What People Actually Listen To In 2021

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If you were to just read what the media writes you would think that all people listen to all day is a streaming service like Spotify, or podcasts, or whatever else that’s hot in the audio world at the moment. One of the reasons why is that until recently, none of the ratings agencies like Nielsen or Arbitron actually measured all the audio sources that we’re exposed to every day. Finally there’s one report that gives us better picture of what people actually listen to in 2021 and it’s pretty surprising.

Like in the old radio days when NPR was never included in Arbitron ratings, traditional radio never considered public stations a competitor until one day they were included in the ratings. A lot of radio exec’s eyes opened to the fact the public stations had a lot more ears than they had ever imagined. In a way, the same goes for everything but radio today, but just the opposite. The mediums that get the most press aren’t necessarily the ones that are the most consumed.

Edison Research’s Share Of The Ear data puts it all in perspective as it looks at how much of broadcast audio, audio streaming, satellite radio, podcasts, audiobooks, YouTube, and even your own music libraries, are consumed. Here’s what it found:

  • AM/FM Radio – 39%
  • Streaming Audio – 18%
  • Your Own Music Library – 11%
  • YouTube – 10%
  • SiriusXM – 8%
  • Podcasts – 6%
  • TV Music Channels – 4%
  • Audiobooks – 2%
  • Other – 2%

We’ve seen this in several other reports and studies, but broadcast AM/FM radio still gets over twice the ears as the next closest audio distribution method, which is streaming. People actually listen to their own music a lot more than anyone thought as well, and podcasts haven’t taken the world by storm the way we’ve been led to believe.

The way this data was collected is that everyone involved in the study recorded what they listened to in a diary over a 24 hour period. There may be some holes in the methodology here, and Nielsen is responding with a similar study of its own called Nielsen One, which isn’t available yet.

What Share of the Ear does show is that the distribution of what we listen to is much different that what many believe. While it’s true that streaming services like Spotify have a huge influence on the playlists of music radio, just how much hasn’t been determined yet. Now that would be interesting to find out.

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