Let's stop and think for a moment.  When was the last time you heard a song on the radio and thought to yourself, "I have just got to get to the store and buy this CD!"?  I honestly cannot remember the last time this happened to me.  Now, it's much more likely for me to browse the net, see a song on a friend's Facebook or MySpace profile, and head over to iTunes to download a digital copy of that song.  Times have changed, haven't they?

According to a recent study by Entertainment Media Research, this pattern of browsing and buying digital music is becoming more and more commonplace.  This company argues that social networks are in essence changing the way people browse and purchase music.

In June, Entertainment Media Research (from now on, EMR), conducted an online survey of 1,700 people in the UK to judge how music consumers use social networks to obtain music.  Here are some important points from the research:

  •  2 in 5 social networkers (39%) have embedded music into their profile
  • "Social networkers use music for public displays of their taste and to reflect their personality –a means of self-expression through music"
  • Over 50 percent of survey respondents said they actively surf social network sites to discover new music and artists. The rate is higher on MySpace (75 percent), Bebo (72 percent), and YouTube (66 percent).
  • 30% said they went on to buy or download music that they had discovered on a social network site.

You can also read summaries of this study on Yahoo!, The Financial Times, BBC News, and Top Tech News.

Social networks provide their users with easy ways to share music and other media that defines their personalities.  As more and more artists become active on MySpace and other social netowrks, I expect the number of people that use these sites to track down new music will increase.  This is especially true when you consider the fact that artists are making it easier for their fans to obtain DRM-free versions of their music directly on their social networking profiles.  One artist that I like, Tristan Prettyman (who has a pretty hilarious song mocking Lindsay Lohan), is doing this on her MySpace page –users can purchase songs directly from her profile in a DRM-free format for $1.30.  These songs are a little more pricey than songs on iTunes, but the convenience of being able to purchase the song (legally!) as soon as you come across it on a social network is probably worth the extra 30 cents.  The fact that 46% of those surveyed in the EMR study "wished it was easier to purchase music they found on these sites" emphasizes the importance of this convenience.

I think that as technology improves, I think we will see more and more artists making their music available directly through their own sites in addition to major music outlets.