‘The Digital Natives’ are the ‘Transition Generation’

The Nowtrax Digital Natives

The times are changing and it is you, the Digital Natives, that are changing the way companies like Nowtrax do business.

The demand for electronic Dance music has shifted from distribution and ownership to experience. In the distribution era, music fans were defined by “buy and listen”. Millennials opted to “rip and burn” their analog CD collections and sought on-demand access to online content. Digital Natives take the access for granted and demand rich, social, and interactive experiences in which they can “watch and share.” The demand needle has shifted across three eras of usage models and yet it has also remained still – because, of course, each of those generations still co-exists with and leans toward the usage model with which they grew up.

Music fans are the young digital media pioneers. Music fans are the archetypal “time-rich, cash- poor” segment. Typically young and male, they spend more time than most consumers with the Internet, video games, cell phones, and, of course, music. They clock up more media hours than any of the other segments, and they are most likely to adopt new media activities, such as social networking and watching online video. Although we can largely attribute these characteristics to the youthfulness of this segment, they are, nonetheless, highly engaged consumers with sophisticated multitasking behavior.

Analysis of digital music consumption typically focuses on how youth trends differ from those of older music fans. The bluntness of this approach misses the crucial differences that exist between Millennials and Digital Natives. Many of these are so fundamental that they indicate defining generational characteristics and have profound implications for music strategy. Research that we have seen suggests three key music consumer generational segments have emerged

The analog generation. The musically formative years of the over-25s occurred when radio and the CD (or earlier formats) defined the music business. During the distribution era in which these music fans grew up, record labels enjoyed a monopoly of control over the availability of music, limiting it to a comparatively small number of analog media and retail channels. Music fans either had to buy units of music in shops or depend upon linearly programmed mass media to acquire music.

The transition generation. The Millennials were the vanguard of digital music adoption. Often characterized as the “Napster generation,” these music consumers increasingly shunned purchasing music in favor of free downloading, yet they are also the key demographic for digital music purchases. Record labels have long struggled to make sense of this apparent paradox. The explanation is that this generation uses transition technologies to replicate analog behaviors in digital contexts. Whether the service is legal or not is of secondary importance. Their music apps of choice peer-to-peer (P2P) networks and 99-cent downloads, both transition technologies are digital tools for acquiring distribution-era-style units of music. Meanwhile, competition for shares of entertainment expenditure from interactive alternatives, such as gaming and mobile phones, applies further downward pressure on music spending. At Nowtrax we make it so easy for people to hear, play and share your music that we believe we can re-invent this industry.

The digitally native generation. Digital Natives are the first truly digital generation. Although Millennials used digital music technology first, these younger music consumers have adopted it without any distribution-era biases coloring their world view. These consumers have only ever known music in a digital context, and often as free. While their transition generation predecessors actively sought out ways to avoid paying for music, Digital Natives simply expect it to be free. Crucially, Digital Natives seek out music in access-based environments where they can listen to music on demand and often in social contexts.

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