Music Consumption and Streaming Habits Emily Sears

A brief overview

The ways in which we listen to music have evolved greatly over the last two decades, and many people have left physical forms of music for their streaming counterparts. Do users understand what they agree to when they choose to stream music through an app? My research project is all about music consumption trends in relation to streaming services, and how there is an apparent lack of trust between the apps and the consumers.

A poster highlighting some of my research finds.

The Problem

I wanted to understand why people choose to flock to streaming services for their music consumption. As someone who does not place much value in online streaming, I was curious as to whether users actually trusted the apps they use with their personal information. When a user registers with an online music streaming service, they are offering access to plenty of sensitive information. This can include photos, contact lists, voice memos, and their location at any given time. I wanted to see how many people truly understood what they were signing up for when they thought they were getting access to new workout playlists.


I decided the easiest way to collect research about a social topic would be through social media. I put the call out on several Facebook pages looking for respondents to my survey. I had 66 participants, 68% of whom were between the ages of 21 and 30, which I anticipated to be the case. Most participants (80%) were female, and the other 20% all identified as male.

Research Questions

The questions I posed can be divided into two categories, music consumption habits, and understanding of streaming services.

Questions from the music consumption category included:

How much music do you listen to on an average day? The average answer was 1-3 hours, and 50 of the 66 participants listened to between 30 minutes and 6 hours daily.

How do you primarily listen to music? The resounding answer to this was through streaming services (78%), with radio (15.2%) taking second place.

How did you primarily listen to music 10 years ago? Unsurprisingly, most answers fell between CD's, cassette tapes and the radio (59%)

Why do you choose to use streaming services over physical forms of music (vinyl records, cd’s, etc.)? A large number of participants attributed their change in music consumption to the ease of use of the streaming services, the cost for the value, and the personally curated content that is offered in-app.

Questions based around the privacy concerns of streaming services included:

Choose the option that best describes your agreement with the following statement. I believe that streaming services like Spotify have my best interests in mind in regards to personal privacy. Most respondents answered with 'Neither Agree/Disagree' (39%), the next highest group disagreed with the statement (30%), and 21% agreed with the statement.

Were you previously aware that when registering for Spotify, the user agrees to let the service browse their photos, contact lists, and voice memos among other information? Most people (89%) were unaware that streaming services had that much access to their personal information.

Finally, Does knowing that Spotify accesses your personal information change your perception of them as a company? 41 people said that their perceptions of streaming services had changed after learning about the information they had given access to.


So now that all of the information is here, what do we do with it? How do things change moving forward?

These results all come together to suggest that information regarding the privacy policies of music streaming companies is not fully understood by their users, and that if it were, they would take issue with signing over so much of their personal information to a company who sells it to third parties.

With this research, companies can take measures to ensure that customers are given legible policies to read, and have the opportunity to opt-out of any data collection they are uncomfortable with.

If I can leave you with any thought, it's this; there is no reason an app designed to play your music should have access to your camera roll.

Check out my video

Click the link below to check out a video where I further explain my project, talk about the questions asked, and answers I received!


About the Researcher

Emily Sears is a student at Ryerson University, studying Professional Communications. She is an aspiring public relations professional, with an interest in music, politics, and the entertainment industry. She has been accepted to a Masters program in Scotland in the fall to continue to learn more about communications and its effect on the public. In her free time, she volunteers for Ryerson's Musical Theatre Company, reads as many novels as she can get her hands on, and tries out new gluten-free baking creations.

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Emily Sears