Music’s Listening Share Has Declined 8% Since 2014, Thanks to Podcasts and Other Spoken-Word Audio

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A podcasting professional. Photo Credit: Jeremy Enns

Music has lost eight percent of its stateside listenership share to spoken word audio – including podcasts and audiobooks – since 2014, according to a new study.

This and other noteworthy details about non-music audio entertainment emerged in a recently published study on listening habits. Organizers interviewed 4,054 individuals (age 13 and up) as part of an overarching listening-habits study, and 1,000 interviews (of respondents age 18 and up) were conducted among those who listen to spoken word audio at least once per month.

It bears mentioning at the outset that 48 percent of spoken word audio listening in 2021 – for U.S. residents over the age of 13, that is – occurred on AM/FM radio, the parties behind the report stated, against 22 percent for podcasts, 10 percent for audiobooks, and 20 percent for “other.” Podcasts’ figure increased from eight percent in 2014, and spoken word audio as defined in the study refers to audiobooks, podcasts, news, sports broadcasts, talk shows, and more.

The study, “The Spoken Word Audio Report,” was published by NPR and Edison Research.

During the last month, the document states, a full 75 percent of the U.S. online population (age 18 and up) has listened to spoken word audio content, with 45 percent of the 330 million-resident nation’s age 13+ population having listened to spoken word entertainment daily. Significantly, these regular listeners enjoyed an average of two hours and six minutes of spoken word content per day, splitting their listening time evenly with music, according to the report.

In terms of music’s initially mentioned listenership falloff, 80 percent of respondents’ listening was spent on songs in 2014, the study indicates, with the remaining 20 percent attributable to spoken word audio. Now, music’s share for persons age 13 and above has dipped to 72 percent, upping the opposite category to 28 percent.

Breaking down the latter figure by gender, men in 2021 spent 32 percent of their listening time enjoying spoken word content (up from 26 percent in 2014), the report continues, compared to 24 percent for women this year (an increase from 14 percent in 2014). Similarly, individuals between the ages of 13 and 34 have more than doubled their share of time listening to podcasts, audiobooks, and other non-music audio media, at 26 percent (up from 12 percent), the analysis relays.

The same music-audio listenership share turned in a comparatively modest boost for those between the ages of 35 and 54 (up from 22 percent in 2014 to 30 percent in 2021) as well as an eight percent uptick (26 percent to 28 percent) for those age 55 and older, according to the survey.

Lastly, regarding trends in non-music audio entertainment, podcasting, in which Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple, and others have invested heavily, has experienced a 278 percent hike in mobile-device listening-time share (for persons age 13 and up) since 2014.

In the approaching months and years, it’ll be interesting to see how the divide between music and spoken word listenership continues to evolve – as well as the trends’ impact on release timetables, promotional initiatives, advertising costs, and more. Needless to say, music listening’s reportedly eight percent decline since 2014 is substantial, especially because fans only have so many hours per day to spend on entertainment (audio and otherwise).

Expanding upon the point, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek indicated in February, during his company’s Stream On event, that he believes the platform can attract north of 50 million creators by 2025. With some 300,000 podcasts having arrived on Spotify during Q3 2021 – podcast engagement has nevertheless hovered around 25 percent of MAUs for multiple quarters running – as per-stream royalty rates continue to decline, competition for listeners appears poised to ramp up moving forward, and oversaturation may become a concern.

One Response

  1. Puck Fodcasts

    Great. A bunch of idiots listening to other idiots blather endlessly about idiocy (at least if its politics, it is idiocy, and that’s smarter than many other topics. What a great culture.