Who’s buying the music?

There are hundreds of articles and learned papers online about what women buy, the power of the female pound, the twenty trillion dollars spent by women and how well-off and successful women are now.

There are marketing pages about how women buy food, beauty and health products and even things like gaming and electrical products, so advertisers had better buck up their sexist ideas:

“Any company would be wise to target female customers, but the greatest potential lies in six industries. Four are businesses where women are most likely to spend more or trade up: food, fitness, beauty, and apparel. The other two are businesses with which women have made their dissatisfaction very clear: financial services and health care.”

The Female Economy Harvard Review

We at punkgirldiaries have never been Typical Girls. Our guitars, vinyl, Doc Marten – style boots and ‘no mascara’ lifestyles are not every woman’s cup of tea – and so we guess we’re not typical women. But all of this ‘big money in the female pound’ stuff seems to overlook the whole sector of the arts, culture, and music in particular. It’s as if music is just a side-job and not a vital industry that is a background influencer and a focus that binds people together and in many cases keeps them sane.

So who’s buying the music?

The UK Office of Statistics lumps all culture together – going to the cinema, going to the dogs, the football, a Rolling Stones concert, a Harold Pinter play. Streaming and listening to music digitally may also now come under the heading of ‘communication’ instead of culture, so it’s not easy to see what amounts people are spending on music, and whether women favour broadly the same types of music.

Thank goodness there are specialist music research bodies like the Entertainment Retailers Association, and industry publications like Music Week to narrow it down. Basically, the music sector has continued to grow over the last five years, with a move away from physical and downloads towards streaming services. We probably could have guessed that – but the market for vinyl and CDs hasn’t collapsed at all as predicted.

It’s hard to find up-to-date information about whether women and men are spending similarly on music. The most recent we can find is a 2009 NME/Uncut survey (not sure how many people were included) showing that although spending on music was similar, women spent more on live music and merchandise, whereas men tended to buy music products:

“Music is a massive part of our lives in this country and this survey shows both men and women are huge fans. It’s interesting to see that men are spending more to build their music collections whereas women part with more cash to soak up the live experience”.


But averaging out all of this purchasing doesn’t reflect what our gut instincts tell us. Most people don’t spend that average £350. A large proportion spend nothing at all on music, many will spend a hundred pounds or so and then there’s the ‘superfans’ who buy A LOT.

A very interesting survey by the ERA found that a ‘hardcore of superfans’ was driving the vinyl revival, with many of them buying at least 20 LPs a year. If these people also go to high-profile gigs, are signed up to more than one streaming platform, buy the special Record Store Day limited editions, they could be parting with a lot of dollar. But how many of them are women?

How ‘superfans’ drive the market
FormatTotal sales (2017)Average priceSuperfans
Console games£749.9m£33.9734%
Entertainment Retail Association survey 2015

We know that artists – particularly those with a small or medium-scale level of sales – don’t do well out of streaming services, but is there any evidence that women experience, use and enjoy music differently with these platforms as opposed to buying physical product? And what music are women actually listening to?

Anecdotally, there’s a feeling that we are all more willing to take a chance and explore new or different things with an all-inclusive streaming price. You might put on a playlist and listen out for anything that’s particularly good, you can follow the suggestions, click on links or choose a particular theme or mood. All of these are far easier ways of discovering new bands than the old ways involving reading, going to shops and spending money………… but streaming also lowers your tolerance; *click* and it’s away.

It’s been frustrating researching this subject because the Internet is not designed to answer very simple questions like ‘What music do women buy?’ or even, ‘What music do women listen to?’ Google etc can tell you all the music that features women singers, and it can tell you what music is best to play if you are trying to romance/coerce a woman, but not about any research on women’s music tastes or listening habits.

As any wedding or corporate DJ will tell you, there are surefire tracks that get huge numbers of women up and dancing. Disco things like ‘We Are Family’, ‘I Will Survive’; electronic 80’s ‘You Spin Me Round, ‘Tainted Love’, Beyonce, Spice Girls, Abba…… We’d guess that some of the top streamed artists – Ariane Grande, Billie Eilish are particularly popular with women, not just because they’re female artists, but because their musical styles are equally appealing.

From time-to-time punkgirldiaries likes to do a post that calls to action. This time we’d like someone to point us in the direction of research that shows what music different groups of women like? We know that everyone’s an individual and you can’t just lump all women together – but with a quick Internet search, we can find out that

96% of secretaries, 79% of cleaners, 38% of musicians and 4% of taxi drivers are women. Working Futures 2019

The average woman has 12 eyeshadows and 2-3 mascaras. Lab

63% of vegans are women. Vegan Society

So, why isn’t anyone surveying women to find out what music they like? We have a feeling that the results would be very interesting indeed and could drive whole new genres of sounds. Is it to do with dancing? or melody? Do women prefer female artists or does it make no difference? Are the lyrics important? Do they like older or younger singers? Are women more adventurous or conservative about seeking out new artists or playing the same old favourites? And do they like spending money on music compared with buying eye shadows and mascaras?

We would love to be involved with making or promoting the kind of music that women would like to hear, or dance to or talk about. After the coast is clear on Covid, we could form the predictable post-punk indie thing, but wouldn’t it be interesting to be more expansive and potentially popular world-wide, to experiment, cross all the genres, to do mash-ups, fusion even? The biggest thrill in the world would be to make one of those classic songs that makes all the girls rush to the dancefloor because it’s a song that speaks to them.

If you’re a music ‘superfan’ who’s also a woman, watch out for these new bands we’re going to form soon, tell your friends and ask the wedding DJ for that music. If you’re a male music fan, have a conversation with the women in your life about what music they like and why they like it. Then let us know!

3 thoughts on “Who’s buying the music?

  1. Fascinating article, thank you!
    As a male I’ve often wondered about why the more visible ‘super fans’ seem to more likely be males than females?
    I know my wife has a few theories that may not be very flattering and probably focus on the ‘stamp collecting’ type approach that seems more common in men.
    One point that really resonated with me is the oft used put down of music being a hobby, whereas as you say, it’s contribution towards keeping us sane , speaking personally, is incalculable!

    1. Thanks for your great comment. We also wrote a post in 2018 about the collecting mentality! https://punkgirldiaries.com/2018/04/21/got-got-got-got/

      1. Thanks, great blog by the way!

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