Are You Advertising Where Americans Are Listening?

Not long ago, radio and owned music (like CDs and cassettes) were the only forms of audio media. Today’s options have multiplied – streaming audio, TV music channels, podcasts and satellite radio are among the most common players.

According to a survey released by Edison Research, Americans spend about four hours a day listening to music.1 That’s a huge opportunity for advertisers. But understanding consumers’ listening behavior and preferences in a world of constant change is key. Lifestyle, devices, location and demographics are all variables that determine how people consume music.

“The major difference between terrestrial radio and internet radio is targeting.”

While various “share of ear” studies find AM/FM radio is still the leader, let’s take a moment to understand the rest of the players.

  1. AM/FM radio – Still ranks No. 1. The “share of ear” percentage on most studies ranks well above 50 percent of total daily time spent listening to audio.1,2 Listeners say they prefer radio for reasons such as discovering new music, listening to a morning show, and receiving news and information.
  2. Owned Music – Ranks No. 2, with 15 to 20 percent of share. Owned music accounts for CDs, digital downloads and yes, even cassettes and vinyl LPs. A Nielsen study shows that vinyl continues to become a bigger piece of the physical music business. Vinyl LPs composed nearly 12 percent of the physical business in the first half of 2016, which far surpasses last year’s record pace of 9 percent.5 Surprise, surprise, vinyl LPs don’t belong in a museum... yet!
  3. Streaming audio – Includes internet radio and on-demand services such as Pandora, iHeartRadio, Rhapsody, Spotify, Apple Music, etc. Streaming audio takes spot No. 3 in share of audio. Research by Edison and Triton Digital says 47 percent of Americans age 12 and over, or roughly 124 million people, listen to online radio every month. That figure rises to 75 percent in the 12-to-24 age group – no surprise, because millennials tend to consume traditional media in lower frequency than older demos. Pandora is the biggest player in this category, with 86 million monthly unique visitors.3 The major difference between terrestrial radio and internet radio is targeting. Pandora, for example, offers over 1,000 audience segments based on age, location and interests.
  4. SiriusXM SiriusXM is the fourth most popular player, reaching more than 51.5 million radio listeners and 25.8 million subscribers. Easy access makes the music available in your car, in your home and even at the office from a computer, smartphone or tablet. Though SiriusXM is mostly commercial-free, some areas do offer limited commercial time – music channels not programmed by SiriusXM, as well as sports, news, talk and entertainment channels.
  5. TV music channels – Options such as Music Choice, the multiplatform video and music network, deliver music through TV and online, with dozens of uninterrupted music channels and thousands of on-demand music videos. Advertising opportunities include ad adjacencies, show sponsorships, product integration, activations and custom playlists.5
  6. Podcasts – Podcasts are audio files, usually in series, available for downloading to a computer or media player. Content options on podcasting are limitless, and much of its growth is attributed to ethnic diversity. In Edison’s “Who Listens to Podcasts?” research, the percentage of Caucasian listeners has decreased from 68 percent to 63 percent from 2011 to 2016, while African-American, Hispanic and Asian percentages have grown.6
  7. Other – Other categories include audiobooks, though this percentage of listeners is the smallest. A recent study shows 43 percent of people age 12 and older have listened to audiobooks. This skews 55 percent female and continues to grow year over year. Twenty-five percent of audiobook consumers age 12 and up have listened to an audiobook within the past four weeks, and 23 percent of the survey base have listened to an audiobook three to four times in the past year.

Consumption preference may be shifting to more audio sources, but remember: Ultimately, consumers just want music, which means they navigate their music choices fluidly. Make sure your media schedule is just as fluid.

We can help with that. Contact us about media planning.


  1. Edison Research, Edison’s Share of Ear®, May 2014
  2. Pandora, Share of Ear Study 2016
  3. comScore, Key Measures Multi-Platform, Aug. 2015
  5. 2016 Nielsen music U.S. Mid-year Report
  7. The Infinite Dial 2016 Edison Research and Triton Digital
  8. The Journey of Radio As Affected By The Great Historical And Technological Achievements Throughout the Years - See more at:

Tags: Media Planning & Buying

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