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A recent study of music consumers in the UK has found that streaming isn’t necessarily killing off physical formats, but instead encouraging “multi-channel” use.

Music body BPI and the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) commissioned the survey which was conducted by AudienceNet. It found that music consumption in the UK has “entered a new multi-channel era”. The survey says that consumers use streaming to discover new music, but turn to CD and vinyl to buy, collect and gift.

Two thirds of people asked consider themselves “multi-channel listeners”, with many agreeing that they stream to find what’s new, trending and popular but when they come across something they love, they purchase it in a physical format.

Sound quality was a key reason for people buying CDs. Of those people surveyed who bought CDs, 89 per cent of people said sound quality was "very important" or "fairly important". Permanent ownership of "something tangible" and the ability to play your music in the car were also key factors for CD buyers.

In fact, the survey showed sound quality was the most popular factor cited as "important" for people using streaming services and for those buying downloads.

56 per cent of people surveyed used a "CD player (Hi-Fi)" to listen to music, still the most popular device overall. Isolate the results to 16-24 year olds, howver, and the most popular device was a smartphone - 76 per cent of this age group used a mobile to listen to music. A laptop was the second most popular device for all ages, and in the 16-24 age group.

More after the break

The survey also found that multi-channel listening wasn’t restricted to the younger generation, with 80 per cent of the 35-54 age group seeing themselves as multi-channel listeners.

“This research suggests music fans are a great deal more nuanced in their approach to new forms of technology than they are sometimes given credit for," said Kim Bayley, Chief Executive ERA.

"They understand there are some benefits which streaming can deliver better than CD or vinyl and vice-versa.  It is important, therefore, that the industry responds to this and ensures that music is available how and when music fans want it."

CD sales are declining, but figures suggest the rate is slowing, going from a 20 per cent drop in 2012 to just 6 per cent in the first half of 2015. CD sales still account for 60 per cent of all albums sold in the UK. Meanwhile, vinyl sales continue to surge, rising from 205,000 copies in 2007 to in excess of 2 million in 2015. 

MORE: UK's first vinyl chart launches as sales hit 20-year high

MORE: Music streaming industry hits $1 billion


grimreaper46's picture

Sound Quality

Still shows how many people still think CD is the "best" quality. The people who think this probable stream MP3. They can stream at CD level or with some music at HiRes (i.e 24 bit). MP3 was killing off music quality because so many people only listen to music off their mobiles, even then with inferior ear buds (Never put anything IN your ear smaller than your elbow).

Thankfully people are coming back to really listening.

Graham Luke's picture


A well recorded and mastered CD will give you everything your ears are capable of discerning. 

'24-192 Music Downloads Are Very Silly Indeed' should be compulsory reading for anyone contemplating so-called 'high resolution audio'. 

Geddy76's picture

The way it should be

I wouldn't like to live in a world where music is only available in digital file format.  Unfortunately, it appears that youngsters don't seem to care.  Re: Sound quality:  If you don't agree with hi-res audio, the option for you is, avoid it.  You may be right, but you should let the individual decide for themself.

Nat's picture


MP3 is rubbish quality. The youth of today are clueless about quality, listening to their music on their phones or streaming it to some poor quality speaker. They havent got a clue what real quality music can sound like. They don't have the time nor do they much care. CD is excellent , but even vinyl can sound superb and of course vinyl is customiseable to your taste , whilst CD's are not. High quality streaming is available but very expensive, not many tittles are available  and guess what, it takes up a lot of storage room , unless you want to stream from some service like spotify but its still not top quality. I like to own my music and if and when I die as I have paid for it I will leave it to whom I like and there wont be some legal copyright battle about who owns the content of my electronic library. 

Whilst I get the convenience of a small device to use whilst travelling etc etc but its not even close when in the comfort of your home listening to quality music on a real hifi . Streaming I am sure will improve, but In the mean time, untill its easy and cheap and they sort out ownership I shall stick to vinyl & cd's. 

Graham Luke's picture


'MP3 is rubbish quality'...would you like an opportunity to qualify that blanket statement?

I buy my classical music from an online seller based in the UK and recieve a free MP3 download with their news letter every month.

Often the quality is superb, considering, and I find myself checking the bitrate later on to establish whether it is a 16/44.1 or not.

Much of this argument is so ill-informed and ignorant and is based on the quality of MP3's from a decade ago.

MadSquirrel's picture

Loudness war?

Why hasn't one of the mainstream magazines (eg What Hi-Fi) done a feature on the "loudness war"?

All new CD releases are brickwalled into less than 3dB of dynamic range. The only benefit to buying "hi-res" releases is that this brickwalling isn't so bad. But a 24-bit download is STILL less dynamic than a 1980s CD release.

This hit the big time with Metallica's "Death Magnetic" a few years back, but levels are still getting pushed up. Modern recordings sound terrible, and it's got nothing to do with MP3, iTunes etc, and everything to do with mastering engineers turning the damned thing up to 11 all the time.

Abel_ST's picture

Sweden has had steaming music

Sweden has had steaming music longer than anyone else via Spotify, and nobody buys CDs here anymore. People ask: "remember the times that we had CDs and MP3 players when we where young?". 

Cat Williams's picture

I'm not the only one

I still buy CD's even though I also stream music and use an portable digital player. I can rip the CD to a lossless format for portable as well. I've started putting lossless files on my portable players, just because I can. Most people, myself included, using average audio equipment would have a hard time discerning the difference between the music on CD vs. a well encoded (high bitrate, etc) lossy file (I am partial to VBR aac, mp3 or ogg) though I like to think I can hear a difference; I doubt I could pass a double blind listening test!  The CD allows for the focus of only being able to listen to one album and not skip around, plus cover art/booklet and often cheaper than a download. Lossless files take up more space on a device, but offers same sound as the CD but allows for easier choosing of music due to less content. My problem with mp3 lossy files is not the sound quality but that there are so many albums that I can't decide which one I want to listen.

Streaming is great for the sheer quantity of music and it's a better deal than buying a download, but it still requires dealing with a computer/device connected to the internet which is not always enjoyable to deal with. Plus it's easy to lose track of a favorite album or forget about it completely amongst the millions.