Radio, Audio, Streaming Services, Oh My!
Written By Mya Osborne, Media Analytics Executive
*This blog entry was inspired by the Spotify crash on March 8, 2022 that left 72,000 people locked out of their accounts*
FM radio or silence? That was the decision I faced this weekend at Mount Mitchell State Park.
Located in the Black Mountain range of Blue Ridge Mountains, Mount Mitchell is “one of those places that stand apart from the ordinary.” What’s important to recognize about Mount Mitchell is that the summit reaches an elevation of 6,684 feet, the highest point east of the Mississippi. With enchanted hiking trails through the forest, unmatched biodiversity to explore, and breathtaking views of the sunsetting behind mountainous scenery, Mount Mitchell State Park offers an experience that cannot be replicated anywhere else. The only problem is there’s NO PHONE SERVICE. Imagine driving up the 52-mile scenic route towards the mountain without being about to listen to your Lumineers Spotify playlist on repeat. By being disconnected from streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, I had to resort to FM radio.
Prior to this weekend, I cannot remember the last time I got into a car and listened to music playing from a radio station. As soon as I get in the car, I connect my phone to an aux cord and play songs through music streaming platforms. Music streaming services are steadily dominating the music industry. The top three platforms are Spotify with 406 million users, Apple Music with 60 million users, and Amazon Music with 55 million users, respectively. In 2018, 75% of the recorded music industry’s revenue came from subscriptions from streaming channels, evidently, one the leading forms of distribution. This is because consumers are able to select the songs they hear and create automatic playlists. Since Spotify offers 30 million songs, options are virtually unlimited. Additionally, streaming music is instant. Instead of being limited to the songs on an album or CD, consumers are able to tap a song from any album or genre and sing along within seconds. Due to the convenience of online music streaming networks, in 2016, “over 28 million unique songs were played, compared to seven million songs that were purchased.” Given that people are increasingly turning to streaming services for their tunes, there have been questions regarding the negative impact streaming platforms are having on the music industry. However, streaming is doing just the opposite. Streaming platforms are benefiting the music industry, as people are listening to more music than ever before. By streaming services allowing artists to get paid from user engagement, newer artists are producing unique music and users are discovering diverse songs and genres.
While streaming services make up a large part of the evolving music industry, radio still has a lot to contribute to music as well. According to Variety, AM/FM radio makes up the “largest piece in America's audio pie.” Terrestrial radio makes up 39% of audio consumption among individuals ages 13 and older. In comparison, streaming platforms make up 18% of audio segments. In my experience driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains disconnected from streaming services, I had two choices: listen to FM radio or drive in silence. For the first 20 minutes, I choose silence. Then I decided to give radio a chance. As I slightly turned the stereo knob, static played at first, then music. Through this experience, I reflected on the value of radio. One benefit of radio is its locality. Radio is enticing to local audiences with interest in local DJs, news, weather, and other information. Not only was I able to listen to R&B music during my drive, but I also connected to the Mount Mitchell radio station that provided the park hours, historical information, and directions to the entrance. “It’s the only medium that reaches the broadest possible audience while also feeling extremely personal and intimate—as if the host is speaking directly to the individual listener.”Additionally, radio is unique because of its stability and reliability. With access to radio in the car and in the home, it provides a reliable signal of communication in times when streaming services aren't there to satisfy your musical needs. As long as the car is equipped with radio, stations will always be accessible to inform, entertain, and update.
Although streaming services are on the rise, radio should still be recognized for their valuable contributions to the music and audio industries today. Next time you are in the car and are tempted to plug in your phone for streaming purposes, give radio a try! You’ll be happy you did.