Streaming Surpasses Radio as the Top Way to Listen to Music

Fred Backus
·2 min read

As recently as 2017, radio was the most popular method for listening to music, but now just 31% of Americans usually listen to music through the radio – either over the airwaves or via satellite. Instead, the most common way to listen to music today is through a format that didn't exist just a few years ago: online streaming services. 41% of Americans now primarily listen to music this way, more than any other format.

Just 15% usually listen to music through downloaded audio files such as mp3s, and just 7% of Americans now primarily listen to music through physical media such as compact discs, cassettes, or vinyl records.

Given the rapid changes that have taken place in the music industry in recent years, it's perhaps not surprising that there are significant differences by age in how Americans listen to music. More than half of all adults under 44 usually listen to their music through a streaming service, and it is the top choice of Americans 45 to 54 as well. Americans 55 and older, on the other hand, usually listen to music through the radio, and it is the method most seniors 65 and older use. In contrast, just 10% of adults 65 and older primarily listen to music through a streaming service.

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This poll was conducted by telephone February 9-14, 2021 among a random sample of 1,004 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Glen Mills, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard landline and cell phones.

The poll employed a random digit dial methodology. For the landline sample, a respondent was randomly selected from all adults in the household. For the cell sample, interviews were conducted with the person who answered the phone.

Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish using live interviewers. The data have been weighted to reflect U.S. Census figures on demographic variables. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus four percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher and is available by request. The margin of error includes the effects of standard weighting procedures which enlarge sampling error slightly. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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