2017 - A Digital Year In Review

December 8, 2017

Top Line

  • Music Streaming and on-demand streaming in particular continues to make grandiose strides with streams increasing another 40% over 2016.
  • Hip-Hop/Rap is not only the leading music genre consumed it increased its share of listening with 100 Billion streams.
  • Music radio adoption of music streaming data for programming purposes increased from 22% to 35% of programmers we polled.
  • Podcasting broke through big time this year in both the number of listeners (44% having ever listened) and ad revenue ($250 million projected 2017)
  • Podcasting advertising cost-per-thousand increased 20% year-over-year.
  • Traditional radio is a primary source of audio on voice-enabled smart speakers.

It's been another fantastic digital year with growth in both consumers and advertising revenue. Bridge Ratings has published numerous reports during 2017 as an on-going guide to the most popular digital platforms including on-demand music streaming and podcasting. In fact, our podcasting ad metric projections provided significant insight to advertising agencies and podcast producers to help manage and excel in reaching new consumers as well as advertisers.

On-demand Streaming

Bridge Ratings has been providing on-demand streaming metrics to both the radio and record industries again this year. Our proprietary capability of reflecting on-demand music streaming information from a National perspective as well as station-specific streaming has allowed our radio clients to more perfectly align their music on-air with the actual consumption on-line by their listeners.

What we've learned

Programmers using our streaming data this year are adding songs earlier and staying on them longer.”
— Dave Van Dyke, President Bridge Ratings

Our programmer clients who have been utilizing our station-specific streaming data have commented that the on-demand streaming information finally reveals what true music consumption looks like. As one station owner stated, "Our listeners have very good taste in music. Why should we ignore it?."

  1. When to add new songs
    A comprehensive review of the weekly streaming charts allows programmers to see quickly which new songs have been picked up by music consumers of every genre and how popular those songs are. A Chicago program director says, "We can no longer rely on the published airplay charts to know what are the best songs to add. We quite often see 20% of the music adds never amount to significant consumption. There have been some weeks this year where close to 50% of the airplay adds have never risen into the top 150 most-streamed songs by our listeners."

    Social media and word-of-mouth along with shared playlists fuel the streaming experience for both listeners and programmers and often indicate popularity of new songs that record labels are ignoring or not yet working. Fortunately, a handful of record labels are now using data to guide them when considering artists or songs to promote to radio.

    Lanco is an example of a great 2017 Country music success story. Lanco released "Greatest Love Story" the week of February 15, 2017. It broke into our Country streaming charts instantly as fans knew early that it was something special. It reached top 10 in our reports long before the radio industry was aware of its success. Today it remains among the five most-streamed and downloaded country songs in the U.S. Radio stations that were on this song early and often, gained significant brand benefit from their listeners. With "Greatest Love Story", Lanco is also now seeing a resurgence in streaming popularity for their 2015 hit "American Love Story" which continues to receive appropriate exposure on informed radio properties.

    There are a number of similar success stories spread across multiple radio formats.
    Programmers this year are adding songs earlier and staying on them longer.
  2. How to maintain playlists
    On-demand streaming has become a key tool this year for radio programmers with an interest in properly aligning music exposure with actual consumption. After observing on-demand streaming behavior for more than four years, we have learned that favorite songs have very long lives and can continue to be in demand months after release. In fact, song longevity is creating somewhat of a crisis for record labels that are seeing greater song popularity in the 6-12 months after release than in the initial three to six introductory months of release. This is because as the life-cycle of a song progresses from streaming awareness to streaming consumption then to social media and broadcast radio exposure, the number of its streams expands keeping the most popular songs in the public consciousness far longer than previously thought. 

    Programmers who use on-demand streaming data that is customized for their audience have more stable playlists which encourages more frequent daily listening occasions and longer time-spent-listening.
  3. When to slow song exposure
    Making sweeping assumptions or using artificial timelines to determine when a very popular song should have its exposure reduced or placed in a recurrent category, is short-sighted. All songs are unique in the world of on-demand streaming research. The viability of a song's longevity has numerous sources. One of 2017's most consumed songs, "Believer" by Imagine Dragons began as an Alternative Rock hit and through greater exposure, social media awareness and playlisting, the song crossed over to multiple formats. Today, after nearly 12 months since its release, the song continues to generate over 10 million streams a week and remains in our top 5. Our data shows that while most programmers are slowing down this song's exposure, the average number of plays of this song by the average streaming consumer has been reduced by only 10%. This metric can be assessed for every song and every radio format giving programmers a much more useful tool than chart rank to determine song exposure limits .

Here's a brief overview of the four most popular music genres comparing streaming consumption from this year to last.

How to read: Full-year 2017, the Urban/Hip-Hop music genre generated 100.339 billion streams compared to 2016's 55.186 billion.

