For Americans, Radio Is No Longer the Dominant Music Discovery Medium

Americans music discovery report
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Americans music discovery report
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Photo Credit: Pankaj Patel

A new report suggests Americans don’t turn to traditional radio as their new music discovery method anymore.

That brings into question whether the ‘promotional value’ touted by broadcast corporations as a reason not to pay artists royalties is even valid. That may have been the case fifty years ago when radio was king, but as The Buggles put it, “video killed the radio star.” Let’s take a look.

In 2021, roughly two-thirds of Americans now use digital sources like streaming services as their primary means of finding new artists and music to stream. Only 1-in-5 Americans (21%) say they use traditional AM/FM radio stations to discover new artists they like. That number is as high as it is thanks to older generations, too. Only 7% of those 18-29 say they use traditional radio to discover new music.

Popular music in 2021 is much more likely to go viral via Spotify or TikTok, rather than traditional radio. That viral popularity helps drive traditional radio plays, not the other way around. It’s an important distinction to make when artists aren’t being compensated for their radio plays.

The report comes from the musicFirst Coalition, which is seeking to get artists paid for their radio plays. Broadcasters like iHeartRadio and Cumulus Media refuse to pay artists based on the myth of promotional value. The group is seeking to get the American Music Fairness Act (AMFA) passed through Congress.

“If passed, the AMFA would require broadcasters to fairly compensate artists when they play their songs on their radio stations, while protecting truly local radio stations by exempting small and non-commercial broadcasters,” the musicFirst Coalition’s statement reads.

The coalition found that only 30% of Americans surveyed said they knew artists weren’t paid for AM/FM radio plays.

Meanwhile, over 54% of Americans report they know services like Spotify and Apple Music do pay artist royalties. An overwhelming 40-point margin (60%-16%) of Americans believe artists should be able to withhold their music from radio stations if they’re not paid for those plays.

Since traditional radio no longer drives music discovery for so many Americans – isn’t it time artists were paid for their music?

Most Americans agree, with roughly 65% of those surveyed saying they support a boycott of advertising on traditional stations that continue to refuse to pay royalties to artists. 54% of Americans say they support the passing of the AMFA to require radio stations to compensate artists when their music is played.

5 Responses

  1. Eilo

    Radio should pay at minimum 50% of their advertising tax revenues.

  2. Tom Hendricks

    Radio is a marketing ploy. They play what they want to promote, not what we want to hear. Changing radio back is part of the music revolution against the Big Three Labels

  3. Bill Hanely

    This article is deeply flawed. Lumping SiriusXM into streaming services, when they are pre-programmed, skews the reality that radio (including streamed) is the number one source for discovery. Get it right, people.

  4. Dave Mason

    I”m puzzled. Why the concern about radio-if it’s “over”?? My uncle Fuzzy always told me to fish where the fish are. Oh- and Sirius/XM– isn’t that “radio”? Would seem to me that the best source for reveue is the music buying public who has the wherewithall to support artists/writers/labels/whoever. Radio (and the other services) are pretty good at “exposing” this music (whether it be new or older) to the people with the coins to subscribe/download this music. Jeez. Isn’t that where the fish are ?