While the audio landscape continues to grow, and streaming services compete with AM/FM radio for audience’s time and attention, there’s no denying that radio leads all platforms when it comes to reach. Nielsen’s most recent Comparable Metrics Report confirms that 93% of all adult consumers listen to radio on a weekly basis, more than they engage with TV or their smartphones. On the flipside, streaming is riding an undeniably massive growth swell. So what if radio programmers could benefit from the surge in streaming rather than fear it?
Truth be told, they can.
Streaming has changed the entire audio landscape. Music is no longer exclusively packaged in pre-made formats like a CD or radio playlist. On-demand streaming is personalized, portable and everywhere. And the sheer volume of streaming taking place is evidence that consumers can’t get enough.
So how can this help radio? In short, on-demand streaming tells us which music appeals to people. When music listeners purchase or download a song, we don’t know how many times they listen to it—if at all. With streaming, we know each time a play is initiated, day after day, week after week. The data is not from a sample, a listening room or a panel. It’s an un-aided, authentic look at the songs listeners are choosing.
The value of streaming for radio isn’t that it’s big or growing. The value is that it’s a clear record of listeners’ choices. And for programmers, the relationship between airplay, sales and on-demand streaming is key. Streaming and radio follow each other, and following the peaks and valleys that make up listener preferences can help programmers find the next hit, determine when to stop spinning a track and assess overall playlist strength.
In an effort to illustrate the relationship, Nielsen recently analyzed the spin, sales and streaming trends for singer-rapper Bryson Tiller’s “Don’t.” While Tiller had developed quite a name for himself by the end of 2015, he got his start in the on-demand streaming space in early February. Back then, fans of the young artist were listening to an average of 30,000 streams each week, and that trend continued through early May. Between May and late June, on-demand streams averaged 400,000 per week, but the song hadn’t made it to the radio yet. Radio picked up on the swell June 29, but the number of spins was nowhere near in line with on-demand streams. In fact, the song was streamed 1.4 million times during the week the song hit 100 radio spins. By the time radio committed, fans were streaming the track 3.5 million times per week. With the additional exposure on the airwaves, on-demand streams continued climbing, eclipsing 4 million by mid-October.