Bridge Ratings has completed an analysis of data comparing radio station playlists to the number of songs that station's audience is actually consuming on-demand in a given week.

As you may know from your own experience, broadcast radio listeners may have specific tastes in music and they are attracted to those radio stations that specialize in that music. Be it Top 40, Country, Classic Rock or Classical, there is usually a radio station for most popular tastes.

On the other hand, while someone may prefer to spend most of their radio listening tuned to the local top 40 station, it is likely that person has a broader taste in music and likes a little bit of this and little bit of that that may not be described as "top 40"..

Our own research has substantiated that most owners of a music collection have more than one type of music. A fan of rock music could easily have rockin songs on their digital music player that come from the Country music category or they may have a guilty pleasure of a few of Katy Perry's best hits.

Nowhere is this played out more graphically than when comparing a radio station's typical weekly playlist with the list of songs streamed on-demand by their listeners over the course of the same week.

For this article, we took a look at current hits and recurrents (recent hits) played on Top 40 or Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) stations in a top 10 market as well as such a station in a market sized between #20 and #40.

Additionally, we looked at current hits and recurrent (recent hits) played at popular Country music radio stations in a top 10 market and a market between #20 and #40.

Finally, for kicks, we added a popular Classic Rock station in a top 10 market.

We chose these stations at random to determine if there was any significant difference in the percentage of songs played on the air during a typical week compared to the number of songs that station's audience streamed during the same week.

This is what we found:

Source: Nielsen


Top 40/CHR/Country

As one might suspect, a tightly controlled playlist on a Top 40 station would only play a small percentage of all the songs streamed by their audience that week. In the case of the Top 10 market CHR, it played just 3.3% of the songs streamed that week by their audience.

The percentages vary slightly when comparing stations with similar radio music formats. Interestingly, the CHR station we selected in a market sized between #20 and #40 had a larger playlist and thus a higher percentage of the songs (7.4%) its audience streamed that week, but still under 10%.

Country radio very much mirrors the mechanics of Top 40 radio by being very selective in their playlists and thus play similar sized lists as their Top 40 brethren. This is why the percentages we see at Country radio are similarly low.

Classic Rock

When looking at a library-based station, i.e. one that plays few or no current songs such as the Classic Rock station we chose, the numbers are interesting. Out of 2114 streamed songs on-demand that week by that station's listeners, it played 790 of them.

It must be stated that a current song-based station like a top 40 or Country play by different rules than a Classic Rock station which has 20+ years of songs to choose from. And library-based radio stations tend to repeat their songs less frequently because they have many more titles to choose from.

If all of the song titles (currents+recurrents+gold) played on the top 10 market Top 40 station that week are included (146), the percentage increases to 7.1%.

This is only an interesting exercise to share more insight into the behaviors of radio stations and music consumers alike as well as the relationship between broadcast radio listening and on-demand streaming.

Complementary Technology

Click on image to enlarge.

Top 40 and Country stations are often at the top of the ratings in their markets with smaller playlists. This is because they are satisfying music consumers needs. The focus of these stations on specific audience segments is what makes them popular and, apparently, their audiences may not mind because they are hearing "the hits" played frequently and should they wish for more variety they can and do stream additional songs they like, when and where they want.

On-demand streaming behavior continues to grow at a blistering pace; up 55% in 2018 over the previous year. It is satisfying a variety of needs. In the case of radio listeners, streaming tends to be a complementary technology that is expanding music consumption and awareness while broadcast radio continues to serve its purpose as a curator of the most popular music as well as music discovery.

And that's a good thing.

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.

For advisement on this or other media consumption challenges, contact
Dave Van Dyke at 323.696.0967 or at

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