Competitive Audio Timeline


(By Bob McCurdy) I came across the slide below while updating our “Why Radio” deck, and each time I see it it strikes me as remarkable that the same percentage of the U.S. population in 2020 tunes to AM/FM radio each week as did 50 years ago.

It compelled me to do a little research and lay out chronologically the battleground for consumer’s ears over the years to provide some perspective as to just how impressive this AM/FM radio feat truly is. It quickly became clear that in spite of the intense digital audio challenges of the past several decades that AM/FM radio is the audio Energizer Bunny that just keeps on going.

Getting the dates for each digital audio service was a bit of a task as many morphed or disappeared over the years but what you see is an accurate reflection of the audio landscape in which AM/FM radio has competed.

The past 20 years make the 40 years before look like child’s play. The following paints the Wild West-like picture of the competitive streaming audio space and the incredible resilience and popularity of AM/FM radio in spite of this increased competition. I had forgotten about a number of these digital audio services as they either had drifted off to audio heaven or were acquired by another company.

Charles Darwin would be proud, as it serves to corroborate his theory of the “survival of the fittest” with AM/FM radio clearly remaining the most “fit” of all. There are a plethora of streaming companies out there that want what we currently have which is 458,262,000 adult 18+ ears according to Nielsen’s Q1 2019 Total Audience Report.

In all likelihood, I overlooked more than a few now defunct or existing streaming services that could have been included below:
1962: Audio cassettes
1965: 8 Track cassettes
1979 Sony Walkman
1981: MTV
1982: CDs
1986: VH1
1993 MP3
1998: Digitized Music sharing, Napster, etc.
1999: Live365
2000: AccuRadio, Radio Paradise
2001: XM Satellite, Rhapsody, Black Planet, Apple iPod
2002: Sirius Satellite, TuneIn, Last.FM
2003: Apple iTunes
2005: Pandora
2007: Slacker, MixRadio, LiveXLive, iPhone, Jango
2008: Stitcher, Soundcloud
2009: MixCloud, MOG
2010: Songza, Rdio, Guvera
2011: Spotify, Google Play Music, 8Tracks, Rara
2013: Rivet News Radio
2014: Amazon Echo, Amazon Prime Ad Free, Samsung Milk, Radical.FM, Grooveshark, Dash Radio, Primephonic, The Sixty One
2015: Apple Music, YouTube music, YouTube Red, Beats Music, Google Ad Supported, Tidal,
2017: iHeart on demand
2016: Google Home, Deezer
2018: Apple HomePod, Treble, Idagio
2019: Amazon Music ad supported, Qobuz

Below is the slide that prompted the timeline above. Think about how the world and technology have changed since 1970 when The Beatles were still The Beatles and Nixon was the president. Throughout these past 50 years and 50 before that, radio has played a major role in Americans’ everyday lives.

There are few if any media that are as strong as they ever were, but radio comes the closest. TV has its cord-cutting issues, declining audience and commercial ratings, the challenge of OTT, etc., and while radio is not without its challenges, we have done a considerably better job than newspapers, TV, and magazines in maintaining our audience and relevance.

Radio remains the #1 reach medium in the United States and continues to generate a compelling ROI, and per last week’s article, is the only audio option to use when large reach is important. These two headlines from WARC (World Advertising Research Center) from June 2019 say it best:

– “Radio’s Love Affair With Radio Is As Strong As Ever”
– “Radio Reaches More Americans Than All Other Media”

In business, it is best never to trust happiness but we should at least be moderately merry with the way AM/FM radio remains the beacon of media consistency. It is the essential responsibility of all involved with radio revenue generation to communicate this story to those who either purchase or plan audio and media. Have Fun.

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


  1. Although a seemingly innocuous distinction, Chuck Darwin never said “survival of the fittest”. He said, “survival of the most adaptive”.
    As this applies to radio, we might still be on a gradual slope to extinction.
    Radio adapts to very little.

  2. Agreed. Right on. Couldn’t be more accurate. Reach is everything you say. it’s the content that’s the problem. Not enought room here to make my point. Except consider this.
    Picture the biggest and best Semi trucks ever made. The finest most professional drivers behind the wheel. They’re all in a line from Maine to California. A delivery system unmatched anywhere in the world. But industry seems to be using them less and less. They can still reach every destination in America. But the trucks are empty. The one thing their owners forgot was fill them with content………
    We have two content rich systems – plans to fill them with revenue. But radio seems only to be listening to itself. Thanks for “listening”
    Lee Alan – Celebrity Legends


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here