For Music Streamers, Playlists Becoming The New Radio

New consumer survey finds that nine out of 10 Spotify and Apple Music users have listened to or created a music-streaming-service playlist, and half of their premium subscribers listen to playlists every time they use the service

A new study released by MusicWatch, a company providing consumer research for the music industry. profiled the usage patterns, playlist preferences, discovery habits and creation habits of music streamers. The study, which is based on 500 online interviews with users of Spotify or Apple Music who participate in listening to or creating playlists. The study found that 90 percent of music streamers have listened to or created a playlist. Paid or “premium” subscribers were the most active, with eight in 10 listening to their service every day and half listening to a playlist every time that they use the service to stream music. Among those who listened to service’s playlist, nine out of ten had also created a personal  playlist in the past three months.

“Playlisting has become the fabric of the music streaming experience,” said Russ Crupnick, managing partner of MusicWatch. “The ability to listen to and create playlists has become as important a feature as the catalog of music itself.”

Genre-based playlists were the most popular among MusicWatch survey respondents, with 68 percent having listened to this format. Top-40 and other chart-based playlists (e.g., “Top 50,” “Best of The Year”) tied with mood-based playlists for second place, each close to 50 percent. More than a quarter (24 percent) listened to a genre-based playlist each time they used a music-streaming service. Genre and familiarity with songs and artists were ranked highest in importance, when deciding which playlist to listen to.

MusicWatch Playlisting Infographic 2016 08 FINAL PNG

Comparing paid Apple Music subs and Spotify Premium, consumer usage of the services is similar. Two-thirds of users of each service listen to their current-hits offerings – “Today’s Hits” on Spotify and “Today’s Top Hits” on Apple Music — and 44 percent listen to either “Discovery Weekly” on Spotify or “Discovery Mix” on Apple Music. Apple users were somewhat more active than Spotify Premium users, with 29 percent claiming to listen to “Today’s Hits” each time they used the service (compared to 22 percent for Spotify Premium’s “Today’s Top Hits) and 21 percent listening to “Discovery Mix” (compared to 15 percent for Spotify’s “Discovery Weekly”).

While the use of streaming services and playlists is very popular, nearly 80 percent of music streamers also listen to music on AM/FM radio.  “Ease and convenience” and “discovery”, both hallmarks of traditional broadcast radio, were cited by many as reasons to use playlists when they stream music.

“We set out to understand what’s really important to listeners, and it’s the essence of the song and the artist that wins, in the end,” Crupnick said. “There’s debate about human versus machine curation, about celebrity personalization, and about music sharing on social platforms, but ultimately listeners are really most concerned about whether a playlist provides song that they like and offers a touch of music discovery, too.”

About MusicWatch, Inc.

MusicWatch provides in-depth music consumer research and analyst services for the entertainment industry. With more than ten years of trended data and new research released quarterly, MusicWatch helps clients understand the latest market trends, consumer purchasing and listening habits, including music streaming services, broadcast and satellite radio, and music devices. For more information, visit  “Premium” subscribers were defined as Spotify Premium users or those paying for or sharing a paid Apple Music subscription.


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