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Digital listening growing, radio slipping

Though radio still rules the roost, an increasing number of people are turning to computers or portable players for music, study says.

An increasing number of people are turning to computers or portable players for music, even though traditional radio still leads the competition, a recent market study has indicated.

In March 2005, approximately 77.2 million customers listened to music stored on a computer, up 22 percent from 63.2 million during the same month last year, according to a report from market researcher The NPD Group. The study also found that online radio stations had 53.5 million listeners this March, up from 45.3 million a year ago. Free streaming of music also saw gains, with a rise of 37 percent, to 46 million listeners.

Though radio continued to be the preferred medium, the number of consumers listening to radio fell by 4 percent in March 2005 to 194 million, down from 203 million a year earlier. The survey was carried out among 5,000 consumers aged 13 and above.

"The rise of digital listening and storage for music continues unabated this year," Russ Crupnick, president of the Music and Movies division at NPD, said in a statement. "Technology companies are providing new tools to consumers in the form of powerful music-enabled PCs and portable music players; music companies are answering the call for more content; and consumers are responding positively."

More and more tech companies are boosting their music business, encouraged by the dramatic popularity of Apple's iTunes store and iPod music players. Earlier this week, Yahoo launched a new subscription music service.

According to the NPD survey, the number of consumers who rip music onto their computers has more than doubled since March 2004. Also, there was a substantial (127 percent) increase in transfer of music to MP3 players since last year. A 93 percent increase in paid music downloads during the same period indicates an increasing acceptance of the online medium, NPD said.