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How College Students Discover and Consume Music

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Copyright-symbolCollege is where we form lifelong listening habits, so the battle for collegiate ears is an important one. Yesterday, Spotify announced a premium bundle with Hulu for students at just $4.99 to drive sign-ups. Allison Ullrich, Manager, College & Lifestyle Marketing at The Orchard shares key insights into the listening habits of this key demographic.

Guest Post By Allison Ullrich, Manager, College & Lifestyle Marketing at The Orchard from The Daily Rind

Not only does September typically bring cooler weather, it also signals back-to-school season. Working with college students on a daily basis, I thought this would be a perfect time to dive deeper into their listening habits so we can learn how to better target college students in our promotions. Our College Marketing Representatives were asked a variety of questions to provided us with insight into this key demographic. Take a trip into the classroom, below.

What determines the kind of music college students listen to?

All of our Reps are driven by mood and activities when selecting the type of music they want to listen to. Interestingly, their study music varies across the board: from classic rock, post-rock/avant, and classical music, to R&B and soft rock. When working out, they favor either Electronic, Rap, or both. Spotify has clearly made it easier for our Reps, and probably the majority of users, to curate their listening experiences by creating their “Genres and Moods” playlist section. This is an effortless way for someone to hit play on a playlist and go on with their day, so appropriate playlist placement is important.

How are college students sharing music with their friends?

Sharing music amongst friends is more of a personal transaction for college students than many might think. Our Reps, while they will share songs and artists they like on their personal socials, are mainly taking their time and curating recommendations for their different friends. Those who share frequently on social media, are typically doing so through the usual avenues of directly messaging friends on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and even Cymbal. Seven out of the eight College Reps I spoke with either screenshot a song and text it to their friends, share a video within a group chat, or play a track/video for their friends in-person. It is very interesting that while we’re in such a digital/social media era, that 18 to 21-year-olds are primarily sharing their favorite music in-person.

What are their top discovery tools for finding new music?

Copyright-symbolFinding out where college students are discovering music should be key to anyone who wants to target that particular audience. I always ask applicants during interviews how they discover new music, and the answer is almost always: Spotify’s Discover Weekly. Diving deeper, most current reps said they check out what friends are listening to via the “Friends Activity” section. They also utilize the “Related Artist” section on an artist’s Spotify Profile, and/or use the “Recommend Songs” section at the end of a playlist to find new music. Our College Reps also use everything from YouTube, Apple Music, Soundcloud, to even radio (yes – they still listen to radio in the car!) to discover new music. Lastly, they rely on the artists they’re already listening to to help them discover new music, which is mainly done through an artist’s mentions on Twitter. College students are actively following their favorite artists on Twitter and are paying attention to the music those artists’ mentioned in their tweets.

Who influences their music discovery the most?

Friends! Just as individual sharing is personal, accepting musical recommendations is also personal. One student added that she’ll listen to anything on the Billboard Top 200 Chart, and another says that she’s influenced by the opening acts for her favorite artists. See, people do come out early to check out the openers!

What makes a college student look up an artist on streaming services?

It’s one thing to be passively listening to a playlist while you’re studying or working, not knowing who any of the artists are, but it’s another to actively look up an artist on a streaming service. We wanted to find out what makes a college student go beyond just passive listening, and the answers are varied on this one. Some say they typically look up artists from the “Related Artists” section on an artist’s Spotify Profile as mentioned above, or if an artist has been featured on a “New Music” playlist on Fridays. They’ll also lookup artists whose video or live set they’ve seen (and liked). One Rep actively looks up artists that are playing a show or festival he’s attending, but he also looks them up if a friend or even streaming service recommends a certain artist. Then you have the good ol’ fashion reason of why anyone really checks out an artist’s catalogue: because they’ve heard a song or two that they enjoy and they want to hear more from that artist. The take away if you’re a newer artist? Make sure you’re writing and playing music that will grab people’s attention and tour, tour, tour!

How are college students listening to music?

Now that we have a better understanding of college-aged discovery methods, we wanted to know how they’re listening to music. Six of out eight Reps mentioned Spotify, one solely listens to music via Apple Music, while others are also listening via a record player (good news for the vinyl world!), Soundcloud, YouTube, radio and the most surprising answer I received: the iPod classic.

What days/times do college students check their social accounts, and which platforms do they check most often?

When working on your social schedule and planning out your posts, it’s important to know when your target audience is online and therefore, more likely to see your posts. We found college students are mostly online in the morning before class and at night, but they do admit to checking frequently throughout the day, even if it’s just a couple of scrolls here and there. What platforms are they checking most often? Instagram ranked the highest among our Reps followed by Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat tied for third, then Reddit and one rep uses ATRL.

What is the takeaway from all of this? Students aren’t just listening to the hot new tracks of the moment – they’re paying attention and curating their listening habits based on what their friends and their favorite artists are sharing. They’re actively listening to what artists are saying and suggesting on social media, so make sure you have an active social presence with engaging content (see here for our Best Practices if you need a re-fresher). It is clear that Spotify playlists play a roll in what they’re passively listening to so, as I mentioned above, work towards playlist placement by driving attention to your new tunes. When targeting college students on social media, make sure your social posts are hitting the time frame they’re most likely going to be online, and also post content that can be easily shared since most seem to share music with friends via personal texts or group chats.

Are you a college student that has a different opinion from above? Let us know! Is there something else you’d like us to ask our College Marketing Reps? Feel free to comment and stay tuned for more.