Setting The Record Straight


(By Bob McCurdy) It’s been a while since I updated this data, so it was time. Setting the audio record straight is critical for AM/FM radio to continue to get its rightful share of media and audio spend. Educating clients regarding the media and audio landscape as it exists — not as it is perceived to exist — is one of our most important responsibilities, because if our clients don’t know what we know, they won’t believe what we believe and invest the way we suggest they invest.

We can’t expect them to be familiar with the following information unless we bring it to their attention, as they have businesses to run and don’t have time to be audio experts. They rely on us for this education and information.

There is a lot of press, headlines, and erroneous impressions out there, so the following data should serve as a reality check. All who make a living representing AM/FM radio should be familiar with this data.

The chart below details Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM, and AM/FM radio usage in the past week. The data was extracted from each market’s current Scarborough report. The column at the far right is the average of the seven markets and can be referenced with confidence should your market not be one of the seven.

5.2x as many adults tune to AM/FM each week as tune to Pandora; for Spotify the figure is 7.2x as many; and, for SiriusXM it is 5x as many. Put another way, 82.3% of adults do not listen to SiriusXM each week, 82.9% avoid Pandora, and 87.7% have not listened to Spotify the past seven days, on average, across these markets. In fact, across these seven markets, over half (52%) of all adults had not tuned to any of these three in the past week.

Keep in mind that the stats below include Spotify’s paid premium commercial-free subscribers as well as Pandora’s and it’s safe to assume that these paid subscribers are the heaviest users of these two services, accounting for a disproportionately large percentage of each service’s listening. Additionally, SiriusXM is not taking over the audio world. There are 272 million cars and trucks registered in the United States. Only 12%-13% subscribe to SiriusXM (SiriusXM has 34.6 million total subscribers and 29.6 self-pay subscribers).

How many times have you heard that those who listen to Pandora, Spotify, or SiriusXM don’t listen to AM/FM radio? Well this is clearly not the case. It turns out they listen to AM/FM quite a bit each day:

Just how many of Pandora and Spotify listeners also listen to AM/FM? The vast majority of them. Neither Spotify nor Pandora need to be included when AM/FM radio is part of the media plan:

In fact, the Pandora/Spotify listener is more more likely to be among the heaviest radio listeners than the general population. The Sirius listener is slightly less likely to be among the heaviest SM/FM listeners but 11% more likely to among the heavy AM/FM listener group.

One of radio’s most effective and respected ambassadors, Pierre Bouvard of Westwood One, forwarded a slide focused on Share of Ear data (Q4 2018-Q1-Q3 2019). This slide also “sets the record straight” highlighting that AM/FM radio’s share of A25-54 ad-supported audio time to be 74.0%, 7.8x that of Pandora’s 9.5% share, 16.8x that of Spotify’s 4.4% share, and 21.1x that of SiriusXM’s 3.5% share. This is where the rubber meets the road — if an advertiser can’t reach ’em, they can’t sell ‘em.

The takeaways from the above are:
– AM/FM usage continues to dwarf other audio alternatives;
– The Pandora, Spotify, and SiriusXM listener spends more than an hour and a half daily with AM/FM radio;
– The vast majority of Pandora or Spotify listeners tune to AM/FM radio each week;
– The Pandora/Spotify listener is more likely to be among the heaviest AM/FM radio listeners than the general population.

The data paints a great story for us to tell. It is up to us to make sure all with whom we deal are familiar with it.

Bob McCurdy is the Vice President of Sales for The Beasley Media Group and can be reached at [email protected]


  1. Amen Wanda from Chattanooga!

    “my real job is to help local businesses grow their revenue. We do it with reach, frequency, consistency and, in my opinion, most importantly compelling messages that tell the business’s story in a way that drives the consumer to his or her business over the competition.”

    I don’t know, but I would bet, the above naysayers do not share the same job description as Account Exec Woodard. I bet they sell some digi doo dad and are frustrated at their inability to binge on radio revenue.

    And obviously, resentful of radio resiliency and ability not just to survive, but, thrive as the nation’s #1 reach media. But, most of all, prove them all wrong all along!

