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More Evidence Only Old People Are Still Paying for Cable: Their Music Tastes

Spotify commissioned a survey to check out how cord cutters' music tastes differed from those still paying for cable.
June 22, 2015, 8:15pm

Adding to the growing heap of evidence that the cord cutting trend is driven by the young, Spotify has released findings from a new survey where it compared the music tastes of cord cutters to those who still pay for traditional TV subscriptions. It showed that the kind of people who still subscribe to cable are the same people who listen to gospel music and avoid EDM: aka old people.

The music streaming service got data from research company Experian Marketing Services, which does a quarterly survey of 25,000 people from the population at large. This year's survey included questions about music tastes and TV subscription habits, among others, so Spotify used those data points to find out how cord cutters—people who have stopped paying for cable or satellite TV subscriptions—compare to those who still pay for cable TV when it comes to their preferred music. In this comparison, they only used the strictest terms for TV subscribers: old fashioned cable or satellite services. People who had single service subscriptions like Netflix or HBO Now, but no traditional subscriptions, were considered cord cutters.

Turns out there was a lot of overlap when it comes to the preferred music in both groups.

"The list would look almost identical [for both groups]," Eliot Van Buskirk, a data storyteller for Spotify who blogged about the survey, told me over the phone. "And that wouldn't be very interesting. Okay, people like Drake. We get it."

So instead, he and Experian compared cord cutters and TV subscribers by looking at which genres had a greater showing in one group than the other. In other words: which genres was one group listening to that the other group was not?

They found that cord cutters preferred techno, electronic, and Latin hip hop (along with eight other genres) more than their TV-subscribing counterparts. Those who still forked over monthly moolah to the Time Warners and Comcasts of the world listened to Christian music, gospel, easy listening, and adult contemporary more than cord cutters.

Experian's survey also found that cord cutters were 27 percent more likely to stream music than people who subscribe to cable TV.

Looking at its user data, Spotify also wanted to compare the genres preferred by people who use connected devices (like Spotify Connect or Sonos) to stream music compared with people who just stream music through their laptop or phone.

Unlike the first category, where respondents defined genres themselves, the genres in this comparison were determined using the Echonest database, a ten-year-old former MIT Media Lab project that Spotify acquired last year. Echonest creates its genre listings by combing the internet for labels applied to an artist, as well as acoustically analyzing new sounds. It currently has a growing listing of more than 1,400 genres, from deep Turkish pop to drone psych.

With these more specific genres, Van Buskirk did the same comparison, figuring out which outliers there were in each group. He found that Spotify listeners who stream through speakers listen to more hip pop (a more pop-y hip hop), modern uplift (modern rock anthems), and IDM (intelligent dance music, a kind of EDM), than everyone else. But everyone else was more into post-grunge, country-rock, and metal than "connected" users.

Van Buskirk admitted he was trying to draw a loose comparison between the cord cutters and those who stream through speakers.

"If there's a leap of logic here, and I think it's valid, I'm drawing a comparison that these are similar types of people," he told me.

I'm not sure I saw the similarities, though it's obvious why Spotify would want to align expensive Spotify Connect speakers with hip kids cutting the cord. Still, it was interesting to see how music tastes vary depending on how you like to gather your media, whether it's television or music, even if in the end we're all just listening to Drake.