New Study Sees Difference Between Passive & Active Music Listeners

Nielsen-001If you’ve ever wondered, “How can people listen to that crap?”, and certainly that phrase has entered most music listener’s minds at some point, it’s because different music listeners inherently want different things from the music experience, and certain songs and artists appeal to those different types of listeners. Ratings groups like Nielsen heretofore have almost solely focused on demographics as a way to track and rate the music experience for listeners, breaking down people by age group and gender primarily. But none of that takes into consideration that some listeners want something deep out of their musical experience, and others just want it as background noise to help get them through their busy days—in other words, the difference between active music listeners and passive music listeners.

Well now Nielsen has opened up a new field in how music listeners can be measured. In a new study called the “Audio Demand Landscape“, Nielsen has broken up listeners into distinct categories not factoring age or sex whatsoever. For Nielsen’s purposes, since they desire to factor in all of listening, including political, news, and sports talk, and especially the new technologies people are using to listen to media, it goes beyond the two worlds of passive and active fans. But the study still give new insight into the culture divide that delineates passive and active listeners.

Nielsen broke down listeners into six distinct categories:

  • Music Loving Personalizers
  • Discriminating Audiophiles
  • Convenience Seeking Traditionalists
  • Information Seeking Loyalists
  • Background Driving Defaulters
  • Techie Audio Enthusiasts

Though some of these categories deal with how people listen to audio instead of what, or deal more with the sports/news/talk realm, the categories of “Discriminating Audiophiles” and “Background Driving Defaulters” make near perfect definitions between fans who might find appeal in music that really speaks to them and has something to say, and fans who simply want to bob their heads to something catchy on the way home.

“Descriminating Audiofiles” in the study are defined as, “Highly engaged consumers who listen to and prefer a wide variety of audio, and are willing to pay for specific content.”

“Background Driving Defaulters” are described as, “Less engaged and typically have the radio on in the car for background entertainment or occasionally news and information.”

“Music Loving Personalizers” could also be considered part of the active listening population, and are described by Nielsen as being “passionate music listeners who are mainly seeking an emotional benefit by listening.”

The “traditionalist” word in “Convenience Seeking Traditionalists” is not as much about what these listeners listen to, but how they prefer more traditional media, such as radio to listen, while “Techie Audio Enthusiasts” are all about the new device or streaming service to enhance their musical experience. “Information Seeing Loyalists” are mostly interested in news and other talk radio.

Though the Nielsen study isn’t perfect in describing the difference between passive and active music fans and deals with a much larger range of topics facing the listening habits of consumers, for the first time we have a study that sees the clear divide between people who see music as an important aspect to their lives, and people who simply see it simply as background noise. This difference is one of the biggest factors, if not the biggest factor in the widening culture war with music as one of the main battlefronts. “Not all audio consumers are after the same thing,” the study says, “And their specific wants and desires motivate them to use many kinds of audio.”

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Nielsen’s Audio Demand Landscape was developed from a survey of an online panel of 4,950 Americans aged 18-74 conducted in English during March 2014 about their audio listening attitudes, motivations, behaviors, habits and preferences.



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