Press Release | September 18, 2018

Gen Z, Millennials Love Streaming Audio, but Discovery and Listening Habits Vary, Says CTA

Danielle Cassagnol
Although most younger listeners say streaming services are their favorite sources of audio content, there are key differences in how Gen Z and millennials discover, buy and listen, according to a new Consumer Technology Association (CTA) study that surveyed Gen Z (ages 14-21) and millennials (ages 22-37).

"As the first digitally-native generation, members of Gen Z follow their own instincts when it comes to audio consumption," said Ben Arnold, senior director of trends and innovation, CTA. "Convenience and portability dictate how and on what devices the younger generations listen to audio content - a more pivotal part of Gen Z's and millennials' everyday lives than any other generation before them."

Listening and Audio Product Habits and Behavior
CTA's Millennial and Gen Z Generations: Audio Product Ownership and Content Consumption Report finds that between the two generations, eight in 10 (78 percent) smartphone owners use their devices every day to consume audio content. That number of listeners is significantly higher among Gen Z (84 percent).

Across the spectrum of audio content sources, Gen Z and millennials were also asked how often they have listened to audio content from various sources in the past 12 months and according to CTA's report, daily listening was highest among these five audio sources:
  1. Music through a streaming service (56 percent)
  2. Online music videos (47 percent)
  3. AM/FM radio (45 percent)
  4. Digital downloads (33 percent)
  5. Podcasts (16 percent)
The report also finds that 17 percent of Gen Z and millennials do not own any physical audio content, such as CDs or vinyl records. Gen Z was significantly more likely to not own any physical audio content (20 percent have no ownership) in comparison to older millennials (ages 30-37) (15 percent have no ownership).

Audio Content and Product Discovery
For both generations, online music videos (e.g., YouTube and Vimeo) are the leading method for discovering new audio content (53 percent), followed by peer recommendations (51 percent) and suggestions from streaming platforms (e.g. Pandora and Spotify) (41 percent), with advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning helping listeners discover new content through streaming platform suggestions.

Among both generations, half of those surveyed (50 percent) indicate they discover new audio technology products, such as headphones or wireless speakers, from friends, classmates and/or coworkers - with Gen Z significantly more likely to do so than millennials. Additionally, 48 percent of both generations discover new audio tech products through online videos and 45 percent from internet searches.

Sound Quality
Sound quality is the most important factor for purchasing audio tech and content for most of Gen Z and millennials (58 percent) - even placing it above cost. However, qualitative results from the report find sound quality is subjective: Gen Z is the least critical toward digital audio formats such as MP3, WAV and FLAC and in fact, a small handful of Gen Z respondents say they have the highest sound quality because there is nothing to interfere with the audio (i.e., a scratch on a record). Millennials were mixed on the best audio formats.

"Sound quality is the top consideration when purchasing an audio tech product - regardless of their age," said Steven Hummel, senior research analyst, CTA. "Listeners agree that sound quality means their audio devices work in harmony, without static or interruption and with clear and accurate sounds."

CTA's Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts Report expects audio technology to generate over $13.5 billion in revenue in the U.S. in 2018 - a 17 percent increase from 2017, driven by popularity of wireless earbuds and voice technology. Also, CTA projects on-demand audio content (e.g., Spotify, Pandora or Apple Music) will bring in $6.3 billion in U.S. revenue in 2018 - a 32 percent increase from 2017.

CTA's 2018 Millennial and Gen Z Generations: Audio Product Ownership and Content Consumption Report presents the findings of a quantitative survey to an online national sample of 2,000 U.S. millennials and Generation Z respondents and a qualitative journaling activity administered to 16 participants. The study was fielded between June 9 and 11, 2018. The study can be found at