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Posted on Thu 27th Jun, 2013 in: Public Relations, Social Media by Emma Lister

In my last blog, I discussed the future of traditional radio and the proliferation of new and niche programmes and channels, increasing the choice available to us. In this follow-up blog, I'm going to explore the rise of music streaming sites and their impact on radio listenership. Although there is a greater choice of radio stations and more of us are listening (90.3% tuning in every week), we are listening for less time (3% less than in 2012). So why are we listening less and is the increased number of online music streaming sites the reason behind it? What risks does radio need to be aware of and how can it overcome these? Are the critics correct when they say music streaming will contribute to the death of radio? Let's start by looking at music streaming. It's the fastest growing part of the £330m digital music sector in Britain, with over a million paying subscribers and even more taking advantage of free and ad-supported online services. Each music streaming site is tailored to different audiences - and with ranging package costs. And unlike radio, users can purchase tracks instantly, so there is a clear marketing benefit. For those who like discovering music, they can take advantage of iTunes Radio's Genius feature which builds automatic playlists and finds new music you might like based on the tracks you listen to the most. Rdio has a social element which allows its users to connect with and follow others. Spotify has over 30 million users and its own radio station. It even has a 'Soundtrack your life' function, which brings you music for every mood e.g. exercising, your night in or journey to work. Many artists and bands are starting to launch new material purely through streaming services, as that's where their audience is. MusicQubed is now working in partnership with The Wanted to offer premium content which can only be subscribed to via the app. Social media sites are also evolving to include music streaming facilities. When on Twitter or Myspace, users no longer have to open a new app or web page to listen to music, they can search and listen while connecting with friends. So what does all this mean for radio? I think the main threat radio stations need to be aware of is the popularity of social networking sites. There is clearly a shift in online radio listeners and last year Mashable indicated the reason was due to consumers prefering to interact on social networking sites while tuning in. Whilst people are still listening but in a different way, it is still something to be aware of. With many of the aforementioned music streaming sites already offering social networking functions, this is likely to attract radio listeners who may eventually favour listening to playlists they dictate themselves while communicating with friends, over traditional radio. However, although music streaming clearly plays a vital role in our digital music sector this doesn't suggest it is becoming an alternative to other media, like radio. It is merely another source which co-exists. Our choice of channels has increased but we are still keen to tune in, even if music is no longer our primary reason for doing so. With radio, the 'live' nature of it will always have its appeal and at this stage, that's something that music streaming can't compete with. Spotify may have its own radio station but there is no conversation or dialogue, it's more about playlists which users create themselves. And they still have the issue of interrupters which, unless they pay extra for the privilege of an ad-free service, they can't get rid of. Tuning into music streaming sites is much more about your interests and moods. If you're in the mood to listen to a particular song, you can, easily and conveniently with the use of the music streaming apps available to us. Radio and music streaming don't have to compete, they can co-exist to meet our needs. As a PR who approaches radio programmes with news stories and feature ideas, I would still regard it as a valuable medium of communication. With over 90% of us tuning in every week, there's definitely an audience worth communicating with, even if that audience is no longer using it to gain access to the latest music.

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