to help define oneself in music and to define music for oneself. Streaming services gave millennials the power to choose what they listen to and this generation redefined the way music is marketed worldwide.

Millennials are responsible for 72 percent of weekly Spotify streams, according to a report by Adweek. Companies like Spotify and Pandora have tailored their products toward students by offering a student discount. Aside from that, almost all music streaming platforms provide a free, ad-supported internet radio service where anyone with an internet connection can discover music suggestions tailored specifically to them.

“Every day I get seven daily mixes on Spotify,” sophomore psychology major Michaela Marceau-Zielinski said. “And every day there’s something completely new.”

Streaming services are constantly recommending new genres, artists and songs. With so many different styles of music accessible, listeners have developed new listening habits. Unfortunately, those new habits have seemingly not been recognized by music producers until recently: marketing companies like Planetary Group and View Maniac still label themselves as experts in “radio promotion.” While many record companies focus on producing tried and true “trendy” music for top-40 radio stations, the vast majority of music listeners are no longer interested in “trendy” music. This can be seen in the steady decline in radio listening over the past five years.

“The last time I listened to the radio was a few weeks ago over spring break, I had a long car ride,” senior biology major Halley Planinsheck said.

This decline in listening expands beyond the University of Wisconsin-Platteville demographic. In January Norway began dismantling its FM radio network in favor of digital broadcasting. In addition, Switzerland, Denmark and Britain are nearing the point of ending FM transmission, according to a report by NPR, the most widely heard terrestrial broadcasting center in the US, lost over one million weekly listeners between 2013 and 2015 according to the Pew Research Center. Pew also reports that the number of online radio listeners has more than doubled since 2010.

With terrestrial radio becoming obsolete, listeners are no longer being hand fed music and are no longer being told what to like by radio DJs and record companies.

This concept tends to be especially appealing to college students, people finding a sense of independence for the first time. Internet streaming is the perfect tool for these students to exercise their musical independence. People are now using services that personally tailor music to their tastes, no matter what that taste is. As a result, Google research has found that the number of music listeners across genres has become more and more evenly distributed since the early 2000s the same time that iTunes and Pandora Internet Radio came into the world.

“They make it easier to find new artists and different types of music by mixing them in with the stations that you normally listen to,” freshman criminal justice major Samantha Schmidt said.

Many music marketing companies are still working to please radio DJs but recently some record companies have begun working to please all listeners, not just the ones with their fingers on the broadcast button. Slowly but surely, the music industry is changing and producers are realizing that if they produce good music it will be heard regardless of whether or not it makes the top-40. Labels like Nonesuch and SubPop are now supporting artists from all over the genre map and they’re finding this method to be beneficial to musicians, record companies and listeners alike. Millennials have not only found a new way to listen to music, but they’ve found a way to redefine music marketing.