How to read: Full-year 2017, the Urban/Hip-Hop music genre generated 100.339 billion streams compared to 2016's 55.186 billion.


Urban/Hip-Hop & R&B again dominated the music streaming landscape this year. Tracking the top 1000 songs of the year, we captured almost 100 Billion streams of music for Urban/Hip-Hop. This represents a 45% increase in consumption in 2017.

Most-streamed Urban Songs 2017

  1. Bad and Boujee - Migos
  2. XO Tour Llif3 - Lil Uzi Vert
  3. Humble - Kendrick Lamar
  4. Congratulations - Post Malone
  5. Mask Off - Future

Audio Streams - 63%
Video Streams - 37%

Most-streamed Urban Songs 2016

  1. Panda - Desiigner
  2. Work - Rhianna
  3. One Dance - Drake
  4. Low Life - Future
  5. Broccoli - D.R.A.M.


With 62 billion streams, Pop music streaming grew 16% year-over-year.

Most-streamed Pop Songs 2017

  1. Shape of You - Ed Sheeran
  2. That's What I Like - Bruno Mars
  3. Closer - The Chainsmokers
  4. Say You Won't Let Go - James Arthur
  5. 24K Magic - Bruno Mars

Audio Streams - 60%
Video Streams - 40%

Most-streamed Pop Songs 2016

  1. Closer - The Chainsmokers
  2. Sorry - Justin Bieber
  3. Work From Home - Fifth Harmony
  4. 7 Years - Lukas Graham
  5. Heathens - Twenty One Pilots


38 billion on-demand music streams were captured for the Country music genre, an increase of 33% over 2016.

Most-streamed Country Songs 2017

  1. Body Like A Back Road - Sam Hunt
  2. In Case You Didn't Know - Brett Young
  3. Hurricane - Luke Combs
  4. What Ifs - Kane Brown
  5. Blue Ain't Your Color - Keith Urban

Audio Streams - 70%
Video Streams - 30%

Most-streamed Country Songs 2016

  1. H.O.L.Y. - Florida Georgia Line
  2. Die A Happy Man - Thomas Rhett
  3. Break Up In A Small Town - Sam Hunt
  4. Take Your Time - Sam Hunt
  5. Make You Miss Me - Sam Hunt


We tracked almost 35 Billion rock streams in 2017, an increase of 20% over 2016.

Most-streamed Rock Songs 2017

  1. Believer - Imagine Dragons
  2. Something Just Like Us - The Chainsmokers & Coldplay
  3. Thunder - Imagine Dragons
  4. Stressed Out - Twenty One Pilots
  5. Feel It Still - Portugal.The Man

Audio Streams - 68%
Video Streams - 32%

Most-streamed Rock Songs 2016

  1. Stressed Out - Twenty One Pilots
  2. Ride - Twenty One Pilots
  3. Hymn For the Weekend - Coldplay
  4. Unsteady -- X Ambassadors
  5. The Sound of Silence - Disturbed

2017: Podcasting's Breakthrough Year

Check off a year of amazing growth for podcasting as 2017 nears its end.

In the nuggets of data released in Bridge Ratings' report "Podcast Report 2018 " our analysts' projections of a huge breakout year for podcasting were confirmed with revenues and audience growth spiking. New tech was introduced to the public this year (example: Castbox) that will allow more consumers to easily search and listen to podcasts.

Technology this year began to reduce the three most problematic issues which have been limiting podcasting's potential:

1. Ease of Use
2. Simple but powerful search capabilities
3. Consumption metrics for revenue generation

We found that the search capability of new podcast search apps such as Castbox alone increased interest in listening to more podcasts or trying them for the first time.

“Voice controlled audio search is beginning to establish an invigorated user growth factor and will further enhance time-spent with podcasts in 2018.”

— Dave Van Dyke, President Bridge Ratings

Podcasting Potential - An Update

Bridge Ratings conducted in person, telephone and on-line questionnaires to determine the most current attitudes about podcast listening now through the visor of the new technology which was described in detail to panelists.

What we have learned is that 2017 has shown even more growth over our original estimates published in January 2017 with a significant increase in the number of people who said that they are listening to one or more podcasts weekly.

The average time spent with each listening "session" has increased by 5 minutes and the number of podcasts consumed each week has grown from 7 to 8. This number has been impacted by a new category of podcast listeners - podFASTERS - who are using podcast players with the ability to increase playback speed. This flexibility allows this new class of podcast listeners to consumer a significant number of audio each month. Without the podFASTERS in our panel, the average number of podcasts consumed each week would have decreased from 7 to 6.

Our updated Podcasting data shows larger growth than last year.


Podcast Consumption Potential 11.17.png

Earlier this year the number of respondents with NO interest in podcasting had dropped to 41%. However, in this new study released this week, the number has inched back up to 42%.

Those who have listened to a podcast in the past 7 days increased to 22% from our April finding

31% listened to a podcast in the past 30 days, up from 28%.

Those who have ever listened to a podcast increased to 44% this year.

And, as podcasting begins to become more pervasive. the number of respondents who "may listen to a podcast in the next 30 days actually decreased this time to 14%. 

These are eye-popping numbers.

Technology like the Amazon Echo are presenting new ways to consume podcasts and is reducing some friction to ease of use. There is no need to sign up or register to listen to podcasts on this platform. Amazon has partnered with internet radio provider TuneIn which includes over six million podcasts. If you have an Amazon Echo all you need to say is "Alexa, play the program This American Life".

Podcasting Advertising Spend

Based on increasing interest by the public, reduced friction to search and access podcasts and interviews with 25 national and regional advertising agencies Bridge Ratings projects...

34% ad spend growth in the podcasting universe when 2017 is in the books with $255 million.

30% growth in ad dollars in 2018 .

As the chart below shows, the $255 million figure for full-year 2017 is an increase over our January estimates for 2017.

The chart below reflects podcasting ad spend growth from 2010 to 2020. The blue bars represent our original forecasts. Projections for 2017 and beyond were originally determined in January of 2017 and again in October 2017 based on similar sources of growth and ad agency interest.

Podcasting Ad Spend Trends Updated 11.17.png

Smart Speakers

2017 was also a significant growth year for the smart speaker/voice assistant technology popularized by Amazon in 2016. Additional companies have quickly introduced their own versions of this tech which is expanding the market rapidly.

A smart speaker is a type of wireless speaker and voice command device with an integrated virtual assistant (artificial intelligence) that offers interactive actions and hands free activation with the help of one "hot word" (or several "hot words"). Some smart speakers can also act as a smart device that utilizes Wi-FiBluetooth and other wireless protocol standards to extend usage beyond audio playback, such as to control home automation devices. 

Despite competition from Google, Microsoft, JBL and Apple's soon-to-be-released HomePod, Amazon's suite of smart speakers remains king.


The market will continue to expand for the foreseeable future with full-year 2018 approaching a tipping point in market penetration.

Millennials are driving the growth of the voice-enabled digital assistant market.

Millennials are driving the growth of the voice-enabled digital assistant market.


As part of Bridge Ratings' year-end analysis of the audio marketplace, we were interested in the music sources being used by these smart speaker systems. Traditional radio is faring well in this snapshot taken during the month of November 2017. 

Music Sources

Click on image to enlarge.

Traditional radio fares well in this new analysis though usage has dropped from 65% early in 2017 while Spotify, Pandora and Amazon Music have improved. Voice-enabled devices have a more complicated set of recognized FM command-word sources primarily due to radio station "nicknames" such as "Power105" or "The Rock94.5". For radio to take advantage of this potential for increased usage, stations will have to define themselves distinctly with their voice commands. There's an Amazon Echo channel on IFTTT, the popular online automation service that allows users to connect Alexa with Twitter, Facebook, or a whole host of compatible smart gadgets. Forward-thinking radio management has begun to take advantage of such automation services to improve the "ease-of-use" and satisfaction ratings that consumers use to score each of these sources. In this analysis of 6400 voice-assistant consumers, radio only scored 35% satisfaction primarily due to incorrect station identification. 

Final Thoughts

Based on the results of this comprehensive study 2017 provided all of the promise - and more - that we could have hoped for.

Gains in popularity of on-demand streaming for both consumers and music-based business like radio continue to impress, while podcasting continues to offer a vast landscape of entertainment that is both personal and informative.

2018 holds great promise as podcasting should see further development of search and metric tools to aid in increased usage and revenue when a confluence of technology, advertising and consumer interest boost momentum for the platform which offers content for just about every taste and interest.

However, additional studies Bridge Ratings has conducted this year point to an increasing saturation of audio consumption consumers are capable of. The amount of available sources of audio entertainment has grown and technology - specifically in mobile phones and tablets - has enabled consumers to feast to their hearts' content. The impact of this time limitation is yet to be determined, but we will be watching this area in depth in 2018 and beyond. 

Expect an updated study on these findings mid-year 2018.

Methodology: Data utilized in this analysis was derived from a series of telephone, focus group and on-line interviews fielded by Bridge Ratings between 11/01/16 and 11/10/2017. Samples vary with study. Specific sample information is available by writing to information@bridgeratings.com. 

Additional streaming data sourced through Buzzangle Music.

Revenue projections are based on a combination of podcast consumption projections determined through the aforementioned field studies and telephone and on-line interviews and questionnaires with 25 regional and national advertising agencies.