Video Killed the Radio Star. Will Broadband Kill Radio?For three decades, MTV was the most influential medium in music. But for the last decade, people who want to see and hear their favorite artists haven’t turned on the TV: they’ve gone online. Is it a coincidence that MTV stopped playing music videos around the same time people realized they could watch any video they wanted to online? It may have lost its place as music’s number-one medium, but over-the-air radio survived the challenges presented by MTV and satellite radio. But will radio be able to survive broadband music streaming? A new report from market research company Parks Associates indicates that 66 percent of U.S households with high-speed Internet connections use at least one streaming audio service. The same research shows 40 percent of broadband households use a free streaming audio service, but 26 percent subscribe to a paid service. According to the report, these are the most popular paid streaming audio services, and the percentage of broadband households that subscribe to them: • Amazon Prime Music, 10 percent • Pandora One, 6 percent • Spotify Premium, 4 percent • SiriusXM Streaming, 4 percent • iTunes Match, 2 percent • Google Play, 2 percent One big caveat worth mentioning, though, is the survey of 10,000 households took place before Apple Music’s launch on June 30. Where does this rank streaming audio overall? The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) says that in the first half of 2015, streaming audio accounted for a third of all recorded music revenue in the U.S., generating $1.03 billion for the recording industry. That makes streaming audio a significant player in how people listen to music. But what’s more significant is the growth of this medium: it’s up 23.2 percent since the same time last year. That’s a huge amount of growth in a short amount of time, and Parks Associates believes total revenue generated by free and paid music streaming services will hit $17 billion by 2020. Does radio have a cord-cutting problem? Over-the-air radio is free, and even if it wasn’t, there isn’t a cord to cut. But it owes its existence to ad revenue — and without an audience, there will be no advertisers. Though people don’t listen to radio at home or at work the way they used to, many people still listen to their radio while driving. As integration between vehicles and smart devices improves, is radio’s last safe haven gone? Many cars are now equipped with Bluetooth connections, and a growing number of cars are available with their own Wi-Fi plan. Rumors of an Apple car aren’t going away. What role will be left for radio when people can hear any song they want, anytime they want, anywhere they want? People asked the same question about TV when VCRs came along, and thanks to Netflix, it’s a relevant question again. Fortunately for TV, Netflix isn’t quite there yet — and fortunately for radio, streaming music isn’t, either. Disputes over royalties sometimes mean that certain artists don’t authorize their music on certain services. Such disputes even caused Jay Z to launch his own streaming music service, Tidal. At one point, Tidal had some of the biggest names in music: Madonna, Kanye West, Rihanna, and of course Jay Z, but now the service looks doomed to failure. No one will want to pay one service to hear some artists and another service to hear different artists. If these two factions can’t settle their differences, it works in radio’s favor. Is streaming audio right for you? The medium may not have reached the “any song, anytime, any place” standard yet, but the fact that it’s growing more than 20 percent per year shows that people enjoy it. And although it doesn’t eat up a ton of bandwidth, if you have several people in your household listening to different audio or video streams at the same time, you could run out. To make sure you don’t, check out all the high-speed, high-bandwidth plans available in your area by entering your ZIP code below. [zipfinder]
Will Smith is a copywriter living in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His favorite word is “petrichor,” and aside from wordplay, he loves reading history, watching Dodger baseball, and racing with the Sports Car Club of America.