How to Make Music Radio More Appealing to the Next Generation

For Immediate Release:

Friday December 2 , 2005

According to a Bridge Ratings study released this week 12-24 year olds would choose their MP3 player over traditional radio.

The study interviewed 2000 persons 12-24 years of age and was done on a national platform*. The project was part of a University of Southern California Media Lab analysis entitled "How to Make Music Radio Appealing to the Next Generation."

Some findings at the core of the study included the following:

85% of the total sample would choose their MP3 player over traditional radio as their preferred option for music.

  • There is a clear generational difference between 12-17 and 18-24 year olds.
  • For music listening, the Internet is preferred over traditional radio.
  • MP3 use far out-paces radio use.

When given a choice between listening to music over the Internet or traditional radio stations, 54% prefer the Internet while 30% prefer radio. This preference is more pronounced among 18-24 year olds.

Music Format Preference

Overall weekly listening for the full group determined weekly format tune-in as follows:


  1. Rhythmic Contemporary Hits Radio
  2. Pop Contemporary Hits Radio
  3. Urban Contemporary
  4. Spanish Contemporary
  5. Rock

Least listened-to radio formats for the full group ranked as follows:


  1. News/Talk
  2. Oldies
  3. Hot Adult Contemporary
  4. Alternative Rock
  5. Adult Contemporary


When the individual age groups (12-17 and 18-24) are examined, there is less weekly listening among the older 18-24 year olds. For example, while 21% of teens aged 12-17 tuned in to Rhythmic Contemporary Hit Radio during a typical week, 18-24 year olds tuned to this format second with 14%.

Weekly format tune-in was spread more evenly among multiple formats in the older group than it was for the 12-17 year olds.

This finding would suggest that there is less overall radio format appeal for the older group. Five radio formats garnered double-digit weekly tune-in scores among 18-24 year olds compared to three radio formats given double-digit listening scores by teens. The average teen score (18.4) was higher among their top three compared to that of the average 18-24 year old (12.3).

As this group ages, their music preferences become more diversified making it more difficult for radio programmers to attract more cohesive groups of young adult listeners.

50% of the total sample listened to Internet radio, with 35% spending 1 hour a day with this medium and 22% spending between 1 and 2 hours a week. 22% are listening to Internet radio more than they were six months ago.

Did You Listen To Music Radio On the Internet This Week?
  12-24 Male Female 12-17m 12-17f 18-24m 18-24f
Yes 50% 58% 44% 51% 40% 59% 38%
Don't Know


If You Listened to Music Radio on the Internet this week, was it streaming an AM or FM station you usually listen to?
  12-24 Total 12-17 Total 18-24 Total
Don't Know


Only 2% of the total sample listened to satellite radio (either XM or Sirius). Among those who did listen, 25% spend more than 2 hours a day listening. 30% are listening more than they were six months ago.

70% of the total sample listened to music on an MP3 digital music player, with 34% spending more than two hours a day. 21% of those indicate that they are listening to their MP3 players more than they were six months ago.

72% of the total sample listens to new music from the Internet, while only 31% hear new music on the radio.

54% of the total sample says there is NOT a radio station in their area that plays their favorite music.

Too many commercials, too much talk and dislike for the current song playing are virtually tied as the main reasons the total sample changes radio stations.

"Ipod Fatigue" sets in after six months of ownership.

Primary reasons for listening to the radio are to hear their favorite music and to hear new music.

Some ways make music radio more appealing to this Next Generation?

  • Add variety - more different types of music and different types of programming throughout each day.
  • Reduce repetition
  • Showcase much more New Music.
  • Hire relateable personalities who can expose this age group to new music.
  • Podcast your personalities, create blogs, eliminate the pre-recorded, imported automoton announcers.
  • Completely embrace all of the technology available as extensions of the radio station.
  • Re-think commercial loads, placement and production quality. For example, properly placed hour long sponsorships would enhance client brands and station image.
  • Provide what the MP3 player cannot.


While it appears that the next generation has responded negatively to traditional radio, the reasons are rooted in radio's abandonment of the 12-24 year old over the last ten years.

This age group appears to want radio to step up, change for the better and challenge them with a new way of presenting radio that is customized for their lifestyles and tastes.

12-24 year olds believe that radio can offer unique programming that will attract them away from their MP3 players and Internet Radio.

 Sample: 2000 12-24 year olds geographically spread throughout the U.S. West: 500, Midwest: 500, East Coast: 500, South: 500.

Sample error: +/- 2.2%

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