This morning the following article from Digital Music News came across my desktop. It’s headline stated “Most People Don’t Care About Audio Quality, Study Finds.” But if you scroll down and actually read the article you would discover that the lead has enough spin to keep your washer/dryer running for a week. The real story is that the quality of music reproduction does matter to at least 25% of all listeners. Who knew that sound quality was important to such a large segment of music lovers! Anyone who’s been around long enough to remember when “audiophile” wasn’t a perjorative term understands that audiophila has always been and most likely will always be a minortiy pursuit, so to get a 25% of total listeners seems huge.
The first question in the study of 857 Americans, with an expressed confidence ratio of 95% (+/- 2.5%), asked “How do you typically listen to music?” The answer had over 40% using their computer WITH LOUDSPEAKERS. This was followed by 30% using a smartphone with headphones. Only 8% used a “stereo or home theater system.” But when you combine the computer with speakers with the home stereo listeners you get 48% using something better than a smartphone. I consider that almost worthy of the headline “More people use computers for music than smartphones.”
The next question in the survey asked “What service do you most often use to stream music?” Here Pandora was the clear winner, with 35% of the respondents listing it as their most-used service. Pandora was followed by YouTube with about 27% and Spotify with 18%. TIDAL didn’t even register 1% of the vote. What this tells me is FREE still is the dominant way that the respondents consumed music. Frankly unless the Freemium options disappear I don’t see this changing much, if at all. This also tells me that TIDAL is doing a truly abysmal job of promoting itself. It doesn’t help that if you Google TIDAL the first page will be articles about their CEO’s revolving door status, not the quality of their music.
The third question was one near and dear to any audiophile, “How important is audio quality to you on your streaming service?” 38% of the respondents agreed that quality was “somewhat important but availability was more important.” 28% agreed with the statement “Yes, I can make some compromises on what music is available if the quality is high.” Only 24% agreed that “Yes, quality is everything.” The half-empty glass statement would be “66% of streaming listeners don’t care about audio quality!” But the half-full headline would be quite different – “25% of the streaming users demand high quality sound over unlimited availability!”Unfortunately for Tidal among this 25% less than 1% use Tidal.
The author of the Digital Music News article, Paul Resnikoff, concludes with this, “The survey raises serious questions about high-fidelity streaming entrants, particularly from Tidal.” Does it really? What the study says to me is that 25% of the market is ready to embrace high quality streaming audio. That is HUGE. Ask any new technology firm if they would like to be handed a potential 25% market share and the answer would be YES (and where do we buy additional stock?). I consider this study great news!
Given the minority status of audiophilia if 25% of “average” listeners consider audio quality so important that it is their number one priority when choosing a streaming service I consider that a win. And while 25% of a whole audience isn’t going to win any elections, it does show that a substantial portion of listeners do care about audio quality and will choose a streaming service by using their ears rather than sinking into the low-resolution free music sludge pit.