46% of Americans ‘Not That Into Streaming,’ Study Finds

Agree/Disagree: “I’m More Likely to Download Content Than to Stream Content.”

Source: Limelight Networks survey of 1,136 American consumers, February, 2016.

Music downloads on platforms like iTunes and Amazon are plunging, but overall, downloads remain a preferred format for a substantial number of Americans.  And according to a study released this week by Limelight Networks, a large percentage of those people refuse to pay for it.

The report adds to the seemingly-contradictory pile of data emerging around music and media consumption, especially as it relates to the transition to streaming.  On one hand, streaming levels and paying streaming subscribers are absolutely surging, with companies like SoundCloud pointing to a resulting eradication in piracy.  Spotify, a company that also points to decreases in piracy alongside streaming gains, just announced its 30 millionth paying subscriber.  Conversely, song downloads on iTunes and Amazon are sliding precipitously, with the RIAA reporting a 14.9 percent decline last year.

Sounds like a simple transition, but numerous research reports continue to point to deeply-entrenched download and piracy levels, even increasing levels.  Limelight, whose study is focused on downloading overall, found that music remains incredibly popular on piracy channels.

Depending on how you look at the data, this is a greater problem for Hollywood and the television industry, with the most active media consumers more likely to be pulling movies and shows than songs.  According to Limelight, 16.88 percent of Americans are downloading video content on a daily basis, with 14.46% reporting the same on music.

That sharply contrasts with dropping iTunes song download stats, except for this: according to the Limelight study, 48.9 percent of survey participants admitted that they’ll “only download music if it is free,” with an addition 6.89 percent expressing “no problem downloading pirated content.”

Those figures ramp up dramatically among millennials, leading Limelight to peg music as the most-pirated content type.  “It’s interesting to note that music is still the digital content with the highest propensity for theftwhat was true in 2000 seems to still be true today,” the study wrote.

But this is a story that goes far beyond simple downloading.  According to a recently-released report from MusicWatch, 57 million Americans are actively pirating content across a number of methods, including a surge in YouTube ‘stream-ripping’.  Converting streams into downloads is nothing new, though a multiplicative jump in streaming is causing it to increase.

Other studies, including a bandwidth-focused report by Cisco Networks, show an all-out and continued increase in content piracy, across all media types.

9 Responses

  1. rikki

    pirating content????? well maybe artists know full well its McMusic and has little lasting value

    So much “music” sounds like everything else…so that is where the value has been decimated.

    • Versus

      If people still want it, then it has value to them, so it’s worth paying for. If they don’t want it, then don’t steal it.

  2. Anonymous

    As usual, the question and your headline are not the same thing. I’d like to meet these people and see what their rationale is. I bet you it’s lack of knowledge of what streaming even is, like my mom. Ask her about Spotify, she’ll be like ‘what?’

    Because say what you will about streaming, I’m not saying this as a positive qualifier of it, but what reason could the average consumer have for not wanting to stream? It makes zero sense.

    Not to mention, I bet out of the 46% of people that ‘have no interest in streaming,’ 90% of them stream on YouTube.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Those are good points. Actually, if anything, I’d say this is an incredibly positive report for the future of streaming. It shows the space (including the paid subscription part) is not even close to plateau (though there do seem to be some user plateauing happening at Pandora, at least for the moment).

  3. G.D.

    Sure, people are holding on to the idea of downloading as they do to all things familiar. The oft-repeated premise that people “refuse to pay” for streaming isn’t credible, though, as those same people pay $10/month for Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc… and pay for their lunch every day (except when it’s free). The key to stabilization is efficient management of the distribution network. There will always be “shoplifting” — and that is all illegal downloading is — but most people want a reasonable and legal way to buy things, including music.

  4. Nicky Knight

    Artists, songwriters, record producers and labels love iTunes and the purchase and download single ..


    Because that’s still where the bulk of the money is ..

    When we look at our labels income from all the sources .. the worthwhile numbers are from one and only one company.. Apple, and it’s from their iTunes store because that’s where the revenue comes from.

    Sure you can make money from Spotify if you have a billion streams .. but selling one or two hundred thousand singles on iTunes can still make you $100~200K especially if you do it on your own label.

    People love to own music as well… lot’s of consumers don’t want to be tied down to a ten dollar a month bill for each streaming company.. everyone has enough bills coming in the door every month without the want of more…

    I think iTunes will continue to be the revenue leader for some time … what will ensure that is creative people writing/producing/performing big hit songs that the public love…

  5. Rick Shaw

    77% of Americans don’t like new music. 62% of Americans aren’t up to speed on technology. 82% of statistics are made-up.

  6. Wooly

    Put out a product that people like and you’ll get people to stream. It’s pretty simple.

  7. Anonymous

    Put out a product that people like and you’ll get people to purchase and download from iTunes. It’s pretty simple.