Updated January 9, 2017

Much has been said about the tremendous growth on-demand streaming is experiencing - 80-90% growth over the last two years. For many of those who enjoy music, on-demand streaming has opened the door to a universe of music.

Streaming platforms which provide an on-demand service (Spotify, Amazon, iHeart & YouTube) rather than those which utilize an algorithm to serve a non on-demand product (Pandora and others) offer broadcast radio programming executives a gold mine of information about their listeners. For the first time in radio's history there is now data which accurately reflects listeners' tastes in music with large samples.

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A recent Bridge Ratings study revealed that less than 15% of music consumers use on-line music services or their own personal music collections exclusively and no longer listen to broadcast radio for music. The remaining music consumers use both broadcast radio and on-line music services. In fact, on-line music streaming is considered a complement to broadcast radio listening and many consumers look to radio to curate the vast music expanse available.

The Bridge study also indicates that streaming behavior mimics that of radio listening in that it is engaging, reflects music tastes, is an active rather than passive experience and is experienced in a similar environment to music listening on radio.

In fact, on-demand music research is more closely aligned to true consumption behavior than radio's standard research concepts of call-out research or auditorium music tests which offer tedious and often uncomfortable environments. Seven second hooks of songs played down a phone line or on a speaker system in a hotel ballroom may not be as appealing as on-demand streaming because by definition streaming reflects engagement and true choice about songs in natural settings.

While it may be difficult to attract non-radio music consumers back to the fold as often as in the past, on-demand streaming research can surely enhance the on-air product for those who do listen - especially for those who use both radio and streaming in their daily lives.

It's time for broadcasters to face the music and utilize the data from on-demand behavior to refine their stations. As music research dollars have disappeared, many radio programmers have turned to "consensus research" (see blog here), looking to other radio stations playlists to determine which songs to play or add.

Is this really the best way to program to your audience?

How can on-demand music research be used? That depends on format or style of music.

For current-based stations:

  • Check airplay against streaming behavior.
  • Confirm programming gut instinct about:
  • How often songs are played
  • Are power songs on air really among the most streamed?
  • Recurrent exposure. Did you move a song to recurrent too soon. It may still show as a high-demand title and increasing airplay may be the appropriate move. According to Nielsen 34% of the songs streamed by Top 40 radio listeners last week were released in 2012 or 2013. Favorites are favorites and some songs continue to hold interest.
  • Song adds. That new song by Meghan Trainor that was added last week...its on-demand consumption may warrant a faster increase in on-air exposure.
  • High rotation current songs...do they deserve the exposure they are getting or does the on-demand information indicate reduced popularity?
  • Determine hype from reality. A song may be getting a lot of buzz in industry trades, advertising and from your neighborhood record label promoter. Is the hype real? Check the streaming data and know for sure.
  • Are there titles your audience is streaming that you aren't aware of that fit your station's sound?

For library-based stations:

  • Gut-check your most-played songs. After years and years of on-air exposure is "Hotel California" still as popular as ever?
  • Unknowns. This is applicable for any type of radio station. Songs which have been ignored or have no awareness to you that show significant popularity or growth can broaden station appeal and strengthen brand image.
  • Instant feedback. Have you seen the movie "Guardians of the Galaxy"? Its release included a very popular soundtrack rooted in music from the 70s and 80s. The Monday morning following its first weekend in theaters the soundtrack was the most downloaded on iTunes. It also started showing up in on-demand streams. "Come and Get Your Love" by Redbone and "Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Swede are pushing that album to sales records and to this day remain on the most-streamed song lists especially for gold-based stations like Classic Hits and Classic Rock.
  • Increased interest 'out of nowhere' of songs in movies, TV shows, even commercials shows up in on-demand streaming.
  • Concert appearances will boost consumption. If an artist is coming to your town, check the streaming data before and after to indicate which titles to add or increase in exposure.

On-demand streaming research can aid broadcasters where resources are no longer in the budget. This type of information is a more accurate reflection of true consumption behavior and it allows a programmer to interpret that data for her specific situation.

It can be used as a guide to light the way to more confident programming decisions and more satisfied listeners.

Bridge Ratings is a California-based company which has been observing and measuring media consumption behavior since 2002. Its clients include broadcast radio, internet radio, investment firms and legal entities with an interest in the media sector.

Bridge Ratings provides more specific guidance for on-demand streaming research to its clients. Contact us for more information.

For advisement on how to use streaming data for your station or business, contact
Dave Van Dyke at 323.696.0967 or at dvd@bridgeratings.com
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