Music, with all the legal battling over its intellectual property rights, gets to audiences these days in ways that may prove surprising to some, according to new consumer reports. The NPD Group says, for example, that Internet radio has made significant inroads in the audience ages 13 to 35, increasing six percent over last year and capturing twenty-three percent of that key demographic. It trails just one percent behind its more traditional broadcasting counterpart, which captures a quarter of the big-spending demo.

In contrast, just thirteen percent of older listeners tuned into net radio, with AM-FM broadcasts capturing forty-one percent of this audience. Pandora, the free and subscription-based streaming service, proved among those quizzed by NPD to be the net radio content king, capturing thirty-nine percent of music listeners ages 13 to 35. It’s worth noting that those sampled said they accessed net radio via their smartphones, with 0ne in five users tapping into online music in their cars, undercutting the AM-FM share. “Driven by mobility and connectivity, music-streaming services are rapidly growing their share of the music listening experience for teens and young adults, at the expense of traditional music listening methods,” said Russ Crupnick, senior vice president of industry analysis at NPD.

These developments in net radio, of course, don’t signal the demise of music piracy. But the growth of Pandora (with 200 million registered users now) and Spotify (with its new partnership with Twitter for Twittermusic) does show an alternate path for the music industry. Along with punitive courses to curb piracy, through legislation and litigation, industry executives may want to aim to increase song access online with music-streaming sites that work with artists and recording companies to license content, perhaps partnering with them to make subscription services more affordable and more attractive to the average consumer.

As for those consumers who legally download music, the numbers look formidable for market-leader iTunes (sixty-three percent of the market), with Amazon (twenty-two percent) racing to catch up, reports indicate. In February, Apple said consumers had downloaded from its service, with its more than 26 million song choices, more than 25 billion tunes.

Still, as Digital Music News points out, the fights to control music and its rights and profits underscore another hard truth — “the new music industry is smaller than the old,” and as consumers more and more can be choosy, picking off individual digital tracks rather than buying whole collections, particularly on formats like records or compact discs (!), the money in the market of tomorrow will be less than in the past.