Virginia Tech students’ favorite music is increasingly streaming into their ears instantly, and for free — a trend leaving many of their favorite artists with weakening streams of revenue.
A survey conducted by the university’s Communication Network Services in coordination with the Future of Music Coalition shows Hokies are most likely to access music for no cost through YouTube, Pandora and free versions of services such as Spotify and Last.fm.
Tech students’ music preferences will be further explored in a panel discussion tonight that will discuss “The Value of Music.” The event, hosted by CNS in a partnership with the FMC, will be held in Squires Student Center’s Old Dominion Ballroom tonight at 7:30.
Kristin Thomson, who is a consultant for the music advocacy group FMC, said the discussion will seek to shed light on the changing landscape of the music business and how artists can reconcile their need for revenue with consumers’ preferences and use of emerging technologies.
“We’ve always been interested in ensuring that artists are fairly compensated for their work in this environment with so many changes,” Thomson said. “We’re also really interested in how music fans can discover and enjoy new music. And there are all these emerging technologies to try and relate the two together.”
Thomson, who will be moderating the panel, said college campuses are fascinating for FMC because students are using the latest technologies to acquire and listen to music.
She said one of FMC’s main goals is to educate musicians on the shifting dynamics of the business.
FREE SERVICES ‘GOOD ENOUGH’
The survey of Tech community members found a clear preference for free streaming services. A vast majority of the survey’s respondents said they use YouTube or Vevo either “a lot” or “sometimes” to listen to music.
The popular video service, which is free, was the most common method of listening to music. Pandora and other free Internet radio sources, were the second most popular source for music.
“We’ve also been testing, kicking the tires on a lot of these services, really trying to understand what the consumer experience is like,” Thomson said. “We spend a lot of time actually using the services to figure out why they’re cool or why they’re not cool so we can understand why consumers might adopt them.”
FMC’s report on the Tech survey said YouTube and Pandora dominate college listening patterns because they provide “free access to relatively large catalogs of music.”
According to the report, YouTube offers the world’s most diverse on-demand music catalog. It is attractive because it is free, legal and searchable.
Pandora differs in its form of customization, but, according to the report, has seen tremendous growth in part because it “facilitates music discovery, leading listeners to other artists or songs that share the same traits that the listener already likes.”
But the survey showed one indicator looms large in college students’ decisions: cost.
The report said usage of services other than YouTube and Pandora is markedly lower. A majority of respondents said they “rarely” or “never” used paid subscription services such as Rhapsody and Spotify premium.
While many of these services offer enhanced features or remove interruptions from advertising, students aren’t necessarily willing to pay for the added convenience.
“According to the survey responses,” the report said, “they are more interested in options that provide ‘good enough’ catalogs and ‘good enough’ interactivity, for free.”
THE FILE-SHARING PROBLEM