NPD Group reports music still the primary use of iTunes

The 2011 “iTunes User Report” compiled by the NPD group, a leading market research organization, reports that despite the strong growth of app downloads the primary use of iTunes among most consumers is still music. More than half of iTunes users, specifically 54 percent, used the program to put music on their iPod or listen to music in the past three months. Contrary to that 28 percent used the software to download a free app and only 16 percent used it to buy an app.

NPD Group reports music still the primary use of iTunes

The NPD Group’s “iTunes User Report 2011” contains some other interesting numbers about the overall growth of iTunes. This year the number of U.S. consumers who are purchasing content from iTunes is up by one million. The report also reveals that app downloads are up over last year. Last year 82 percent of iTunes users who purchased content were buying music with only 31 percent buying apps. This year the number of content buyers purchasing music dropped to 75 percent while app purchasers increased to 39 percent. Another interesting statistic indicates that iTunes video buyers are down 1 percentage point to 19 percent.

That trend makes a lot of sense considering how many more people own iPhones and iPads this year as opposed to last year. Having more of those devices in the wild equates to more app purchases over all. The decrease in music purchases could be related to other competitors in the market, like Amazon, or the proliferation of services like Spotify and Pandora allowing users to listen to music without purchasing. It’s surprising that video purchases aren’t down more considering how many people use services like Netflix to stream or rent video content.

Also, of interest is the note by the NPD that people who only have an iPad are less likely to purchases music or videos. That points to a higher app focus on those devices. Russ Crupnick, the senior vice president and entertainment analyst for The NPD Group spoke about this trend saying,

“There’s no reason the music or video industry should accept a loss of buyers, as device preferences change. They have significant opportunities to foster discovery, engagement, and purchases using the tablet platform.”

“The beauty of the iPad is that it brings together social media, access to artist websites, apps from IMDb, and Flixster, and Pandora and other streaming radio sites, all of which can be cross-leveraged to foster more awareness of movies and music,” Crupnick continued. “There is a continuing opportunity to build video and music revenue by creating a linear path from content discovery to content purchasing.”

It is important to note that like many surveys, this one has a relatively small sample size compared to the number of people living in the U.S. The report is based on 4,011 completed surveys from people age 13 and older. Every person surveyed used iTunes at least once in the last three months.

I personally only use iTunes as a means to organize my library and stream content around my home. I don’t ever purchase music or buy/rent video from the service and I very rarely pay for apps unless they are really compelling to me. Do you guys use iTunes? If you do what do you use it for? If not, what is your preferred alternative?