Comparing Radio Airplay To Streaming

1Music streaming has certainly earned itself something of a negative reputation when it comes to providing monetary compensation for artists and songwriters, but terrestrial radio may not be all that much better, as some scrutiny of the numbers reveals.


Guest Post by Bobby Owsinski on Music 3.0

Many people have a difficult time getting their heads around the fact that a million streams or views just isn't that much in our new Music 4.0 age. A minor hit starts at around 50 million and a major hit is in the hundreds of millions.

1 million isn't that much when it comes to radio either, so take [a look] at traditional terrestrial radio for a second and see how it stacks up to streaming.

2There are 15,730,000 people in New York City, and Artibitron estimates that a station like Z100 (currently the #1 station in the market) reaches at least 0.01% at any given moment (it's probably 5 times that actually). That's 157,000.

If the station plays a song 5 times a day (not uncommon for a song in rotation), that's 157,000 x 5 = 785,000 listens a day.

If the station plays the song for 2 weeks, that's 785,000 x 14 days = 10.99 million listens from just this one station.

There's probably at least one other station in the market playing the song, so that's 10.99 million x 2 = 21.98 million listens.

If the song is playing in New York, it's probably playing in the top 25 markets as well, which means 21.98 million x 25 = 549.5 million listens.

That's the equivalent of almost 550 million streams, but unlike streams, the artist didn't get paid for a single one of the radio listens (the songwriters got paid though).

Keep in mind that the number of plays above aren't even for a big hit (double the number of plays per day at least) and don't include the ratings for the number 1 station (at least by a factor of 5 in New York City).

You can see why our perceptions of a million are a bit skewed. When it comes to sales, yes, a million is a big deal, but it's not the same scale when judging plays, streams or views.

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  1. Math seems a bit flawed since the 25th market may have significantly fewer people than New York City.

  2. “If the song is playing in New York, it’s probably playing in the top 25 markets as well, which means 21.98 million x 25 = 549.5 million listens.”
    You literally can’t do this.

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