With Record Store Day on Saturday 19th April, research released today by ICM reveals that music lovers across the country are still buying their tunes in physical format with MP3 downloads seen very much as an add-on. And 15% of those who buy physical music formats such as CDs, vinyl records and cassettes never listen to them – they buy them purely to own.

Amazon, iTunes and eBay are the UK’s favourite online music retailers.
Online has certainly won the battle for retail sales of music. Amazon reigns supreme with one fifth (22%) buying music from the site in the last month, with iTunes at 11% and eBay at 10%. On the high street, supermarkets account for 12% of sales, with independent record stores and HMV at 6% each.

When it comes to buying music, Brits spend more money online than on the high street, mainly because it’s convenient (70%). Four in ten (41%) spend more online in a single visit, three in ten (29%) spend more in store per visit. This difference is least marked in 18-24s (30% spend more in store; 34% more online), while the older music buyers (aged 35+) tend to spend more online.

However, in a time where online is the main way we buy music and digital formats like MP3, and streaming services would appear to dominate the UK music market, the CD remains the main way we listen to music.

CD, records and cassettes still more popular than owning music in the Cloud.
Despite the advent of MP3, CDs remain the main way we buy and listen to music. In the last year, 57% of people had bought a CD, 39% an MP3 download. And it might feel like a blast from the past, but vinyl is continuing to grow, and even the cassette is currently enjoying a come-back. In the last month, 23% bought a CD, 10% a vinyl record (up from 5% 12 months ago) and 5% bought a cassette (up three percentage points from ICM’s research last year). One in five (20%) downloaded an MP3 file.

15% of buyers of physical formats have no intention of listening to them.
In the last three months, one in six (15%) purchasers of physical music formats bought music to keep – not to listen to. Over half (53%) bought a vinyl record, 48% a CD, and 23% an audio cassette tape that they have no intention of ever listening to. This behaviour is driven by 18-24 year old music purchasers, with just over one quarter (26%) buying music to own not play.

Vinyl Demand: it’s still growing.
Vinyl continues to grow in popularity. In 2013 the 18-24 year olds drove the growth, but in the last 12 months the biggest growth area has been 25–34s (26% bought vinyl in the last month, up from 9%). ICM’s research identified some of the reasons for the format’s resurgence as being about sound quality, the sleeve artwork and collecting.

Just like vinyl, the cassette is enjoying something of a revival. Supported by a marketing push from the independent labels and key figures in the music industry, the humble tape cassette is most popular amongst 18-34 year olds who make up 12% of the buyers in the last month. 13% of 25-34 year olds and 10% of 18-24 year olds purchased a cassette in the last month. As Maurice Fyles of ICM Research says “There’s definitely a novelty value with cassettes at the moment – particularly as we suspect a high proportion of them are collectibles sitting on a shelf and never played.”

Independent record stores encourage music fans to spend more than they intend
The research showed that unlike any other outlet, for music lovers a visit to the independent store is an event and worth paying extra for.

In this retail environment, music fans are:
• twice as likely to say they are likely to spend more than they intended
• three times more likely to say they are happy to pay more
• nearly four times as likely to attend events in the store
• four times as likely to have a local store that they visit regularly
• five times as likely to say they don’t have a local store but they will regularly make a trip to visit one.