Who is Really Listening to Radio?

In the world of audio, the question about who actually still listens to broadcast radio is oddly controversial. For some reason, reaching a consensus on radio reach presents more of a challenge than agreeing on how many stream music.

The radio industry promotes reports claiming 90 percent or more of Americans are listening to broadcast radio, and that radio’s reach among teenagers tops 90 percent. Others observe that streaming platforms have surpassed radio’s reach, that radio has lost the battle of the dashboard, and that no self-respecting Gen X’er or Millennial would be caught with their hands on the dial.

MusicWatch monitors the reach and engagement of many forms of audio, including music streaming and music on broadcast AM/FM. We thought it important to benchmark who is actually listening to broadcast radio. So we surveyed 2,500 respondents aged 13-65. Here’s what we learned about listening to broadcast radio…

Nearly three of four Americans aged 13-65 report listening to broadcast AM/FM in the past 30 days. This includes music and talk, in the car, and at work or home. We excluded “radio” heard at stores, the gym, or other public places that respondents do not control, as it’s likely this is audio delivered in other forms.

Let’s not confuse reach with engagement. This research measured reach but did not examine listening hours or passion for radio. Based on other work that we do at MusicWatch, mean weekly music listening hours for 13-24 year olds are FOUR TIMES HIGHER on streaming platforms than on AM/FM (broadcast or digital).

Yes, nearly two-thirds of 18-24-year-olds listen to radio. But when 18-24-year-olds get behind the wheel, only 37 percent of them are listening to music on AM/FM; 56 percent stream music in their cars. The point being you need to peel back reach numbers to look at listening hours, or use situations.

Given the prevailing disagreement around radio numbers, here’s a view into how we conducted the research:

  • In the survey we asked respondents whether they listened to broadcast AM/FM radio in the past year. A very detailed explanation of “broadcast AM/FM” was provided to respondents so there would be no confusion between broadcast and other formats. The question was very early in the survey, which typically helps response levels.
  • We then asked about past 30-day listening by format and location, e.g. talk vs. music, as a driver or passenger in the car, in the home or at work, or at other places. We repeated that for the past seven days.
  • No other listening formats were asked about — no music streaming or podcasts. The idea being that respondents would be wholly focused on their relationship with broadcast radio.
    Why bother sharing this detail? No methodology is entirely perfect but our approach would ideally provide the maximum response for broadcast radio.

Radio’s reach remains strong, especially among the 35+ age demo. Younger people are still being exposed to broadcast radio, although we know their TSL to music streaming is on the rise. It’s time to come to a consensus about who listens to radio, how much they listen, and why.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *