For music programmers who have been utilizing on-demand streaming data to properly align their on-air music with true music consumption, here's some news: Playlisting has become the dominant way most music fans listen.
At Bridge Ratings we have been tracking music consumption through on-demand streaming services for over four years. We now share this data with our music radio clients seeking to properly align their on-air song exposure to their listeners' actual consumption.
In a typical year we process and analyze hundreds of millions of streams from across the U.S. and, more specifically, by market and station.
Over the past three years we have undertaken an analysis of music streaming consumption and learned almost immediately in the fall of 2015 that playlisting plays a significant role in the way the average person consumes music through on-demand streaming platforms.
Playlist is a term to describe a list of video or audio files that can be played back on a media player sequentially or in random order. In its most general form, an audioplaylist is simply a list of songs, but sometimes a loop.
What We've Learned
- Among the reasons music fans use playlists when they stream: playlisting allows consumers to differentiate or accentuate favorite songs into personal rotations.
- In 2015 at the start of this latest three-year study, most listening was based on individual song selection, i.e. collections of songs on audio players played in a loop or random order, however as the technology of music players (smart phones, etc) and streaming platforms became more sophisticated, playlisting quickly became the primary method of listening.
- In September 2015 70% of the song streams we analyzed were delivered from an "open source" or individual song selection method by the users. 30% came from playlist creation.
A year later playlisting was becoming more popular as a majority of the population was participating in streamed music consumption with 43% originating from playlists.
- By the fall of 2017, playlisting has quickly become the primary way music consumers catalog and listen to songs through streaming platforms.
The Whys of Playlisting
As more music consumers find playlisting to be the preferred way to listen, we were curious as to why playlists are created.
The nugget in this chart for programmers of music is the 45% who believe that a song placed in a playlist is more important than others that may not have been added to self-created playlists.
By identifying these playlisted songs a new hierarchy of song preference has been revealed.
Here's more from our just-released study:
- Sharing of playlists has crossed 50% of music consumers for the first time.
- 8 out 10 of our sample have created a playlists in the past three months
- 63% of those who have paid subscriptions use a playlist every time they listen.
- 59% of streamies who use playlists have listened to their favorite playlists more than 10 times.
- The most popular playlists are genre-based.
- 70% of streamers choose a playlist after reviewing just a few songs.
- 90% of users create playlists for themselves.
- 66% of playlist creators share their playlists.
How Can Music Radio Benefit?
The last point on the above list is an important one for radio.
With so much playlist sharing going on, traditional radio's reach, music expertise and listener loyalty suggests that with the proper playlists and promotion/marketing radio can not only enhance its current awareness, brand-strength and listener out-reach, but radio may be able to reach those who are light listeners or former listeners.
The final part of our study asked groups of current radio listeners (1+ hrs/day), light radio listeners (1-2hrs/week) and former radio listeners if they would listen to station-created playlists of a) most popular songs for their genre and b) exclusively new music releases appropriate for the genre.
Both current and light radio listeners overwhelmingly were positive about listening to station-created music playlists. Even former radio listeners were somewhat positive, especially regarding playlists of New Releases. This may be traditional radio's route to raising awareness and brand responsiveness among former listeners to radio.
How To Do It
I contacted David Oxenford, partner at the law firm of Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP, practicing out of its Washington, DC office to determine how a station might be able to offer playlists. His regulatory expertise includes all areas of broadcast law including the FCC’s multiple ownership limitations, the political broadcasting rules, EEO policy etc.
David explained that stations might be able to approach custom-branded playlisting in two ways:
- Reach out to record labels of artists of interest and ask for direct licenses to build playlists that would include their artists. This option may be easier to accomplish if the station offers a New Release playlist every week. Labels like to have their new releases receive greater promotion from radio. Public radio has been very successful with this approach. NPR Music was achieved in the same manner. Further, if the direct license is granted for a limited time, there may not be any cost involved.
- Stations can go direct to on-demand streaming platforms like Spotify, and discuss how a station-branded playlist of its favorite New Releases or current hot songs can be placed on the service as "WXXX's Alternative Rock New Release Playlist". In this scenario, stations would direct listeners on-air to Spotify and let them know the playlist is available by search.
Either example seems simple enough to accomplish. Going direct to the labels to allow a station-branded New Release playlist would fold nicely into this study's finding that offering New Release Playlists for a station's core format is preferred, even among former radio listeners.
- The creation of on-line playlists by music consumers has grown significantly - especially in the last 12 months.
- They love to create them for specific lifestyle moments and to create mixes with songs that are particularly important to them.
- They love to share playlists with friends.
- There is evidence in our study that both current and former radio listeners would be interested in station-produced playlists, especially playlists focused on new music discovery.
- Offering station-branded music playlists on-demand can be accomplished.
- With radio's reach, the promotion of these playlists, steeped in radio's "music expertise" image, could enhance current listener bonding and reintroduce former listeners to a new benefit traditional radio can leverage.
With the rapid raise of playlist use by music consumers, Bridge Ratings will continue to monitor this component of consumption.
Two sample sets were used for the data in this report. A) 3600 on-demand music streamers ages 12-65, 50/50 Male/Female balance. Margin of Error +/- 1.7
B) "For the Radio-Created Playlist Preferences" portion of this report, three subsets were used:
1. 1041 Current radio listeners (1 hr+/day), 12-65 years of age, 53/47 Male/Female Balance MOE +/- 3.2%
2. 1000 Light Radio listeners (less than 2 hours per week), 12-65 49/51 Male/Female Balance MOE +/- 3.2%
3. 1200 Former Radio listeners, 12-65, 50/50 Male/Female Balance MOE +/- 2.9%