Radio Remains King of the Road Despite Rise of Digital Music

PHIL IZZO 9/04/14

People increasingly get their music through services like Pandora or iTunes, but that old codger — the radio — still rules the road.

More than half of Americans listen to AM/FM radio nearly every time they get in the car, while 86% listen to it at least some of the time, according to a poll conducted earlier this year by Edison Research and charted by Statista.

That compares with just 13% who say that most of the time they listen to some form of digital music, such as through an iPhone or MP3 player. More people — 15% — still listen to CDs when they’re driving. Digital-music use is higher when you look at people who say that they “ever” listen to it, but radio and CDs still outpace all forms of digital music.

Radio also remains the most common way for people to keep up with new music. Some 75% say they listen to the radio to stay up to date, while 66% get new music from friends and family. YouTube and Pandora come in third and fourth with 59% and 48%, respectively.

Younger people, though, are more likely to use digital sources. YouTube takes the top spot among 12-24 year olds, with 83% using the site to keep up with new music. Friends/Family and Pandora are tied for the second spot with 71%. Even among young people, 65% still use radio to stay up to date.

Radio’s dominance in the car probably has a lot to do with its ubiquity and cost. The average age of a vehicle in the U.S. is 11.4 years, the oldest ever. That means most cars on the road were built when digital music was in its infancy. The iPhone was only launched seven years ago, and the first Android phone came out less than six years ago. The standard radio in 2003 may have come with a CD player, but it probably didn’t have an auxiliary jack for an MP3 player.

Consumers tastes in car stereos and what they can expect as standard are surely changing. As more cars are built with stereos that are made to connect with smartphones, digital music and Internet radio should start to be more popular on the road



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