Arbitron: 93 Percent of Americans Still Listen to Broadcast Radio…

Once upon a time, the conventional thinking was that traditional, broadcast radio would evaporate from our lives. That the iPod, smartphone, Spotify, and satellite radio would simply destroy this format. But that decline has been far less precipitous and far more complicated than anyone could have imagined.

And right now, in 2011-turning-2012, there are still a huge number of people listening to traditional radio.  According to survey stats just shared by Arbitron, a monstrous 241.3 million Americans – or 93 percent of adults over the age of 12 – listen to broadcast radio at least once a week.  And, that is happening in-dash, online, and through apps like iHeartRadio.

Additionally, the figure is up 1.4 million over December of 2010, and even the difficult 12-17 demographic is holding steady.  Beyond that, the 18-24 sector is actually showing some growth.  “Radio now reaches 66.3 million weekly listeners in this age range, that’s 93.4 percent of this demographic,” the ‘Radar National Radio Listening Report’ for December states.

But, 93%?  It does seem a bit high, and figures coming from inside the traditional radio industry are best viewed with a dose of skepticism.  That said, the impact of regular radio rotation for artists remains massive, and one of the main reasons why major labels have such a huge promotional advantage.  Call radio crusty and out-of-touch, but this is one of the few formats that still reaches tonnage while severely restricting content.

Which leads to a tiny, controlled group of winners, and one of the most restrictive gatekeepers in the music industry.  While doing some research last year, we stumbled upon some very startling statistics: the number of artists getting more than 100 spins on any given week was just over 1,300, and roughly 70 percent of all spins came from just 1,000 songs.

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Meanwhile, mega-conglomerates like Clear Channel Radio are trying to eat Pandora’s lunch with iHeartRadio, and part of the attack involves community.  Because despite its limited playlists, annoying commercials, and deejay interruptions, broadcast radio still attracts a very sizable crowd.  There’s someone else out there.

/paul. Written while listening to Yousef.