US audio streaming grows 32% in 2013

Meeker’s presentation featuring data from Nielsen and Billboard shows that legal online streaming (on services such as Pandora and Spotify) is booming in the US, and appears to be eating into both digital and physical music purchases.

During 2013, 118b music units were streamed in the US – up 32% year-over-year. Although it is a little unfair to compare ‘track streams’ to ownership of purchases, we can see that digital purchases topped out at 1.3b (down -6%) and physical purchases hit 172m (down -13%).

But to understand why and how things are really changing, recent data published by Edison Research dives a little deeper into US online audio habits.

Growth of mobile streaming

According to their report, The Infinite Dial 2014, mobile is unsurprisingly having a big impact on streaming music and listening to online radio.

66% of weekly US listeners use mobile devices to access these services and an additional 34% say they listen via tablets. In comparison, 67% are listening on more traditional technology, i.e. desktops and/or laptops.

Growing familiarity with platforms

Awareness of a range of streaming services is also at an all-time high in the US in 2014. 70% of the American public are aware of Pandora and 48% are familiar with Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio.

ITunes Radio, which was launched just last year, is known by 47% of the US population according to Edison Research.

The platform is particularly well geared toward mobile use, having been launched in conjunction with iOS 7 – and its immediate position as a key player in the US streaming landscape is certainly impressive.

Streams replacing ownership?

The big story with Meeker’s graph is the seemingly negative effect streaming can be seen to have on digital and physical sales of tracks, but Edison Research’s analysis of iTunes Radio’s users is not so black and white.

41% of iTunes Radio listeners say the time they spend listening to the service is ‘new time’ as opposed to eating into other ways they listened to music beforehand. Only 11% of iTunes Radio fans say the service is taking up time they had once dedicated to their CD/MP3 collections.

It’s certainly a jump to assume US iTunes Radio listeners have the same habits as fans of Pandora, Spotify etc. in terms of replacing traditional music sources in favour of newer streaming services. 

That said, it’s no doubt of significance that with well-known music brands entering the streaming market, and perhaps introducing casual listeners to an increasingly convenient way to listen, we might see some citizens listen to more music overall – and maybe those who are listening to less (as in Meeker’s graph) are doing so because of the abundance of non-music media which is available to them.

For more statistics and trends from the global digital landscape, see our Internet Statistics Compendium.