The AARP is known for the following: retirement benefits, travel discounts, and commercials of old people smiling, frowning, or falling down. But last month, the nonprofit organization for those 50 and older launched a new service that takes advantage of a massive untapped market in the digital music industry: baby boomers.
In June, the AARP unveiled an Internet radio service programmed by the Concord Music Group, a label known for publishing works by oldie-but-goldie stars such as Paul Simon and Ray Charles. The free service, which boasts 18 channels, is designed for those entering their twilight years, and features a dead-simple UI and a rotation of songs more common of sock hops than online streaming players.
The AARP hopes its service will help music-loving seniors transition to the digital age. “We’ve always been trying to reach this audience, because we know that boomers are so passionate about music,” Hugh Delehanty, editor in chef of AARP's publications, told the New York Times. “We also feel that because of changes in format and whatnot, a lot of them have gotten lost in terms of how to find their music.”
According to a recent NPD Group study, roughly 60% of CD sales revenue comes from consumers aged 36 and older—a demographic that hasn't quite found comfort with new-era music services. While baby boomers represent the world's largest generation, they consume very little digital music compared to younger generations. A survey last year found those 45 and older represented barely 11% of iPod use; teens, on the other hand, represented more than 65%.
Online radio stations have become more mainstream in recent years but have yet to capture mainstream use among seniors. Pandora, for example, sees more than 82% of its use coming from consumers aged 49 or younger, according to Quantcast. It's doubtful that any number of competing services—Rhapsody, Slacker, Turntable.FM—will catch fire among seniors if they haven't jumped aboard the iPod and Pandora craze by now.
But with 37 million members, the AARP has a massive reach, and a good shot at capturing the baby boomer digital music market. At least the part of the market that's willing to move on from transistor radios and 8-tracks.
[Image: Flickr user stefg74]