Listening behaviour more valuable than Facebook likes

Listening to music by Louish Pixel

Adele may have topped the US Billboard Album Charts in 2012, but consumers spent more time listening to the Beatles. Information about consumer listening behaviour – so-called ‘big data’ – is more valuable to talent managers than sales data alone. This according to PhD candidate Hannes Datta. Listening behaviour also appears to be a better predictor of sales figures than the number of ‘likes’ an artist gets on Facebook. And although illegal music downloads certainly impact profits, these losses are compensated by that same group of downloaders. Hannes Datta defended his dissertation on the digitisation of the music industry on 7 February at Maastricht University.

Datta hopes his research will provide the music industry with greater insight into consumer behaviour in order to help them structure their (shrinking) budgets more effectively. “Information on album buying behaviour is rather limited. We don’t know whether the consumer actually listens to and appreciates the music after they buy it. Digital information on the use of products and services will likely become crucial to their commercial success over the next ten years.” Managers who represent and promote multiple artists, for instance, can use this listening behaviour to determine the target audience in which they should invest their promotional budgets.

569 artists analysed

In his study, Datta analysed 569 artists from the American music industry over a 66-week period. He also examined how many likes the artists received on Facebook and how many hits they received on Last.fm, a music streaming website that monitors listening behaviour. He found that both Facebook likes and listening behaviour were good indicators of marketing effectiveness, but that the latter was a better predictor of the future success of new albums. Datta: “Likes are great and everyone wants them, but they’re a superficial way of determining artist commitment.” Illegal downloaders, on the other hand, could generate income for these artists. An analysis of US data from January 2012 to May 2013 revealed that 55% of profit losses generated by illegally downloaded music was compensated by sales linked to that same target group. “Pirates end up following an artist and sometimes end up paying for the music,” Datta says, adding that this percentage only applies to US sales in that timeframe. “It’s possible that a similar analysis for the Dutch market or a different timeframe would produce higher or lower figures.”

Hannes Datta defended his dissertation ‘It’s in the way that you use it – Usage behaviour, sales performance and their interrelationships’ at 10:00 on Friday 7 February at Maastricht University.

Source: Maastricht University, 4 February 2014

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