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The Pandora For Old People Taps Baby Boomer Music Market

old man listening to radio

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]

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  • Tkmebk

    Doing some research on Boomers and Internet Radio and came across this article.  It was "good" until it came to the last line about moving on from, "transistor radios and 8-tracks."  That was a bad effort at humor turned insult, boy.

  • Sienna Jae Fein

    This article is proof that fastcompany needs to hire someone who can write about boomers without using great-granddaddy phrases like "twilight years" and "transistor radios." WTF?!? Austin, how'd you like it if I wrote about how much you love Justin Bieber? And guys, your art director needs to get out of diapers, too. Geez...

  • Dennis K. Thomas

    Wow and people wonder why marketing to the huge Baby Boomer's Market isn't working... I agree with both Stuart & Anne about the poor selection of pics to use as well as the last sentence of the story. As the host of The Boomer's Show on the Boomer's Radio Network, Boomers are active, fun and exciting.  The days of sitting on a couch and waiting for Meals on Wheels is not anywhere near the Boomer's Agenda and are days gone pass! Get a clue marketers...

  • Stuart Bogue

    The idea seems to have merit,but the article was plain silly. Picturing  a truly geriatric gentleman while talking about 50 year old listeners makes no sense. Quoting CD sales figures and then yapping about transistors and 8 tracks?What's up with that? Keep in mind that all of those media were cutting edge at one time and that whatever you find to be so "beta" today will one day itself be laughably outdated,and clearly sooner than your limited intellect has considered.  Boomers and their music are mainstays of the digital music market.Ask those music services you mentioned to delete any music made before 1990 and see what response you get.Try asking them to delete music made in the 60's and 70's.There would be no credible business model without the music made by the very people you belittle with the ignorant and snide tone of this article...For some one named Austin Carr,you display little knowledge or understanding of just what old school is or how quickly one becomes a member themselves.....

  • Anne

    Really? This is the (sole) picture you use to launch into an article about Baby Boomers? Not even a 50 (years of age)-ish pic of someone with earbuds?

    You talk about features for those entering their "twilight years". Excuse me, Boomers are not twilight.
    And, "dead-simple UI and a rotation of songs" ... ??? Please. Dead? dead-simple? We invented personal computing so give us some credit. 

    AARP has spent alot of money reinventing the organizaiton and re-branding their image. Shame on you for ending the article with a statement that assumes we are still using "transistor radios and 8-tracks".

    I have lost alot of respect for your publication.