A psychological approach to understanding the varied functions that different music formats serve

Steven Caldwell Brown, Amanda Krause

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution book


There are now a multitude of ways in which consumers can consume and enjoy music. While it is known that most people mix and match between different formats (‘multi-channelling’ in industry terms), critically, little is known about why people choose to listen to one music format over another. What uses and gratifications do particular formats serve? This study is a pioneering exploration of how consumers negotiate between six major formats: physical, digital files, free digital streaming, paid-for digital streaming, radio, and live music. It does so in accordance with the theory of planned behaviour, adopting a uses and gratifications approach. Employing an online questionnaire containing measures addressing musical engagement style, music piracy attitudes, the uses and gratifications of preferred listening format, genre preference, personality, and self-efficacy, data was obtained from 396 participants residing in Australia, the US and the UK. The format most used by the sample was by far digital download, followed by streaming, physical, and radio. A factor analysis on the most often used format yielded eight particular uses and gratifications of utilising different formats: usability and intention to use; discovery; functional utility; flexibility; connection; social norms; value for money; and playback diversity. The presented findings will address how people actively use particular music formats to meet particular needs. Further analyses highlight that different ways of listening to music are related to personality type, engagement in music piracy, and unique ways of engaging with music. Additionally, the study will consider how engagement in illegal downloading fits within a wider pattern of eclectic music-listening behaviours. Discussion centres on the functions that particular formats serve and how consumers tend to listen to music via different formats in complementary ways.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 14th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition
Place of PublicationSan Francisco
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2016
Event14th Biennial International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition - Hyatt Regency Hotel, San Francisco, United States
Duration: 5 Jul 20169 Jul 2016


Conference14th Biennial International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition
Abbreviated titleICMPC14
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco
Internet address


  • music format
  • consumers
  • physical format
  • digital files
  • free digital streaming
  • paid-for digital streaming
  • radio
  • live music
  • musical engagement
  • music piracy
  • personality traits
  • illegal downloading


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