The Playlist Is Officially Bigger Than the Album, Study Finds

Playlists are emerging as a dominant way of streaming music online.
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Playlists are emerging as a dominant way of streaming music online.
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iTunes Playlist image by Andrew Wong, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0)

Who needs to listen to albums when you’ve got playlists?

A new study shows that playlists, not albums, now command more listening hours overall. The new study was conducted by LOOP (Lots of Online People) and provided to the Music Business Association (Music Biz). The study was based on a May 2016 survey of exactly 3,014 respondents across the United States.

The report says that playlists accounted for 31% of total listening time across all age demographics, while albums only accounted for 22%.  People still prefer to listen to single tracks, however, which made up 46% of total listening time, but this number was down 6% from last year, when it topped 52%. It’s unclear what the remaining 1% accounts for, but our guess is that it makes up only minor decimal percentages in unreported playlist, album, and track listening.

Which service did respondents use the most to listen to their favorite audio content? YouTube. 42% of respondents told LOOP that they used the site to listen to audio for five minutes or more at least once a week. Which service was next? Pandora with 31%. CDs were reported as lagging behind at just 22%.

U.S. respondents also preferred the freemium music streaming model. Why freemium and not premium? 42% said that they’re happy just using ad-supported freemium tiers instead of paying for premium ad-free services.

James Donio, President of Music Biz, said,

As the music business continues to grow and evolve, it is crucial that we understand the progression of music consumption trends so we can deliver the best experience possible. The data in this report will be invaluable to our members as they decide where, when and how to release and promote new music.”

David Lewis, Co-founder of LOOP, also released a statement, saying,

This report confirms that playlists are becoming more and more dominant in the music industry as streaming services gain traction. We hope music companies will keep this data in mind as they make decisions on which platforms, distribution methods and marketing opportunities to invest in.”

Representatives from Loop discussed the report’s top-line findings during Music Biz’s “Music Consumption: Streaming, Hi-Res Audio, and Playlisting Data Revealed” webinar today, with the full “Music Consumption: The Overall Landscape” report is now available for purchase via the members-only Music Biz Consumer Insights portal.

2 Responses

  1. Remi Swierczek


    Personal PLAYLIST on hard drive or in the cloud!


    PLAY the best for specific audience and charge for addition to the play list!

    $200B music industry by 2025 – Google the only obstacle and the biggest beneficiary of NEW DISCOVERY MOMENT MONETIZATION business model.

    WAKE UP! Please wake up UMG music business NEARD LAND.

  2. Eric

    If 42% like the freemium model for playlists, does that mean 68% were good with premium? I suspect that is up substantially from where the US consumer mindset was just 3 years ago.