Approximately 40% of American adults ages 18-54 are country music fans. That's according to a new study published by the Country Music Association -- the most comprehensive study of country fans in the CMA's 50-year history.

"County Music and some form of rock music were the genres the subjects of the study would not want to live without," the CMA reports. "Country was favored because of the relevance to real life and universal truths; appropriateness for the family; buddies, BBQ, beer, dancing and fun; the outdoors; and its staying power and enduring appeal."

Not surprisingly, the study found that most country fans are Caucasian and live in smaller towns. They skew slightly female, but age and income level run the gamut.

As far as how the study's subjects are enjoying music, free media dominated in the survey -- with radio, television and internet ranking at the top of the outlets for music consumption. 79% reported listening to country radio, with an average of 24 hours of time spent listening per month.

"But there are minuses, too, including radio's perceived repetitiveness and limited song list; the general lack of identifying the artists was a frustration; and the number of commercials led to channel surfing or switching to CD or iPod listening," the study reports.

The internet is catching up quickly. Of the respondents who have internet access, 71% say they consume country music online.

Of those who buy music, country is the odd genre out, as CDs still rule. 54% reported that they prefer buying physical albums to 35% who say they prefer to download songs. Country fans are also contributing well to the economic health of live music. One in four fans report attending a country concert in the past year. That's 11% of the adult American population, ages 18-54.

Read the CMA's full survey here.