    And I applaud Wanda Woodard’s recognition that copy, the message, the words are at least as important as reach (buy my station), frequency (buy my station a lot) and consistency (buy my station often).

    Couldn’t have written it better myself!


    Amen Wanda!

  2. The narrative seems very similar to what newspaper publishers were saying in 2004, i.e. “OK, yes we’ve slipped, but Americans love their newspapers”. 15 years later their weekday circulation is nearly half of what is was, from 55M subscribers to 29M subscribers. Much like where newspaper readership was 15 years ago, traditional OTA radio listening is caught in a societal trend that will take a decade or more to play out.

  3. What BusinessIMean said! Edison Research did a “Hacking the Commuter Code” study to show just how quickly people leave a station once a commercial comes on. If i recall, and not surprising, less than 30% sit through an entire commercial break. and to his point, even if someone was able to sit through a giant break, how can anyone retain the massive number of station promos, :10s, :15’s, :30’s and :60’s with virtually no competitive separation? There are too many audio options out there with amazing content and far less intrusive ad experiences (SXM, Podcasts, ad-supported streaming, etc). Radio has dug itself into a hole of debt brought on by mass conglomeration and the “less is more” debacle. It’s now a race to the bottom. Radio has become far too expensive to operate on a large scale basis, and therefore will rely more and more on voice tracking and less on live/local… and that includes sales as well and cutting commissions alone is not going to get em there. Watch sales efforts continue to shift away from a local strategy towards a national/rep firm strategy (like programmatic in the digital space). it’s already happening.

  4. In a nutshell, this is a sad, hasty generalization based on insufficient evidence that makes a rushed conclusion without considering all of the variables.

    Overall, the bottom line is listening to the radio is virtually unbearable these days because of the non-stop bombardment of commercials that you and your sales teams put there in the first place.

    While some audiences may be listening to music on the radio, certainly nobody is listening to commercials.

    As soon as a commercial starts on one station, everyone I know simply changes the station to find another channel with music playing (if they are even able to locate one that also isn’t playing commercials – terrible predicament if you’ve ever experienced it, very frustrating).

    I would love to know the average number of minutes per hour that are advertisements (both station promo and advertisers combined) versus the average number of minutes per hour that music is actually playing for listeners – can you share that information with us please?

    At the end of the day, the AM/FM format is inferior versus other listening options available today and dying a slow, slow death. The user experience is simply awful and I’m not really sure there is anything you can do about it, otherwise I’d make some recommendations for you.

    Happy Holidays though and good luck out there!

    • To all three of the comments listed above: I am a radio sales rep. And while I sell air time for a living, my real job is to help local businesses grow their revenue. We do it with reach, frequency, consistency and, in my opinion, most importantly compelling messages that tell the business’s story in a way that drives the consumer to his or her business over the competition.

      Here in Chattanooga, we have one radio success story after another. And while, you make valid points that may or may not come true, what you fail to point out is that radio, and only radio is “Free” to the consumer. Secondly, you cannot buy a car, truck or SUV in America today that does not include AM/FM radio – talk about supply and demand. If the car manufacturers don’t have their fingers on the pulse of America’s consumers then they would literally be up the creek without a paddle. But….they do.

      Today I can tell you that a client here in town did one thing differently in his marketing and advertising strategy for 2019 – that one thing was to run with my radio stations, and this year that advertiser has seen double digit growth. Radio was the only thing he did differently this year.

      Do people still listen to the radio? Yes. Do they also listen to Pandora, Spotify, Sirius? Yes. But today, radio still offers the most mass reach. And not just “in the car.” Our soft AC station is the number one listened to at work station in Hamilton County and not just at banks, law offices, physicians’ office – but inside convenience stores. I know because I hear our station all the time as I am driving and stopping at businesses all over our TSA.

      And, it’s not about “luck out there,” Sir, it’s about hard work, commitment, perseverance, creativity, ideas, and a little bit of fun. My four station cluster has that from every single team member!


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