(Le billet est en anglais.)
By Lina Ko
According to The New York Times, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), one of the biggest symbols of life in the grey years, is betting that a custom digital player on its website will rekindle its members’ love for discovering new music. Last month, AARP quietly introduced a free Internet radio service for listeners 50 and older, with 18 channels programmed by the Concord Music Group, an independent record company that releases music by baby boomer stars like Paul Simon and Paul McCartney. The idea is for the organization to act as a guide for millions of older listeners who are curious but may be intimidated by digital music.
Boomers are always passionate about their music growing up – Motown, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in the ’60s; Carol King, James Taylor, Chicago and Earth Wind and Fire in the ’70s; and disco music in the ’80s. It is AARP’s belief that because of changes in format, boomers might be a bit lost in terms of how to find their music. The custom digital player is embedded into AARP’s website and its design was kept simple for ease of navigation, with buttons only for playing and pausing a song, and fast-forwarding to the next one. The channels, which will each have about 500 songs in rotation, will also be restricted to a handful of recognizable genres, like jazz, classic R&B and coffeehouse folk. With the Woodstock generation now entering retirement age, rock and soul of the 1960s and ’70s loom large on the service.
This is such a good idea because I’ve always posted on this blog that boomers like nostalgic music, but they are also curious about new music so that they can enjoy not only for their own interests, but will also be able to share their appreciation of this music with their kids or grandkids. One of these AARP-approved 18 channels, Modern Hits, for example, includes current chart-toppers by Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson. The costs of this internet radio service, which include royalty payments for music as well as editorial expenses for a section of the site dedicated to articles and interviews on music, will be paid through advertising. AARP and Concord will share any profits.
I mentioned in a conference last month that boomers are still very attached to their CDs, which tend to be much more profitable for record companies than digital music. People 36 and older are responsible for about 60 per cent of the revenue from CD sales, according to a study last year by the NPD Group that was commissioned by the Recording Industry Association of America. This tendency has benefited Concord, which controls large catalogues of R&B and jazz in addition to its current releases. The company has grown rapidly as much of the rest of the recorded music industry has shrunk. As more mature consumers are becoming more comfortable with digital music since many boomers own iPods too, Concord seems to have found a great partner in AARP which provides a huge potential audience with 37 million members.
In Canada, Zoomer Media also understands the boomer audience with its ownership of not only CARP, the Canadian equivalent of AARP, but also the channels AM 740 with pop classics from the ’30s to the ’60s and Classical 96.3 FM. We now have to wait and see just how soon will Moses Znaimer be integrating old and new music for boomers and seniors.