It is estimated that by 2012 there will be 50 million mp3 units in use by Americans. This may come in the form of iPods or it may be through mp3 players in cell phones. This audio distribution method is still dwarfed by the overall power and significance of radio, which boasts a regular listenership of more than 290 million each week.
However, mp3 units are a fast growing choice and statistics further indicate more than 70% of those under the age of 24 do not listen to traditional radio preferring instead to utilize online media or mp3 players to receive their audio streams.
Meanwhile, CD manufacturers are attempting to maintain the viability of this form of media distribution, but younger media buyers are simply reverting to the use of mp3 download services and picking the songs they like. These buyers are foregoing a trip to the store and buying only what they need - when they need it.
To stave off the potential loss CD makers are including DVD's and key codes that unlock online content only available to CD buyers.
One of the primary benefits of mp3 ownership is that the content you listen to can be adjusted at any time and you can add podcasts at will. In 2007, listenership for podcasting increased by more than 280% from year earlier figures. What this means is that the viability of establishing an audio stream via your online business or personal website may have more of an impact than you may realize.
What's perhaps even more fascinating is watching the number of artists who are making a name for themselves simply by using social media audio streams through sites like MySpace and video streams through sites like YouTube. A recent highly successful concert in Wichita, KS was headlined by an act that was never heard on traditional radio. Their fan base was developed exclusively online and total online downloads of the music exceeded a million.
Wichita is not alone in looking to new sources for entertainment. Promoters and fans are finding it easy to simply cater to their personal tastes in an online environment and take that environment with them when they leave using mp3 devices.
Traditional radio is still far and away the bigger winner with listeners, but even they have had a wakeup call and are learning to infuse their sites with video, audio and blogs that can engage their listeners in new ways.
The trouble may come in the next decade when those younger listeners that have ventured away from radio (or never arrived in the first place) remain distant from the objectives of radio.
This will likely be a concern that will need to be addressed and corrected if traditional radio is to exist in some form.
The music industry drug its heels for a long time in developing online downloads and radio has also been pretending the move to alternative listening methods is simply a novelty and that listeners will return. In many cases they are not and the trend doesn't show signs of stopping.
It will be interesting to see where radio goes in the next ten years. My guess is more firmly online or through on demand methods of delivery.
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