Music Discovery? FM Radio’s ‘Losing’ Value Proposition


Are you among the group of individuals that snort when hearing that often-repeated statistic that FM radio is the No. 1 source of music discovery?

Well, then here’s some great firepower to bolster your beliefs — probably more accurate than the industry wants to admit. It comes courtesy of a just-released study from NuVoodoo Media Services.

RBR+TVBR OBSERVATION: Gee … are you really that surprised? For those who exclaim, “Few radio stations truly offer new music discovery,” we call BS on that: There’s plenty of new music on FM. It’s yet another radio industry perception problem — this time with the everyday consumer.

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The media marketing, programming and content intelligence provider headed by President/CEO Carolyn Gilbert on Monday (3/11) released key data from its latest Ratings Prospects Study.

Some 3,084 respondents between the ages of 14 and 54 were selected, across all PPM markets. Data was collected in January 2019.

From this research NuVoodoo finds that FM Radio “is losing ground as the biggest source of music discovery among most listeners.”

The majority of respondents discover music through YouTube, with Spotify and Pandora following YouTube’s lead.

“When asked, Which of these sources would you expect to be good at helping you discover music you do not know, but fits your taste?, the majority answered YouTube,” reveals EVP/Research Leigh Jacobs. “Among likely ratings respondents and those who listen to FM at least two hours a day, FM is no better than tied with YouTube as a music discovery source.”

Still, FM radio — among those who spent at least two hours per week with the medium — far outranks Pandora, Spotify and perhaps the one choice one may think would rank higher: SiriusXM Satellite Radio.

While SiriusXM’s reported share of all U.S. listening is 10%, subscription cost and which channels those with SiriusXM prefer could play roles in “music discovery.”

NuVoodoo admits that its music discovery stats are not “feel-good” for radio industry C-Suiters. That said, EVP/Marketing Mike O’Connor notes, “Those with a glass-half-full attitude will realize that forming a local community of YouTube channel subscribers can help boost a station’s image as curator among local influencers. And, when it comes time for paid digital marketing, every YouTube interaction can be bundled as seed data for retargeting and lookalike audiences. These so-called ‘first party’ data relationships give stations a huge advantage over their competitors.”

Gilbert adds, “Though these findings are dismaying, especially given radio’s long-held dominance over all other media as the place to discover new releases or artists, smart radio marketers will see a distinct opportunity to leverage YouTube’s popularity as a source for music discovery to strengthen their connections with listeners and extend their station brands in a powerful way.”

The NuVoodoo Ratings Prospects Study is conducted twice a year to learn more about those who are most likely to say “yes” to the opportunity to wear a Nielsen PPM or fill out a diary in order to provide NuVoodoo clients with competitive insights and advantages that they can exploit to capture higher ratings.

This is the 13th Ratings Prospects Study that NuVoodoo has completed since 2011. The company shares the top-level findings of its studies with its radio broadcasting clients to develop winning next-generation marketing and programming strategies for stations of all formats in PPM markets.

RBR+TVBR OBSERVATION: Gee … are you really that surprised by the findings in this NuVoodoo survey of people most likely to say “yes” to the opportunity to wear a pager-like device and collect cash for sharing with Nielsen what media they consume? 

“Few radio stations truly offer new music discovery.” “Format diversity and innovation is as dead as HD Radio.” Right? Not at all, but that’s the perception.

Entercom head David Field has repeatedly stated that radio has a perception problem. But, he believes this lies among those on Madison Avenue. He’s half right. Radio has a perception problem among all of those individuals who don’t consume it. And, we’re willing to believe it is a lot larger than what Nielsen, Entercom, Beasley, and every member of the Radio Cheerleading Bureau love to spout.

What is radio “listening” anyway — a couple of hours a week? Hell, my 17-year-old nephew accomplishes that simply by driving around town after school or on a weekend. But, is that “listening”? Or, is that a convenient stat showing that radio is actually consumed by a generation that really want something more than Uncle Adam’s medium in their vehicle — like Spotify? We remind our readers that Uncle Adam’s better half, when he first met her, exclusively consumed Sirius XM while in the car and used her Smart Speaker in the home to access Pandora. One year later, she still doesn’t understand how to access HD Radio, or what it really is, but there’s definitely a “Hey Alexa … play K-I-N-K or All Classical Portland” heard often in the living room. 

Our new music is almost exclusively thanks to innovative radio stations including Alpha Media’s KINK-FM in Portland, Ore., or NPR member station KCRW-FM in Santa Monica, Calif. We also tune to a lot of international radio stations. 

We live in Delray Beach, Fla. That’s the problem for radio. Our local radio stations don’t appeal to us. And, while there certainly may be new music out there, how are stations in West Palm Beach and Miami delivering it — over and over again, based on what’s on the Top 40 chart? Nope. Hubbard’s recently acquired WRMF does a good job of exposing the region to new music, as does Entercom’s WSFS “104.3 The Shark” — although the high level of unfamiliar music is an issue for another column.

So, why isn’t radio sharing this? Because it thinks it doesn’t have to, and that it is winning.

Winning teams brag. Radio better start bragging about its abilities before it truly starts losing not only the perception battle, but the war for advertising dollars and media budgets.