Music is a universal language that is enjoyed by people all over the world. According to Nielsen Music 360, around 90 – 93 percent of the world’s population listens to music. It’s no surprise because research shows the many benefits of listening to music. The benefits are both physical and psychological.
In a nutshell, music makes us happier and feel better. It stimulates the brain to release dopamine and endorphins which makes us feel happier and better. Benefits ascribed to listening to music are pain relief, anxiety reduction, lowered blood pressure, improved sleep, increased alertness, and improved memory.
From a psychological perspective, research shows that we listen to music to balance our mood, realize self-awareness, and express social relations. People listen to sad music when they’re in a sad or bad mood. They feel some kind of connection to the lyrics, melody, and emotions in a song and want to connect with it. Different hormones are released (prolactin and oxytocin) that make us feel calmer and eases our pain. Happy music releases different hormones to make us feel better.
Perhaps that’s why country music is so popular in that it’s more relatable. It’s easier for our brains to connect with country music because the lyrics and emotions are relevant to our own experiences and emotions.
Latest Statistics on U.S. Music Listening Habits
In its Global Music Report 2023 – State of the Industry, IFPI Research found that streaming is the most popular way of listening to music. Total streaming (including both paid subscription and advertising-supported) grew by 11.5% to reach US$17.5 billion, or 67.0% of total global recorded music revenues. There were 589 million users of audio streaming services paid subscription accounts at the end of 2022.
The advances in Internet access and technology have pretty much saturated the streaming market in the U.S. That explains why people in the U.S. spend more time listening to music on average than in other countries. Consider:
- 62 percent of Americans consider themselves music lovers or music fanatics.
- They average 3 hours and 50 minutes per day listening to music.
- A vast majority of Americans listen to music every day.
- They do it multiple times per day on two platforms; the radio in their car and using music streaming services on their smartphone.
- 41 percent of American listen to music via streaming services according to a CBS News Poll in 2021. That number is likely to have gone up since that time.
Up until recently Hip hop, rap, and R&B have been touted as the most popular music genre in the U.S. because it represented the largest streaming segment in the U.S. The reality is that this genre is the favorite of younger audiences which adopted streaming more quickly to listen to music than older audiences which enjoyed other genres. Country music’s popularity lagged because it was not reflected in streaming numbers. According to a Deezer survey of US respondents, it was the 3rd most listened to genre at 49.9%, right after Rock at 56.8%, and Pop at 56.1%.
Country Music Consumption
Before 2020, country music listeners were not reflected in streaming numbers. Country music fans tended to be older and were less tech savvy and were late to using streaming music applications. The country music fan base opted for more traditional sources of country music such as the radio and album sales which made up a much larger share of their consumption compared to chart-topping genres. In recent years those trends have been reversed with country music streaming numbers rising while album sales have declined each year except for 2021 with Taylor Swift’s rerecorded Red and Fearless albums were released.
Over 150 million Americans listen to country music on a regular basis! They still get their music across a number of channels. Music streaming is the third most popular listening option for country music fans, with radio and video being more common.
Despite the many choices fans still use to listen to country music, the genre’s streaming numbers have been improving dramatically since 2020 as the genre surges to the top of streaming charts. In 2020 country music made up 14.7 percent of the market share for total music sales and streams (source). At the end of 2020, there were over 4,700 country music acts/artists listed on Spotify.
“From 2020 to 2022, country music saw a growth in streams nearly three times the rate of growth of hip-hop, and also faster growth for Pop, R&B, Alternative and other major genres,” according to Apple Music’s Jay Liepis.
We are watching 2023 become a historic year for country music streaming spikes. “In the U.S. specifically, country music has the highest number of plays per customer on Amazon Music than any other genre,” is the stat offered by Amazon Music’s Michelle Kammerer.
Country’s on-demand audio streaming rose 23.8% in the first 26 weeks of 2023 (source). That’s a big jump over the same period in 2022 when it was up 8.5%. While Morgan Wallen had the biggest impact on the country’s year-over-year improvement in terms of growth, other young artists like Luke Combs, Zach Bryan, Bailey Zimmerman, and Jelly Roll also made a major impression.
Country Music’s rise in streaming numbers is fueled by the listening habits of Generation Z and Millennials. While other generations use several listening channels to hear country music, streaming is the leading format for Generation Z and millennials. These generations make up 50 percent of the listening audience for streamed country music.
Country music has never been more in vogue. Country music consumption is up 20.3% year-over-year in the first half of 2023. In August, for the first time in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, the three most popular songs in America were country songs. One explanation for the milestone is that the genre’s artists and audiences are finally leaning into streaming: This year, country has experienced a more than 20 percent rise in listenership, a surge outpaced only by those of Latin music and K-pop (source).
A whopping 36% of the streams of Spotify’s top 50 songs in America have been country songs in 2023; in 2016, it was just 2%. Today the genre is even more popular in America than hip-hop and R&B, according to a recent poll conducted for The Economist by YouGov. Though it has yet to outpace pop, country music is finding legions of new listeners, as young country artists reinvent country’s sound and young urbanites take to it. It’s appeal goes well beyond rural areas of the country. In fact America’s largest cities dominate the market share on non-unique listeners by city, with Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Houston, and New York City holding a large part of total market shares.
Country music listeners
- 72% own their own homes
- 51% are employed full-time
- 47% have children
- 35% have graduated college
- Average household income is $81,100
- 82% use a smartphone.
- 64% spend five or more hours online each week
- 53% visit social networks multiple times a day.
- 87% say when they find a brand, they stick with it
- Tend to be less open to new ideas, i.e., more conservative
- 23 million have attended a country concert in the last year
- 21% of country concert goers attended three or more concert in the last year
- 48% of those between the ages of 18-54 attend concerts or festivals
- Listeners are spread relatively evenly across the nation in both major markets and small towns
Country Music Fans That Have Migrated to Streaming Services
- 63 percent are women
- 76 percent listen daily
- Spend 1.6 more time listening than non-streaming country fans
- 76 percent tend to research or look up songwriters of songs they listen to
- Millennials make up 57% of the country music listening audience (source)
Country music is becoming one of the biggest genres in the American music industry. It’s doing that while still having a poor reputation as a genre lacking diversity and dominated by white men. In fact the 2023 success of country music is owned by while male artists.
The industry saw politics enter into its success as well this year. A newcomer with no previous charting songs, Oliver Anthony, topped the charts for two weeks with a viral hit. That song and a Jason Aldean song which took number one in July were both supported by conservative influencers promoting the songs to their audiences.
When it comes down to it, it’s all about the music. Country music’s recent success is not about influencers. Its about young artists, fresh sounds, and reaching a younger audiences that account for its recent gains in popularity.