Study Shows Radio Is (Still) Leading Music Discovery

Growing up, I would sit in my bedroom listening to Casey Kasem’s top 40 countdown, listening for my favorite songs and seeing what new music entered the charts. For three hours. I waited to press record and tape my favorite songs so I could listen to them over and over. The next day at school, I would ask my friends if they had heard the new song that entered the countdown.

And Now
Fast-forward twenty years, and there is an overwhelming amount of options to find new music. Streaming services, music mapping sites, apps, blogs and more are all geared towards music discovery. When it comes to my music discovery process today, I realized I still find myself doing the same thing I did as a kid. But now I’m listening to satellite radio, tagging songs in Shazam and then emailing or posting the song on Facebook. The delivery methods have changed, but my habits in finding new music have not.  It’s reassuring that approach has evolved with technology.

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same
Even with all of these music discovery possibilities, radio is the number one way people discover music. Even with more more listening options — HD, satellite, online radio — people still rely on the radio to introduce them to worthy music.

Recommendations from family and friends are the second highest form of music tips, according to Nielsen. Nowadays it’s much easier to share through playlists on Facebook or emailing iTunes links to each other. But the ultimate result is the same — spreading the word about good music.

MTV = YouTube
Even with MTV no longer playing music videos, videos are still as prevalent as ever. In fact, 7 percent of people use YouTube to discover new music according to Nielsen. YouTube is the No. 1 way teens consume music, followed by radio, iTunes and CDs. Not surprisingly, younger listeners opt for technologically advanced methods. However, traditional methods of discovery like radio and word of mouth continue to be strong drivers.

Music Mapping
While it will not change my discovery process much, I did find some cool music mapping sites for those more visually inclined — and Enter an artist, and they visually show other artists similar in genre or to whom other people are listening. You can use these as a starting point before firing up Pandora or Spotify. Enjoying new music is easier than ever, and most of the ways to discover music are free, making it a no-risk proposition. You aren’t stuck with a CD with only one song that you like.


So, if someone laughs when I tell them that I used to tape songs off the radio and tell my friends about it the next day – I’ll tell them they are doing the same thing with Shazam and then emailing, texting or tweeting.  At the end of the day, it’s still rooted in radio and word of mouth. In another twenty years will it be a different story?

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Amy Johnson
Amy Johnson

Amy’s focus is on developing integrated communication solutions for clients. Her charge is to manage the planning process across all media specialties to deliver holistic strategy and integrated campaigns to clients. She draws on her experience in all of these disciplines when developing plans that succeed at delivering on actionable consumer insights and driving results.