62% of Canadians Now Use Smartphones. What Does This Mean for Music?

Still using a mobile phone with basic features? Then you’re now firmly in in the minority according to a survey by Media Technology Monitor. About 62% of Canadians had some kind of smartphone on their person in 2013, up from 51% in 2012. Tablet is is also blowing up (26% in 2012 to 39% last year).

Throughout the country, 99% of the population has access to wireless services while 81% can now be connected via high-speed LTE. That’s a jump from 72% in 2012.

Nice, but what does this have to do with music?

Back in 2008, I spoke at an AdWeek conference in New York on how once smartphones reached critical mass within the population (i.e. more than 50%) we were going to see new consumer behaviours when it came to music. That time is upon us. With easier access to high-speed data connections, more Canadians are now able to stream any kind of media efficiently. That means mobile downloads and streaming music services are within easy reach.

“Wait a second!” I can hear some people yelling. “Data plans are still hideously expensive! I can’t afford to spend [insert price of monthly data plan here] on my phone! I’ll never use streaming services!”

Hold on. Back up.

First, streaming music doesn’t take a lot of bandwidth. You’d have to an awful lot of listening to exceed 1GB. A data plan with that kind of cap is affordable by most people who can afford (a) a smartphone and (b) a mobile contract. Streaming is much cheaper than you think.

Second, streaming represents a potential shift in discretionary music spending, not an addition.  You can either buy one single CD per month for $9.99 or you can spend the same amount on a streaming music service that will give you instant access to more than 20 million songs.  On some services, you can download as many tracks as you like to your device and they’ll stay there until you stop paying your subscription fee. Which sounds like the better deal?

I was completely against the idea of streaming for a long, long, time. I’m a total convert now, thanks to my smartphone. Yes, I still buy CDs and vinyl when I want to own a physical manifestation of an artist’s work, but for everything else, I just go with streaming.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.