Music streaming is all around us, but only a portion of the general population pays to stream through a service. Just the other day it came up with a colleague that we often visit retail stores where Pandora or Spotify are playing, and an ad interrupts during a change of song. Is this just a normal thing we’re ok with? Are we used to it by now? Lastly, what characteristics do people who opt to pay have?

Since July of this year, we’ve asked the following question:


Out of the 22,265 respondents, weighted to U.S. Census figures, we found that 12% pay to play music through a streaming service. 

What are they all about?

Of the 12%, men are slightly more likely to pay for streaming music than women are. And looking at the results, 18-34-year-olds are more than twice as likely to be part of this group compared to the general population.

The main correlation I found for those who pay for streaming music is in regards to how they shop. This group knows what they want but don’t want to settle: people who read online reviews before making a purchase are more than 2x as likely than the general population to pay for streaming music. They are also twice as likely to showroom–that is they visit stores to check out a product and then buy online. Maybe streaming is also a matter of staying up with the latest of the late. Netflix users are also over 3x more likely to pay to stream music, too, and peer influence matters: people who choose music based on social media influence are more than twice as likely to answer pay to stream music. So, perhaps they want to keep up with the newest albums so that they can listen and form their own opinions.

Looking at the topline insights for this “pay-to-play” group, as I’ll call them, I think it’s all about knowing exactly what you want, and not settling for any less. Being able to skip songs, not hear ads, and play full albums seems like the preference among these people as they also like to shop around, make sure they buy the right thing and are interested in trends in music (2x more likely to follow music trends closely than the general pop). Why have to listen to a song you don’t like when you can pay to skip it? It seems like the equivalent to making sure you buy the right thing (by reading reviews or showrooming beforehand) the first time, with no need to waste time returning it. 

In a world where we’re spoiled for choice, it seems to me that the pay-to-play streamers figure out how to make the right decision based on their interests in a world full of options: whether it’s the next song, a big purchase, or just the hottest Netflix documentary that keeps coming up on their newsfeed. It’s all at their disposal, but maybe the way they choose makes it all the more mindful.