Are podcasts stealing streams from music?

Music listening in the US has fallen since the rise in popularity of podcasts and spoken word streaming.

Since 2014 music listening has dropped by 8% in the US. That small but notable decrease is because of missing listeners who have now turned to spoken word audio, like podcasts and audiobooks, instead.

The Spoken Word Audio Report by NPR and Edison Research looked at the listening habits of over 4,000 people above the age of 13. Back in 2014, 80% of listening time was dedicated to music and the rest spoken audio – that’s now 72%.

Findings showed that three-quarters of online listeners in the US listened to spoken word audio in the past month. And daily listeners of spoken word content split their listening time equally between music.

Image Credit: National Public Media

Not all spoken audio in the US is streamed, though – 22% comes from podcasts, 10% audiobooks, 48% is on the radio, and the rest is “other.” In 2014, 79% of spoken word audio was heard on the radio.


Podcasts arrived in the early 2000s, and had just begun to gain proper traction in 2014. Now, Spotify mentions podcasts in the same breath as it does music.

At the recent MIT Sloan CFO Summit conference Spotify CFO Paul Vogel waxed lyrical on the endless potential for expansion in podcasting, saying: “What we want to become also is the best platform for creators to create and distribute their art.”

“Whether that’s music, whether that’s podcasting, whether that’s anything else, if you come to Spotify and we make it easier for you, we help you monetize, and we help you get discovered.”

Most formally music streaming-only platforms now invest heavily in spoken word audio. Clubhouse’s emergence and the subsequent goldrush for companies to launch live audio rivals shows the eagerness of audio companies to look beyond music for further expansion.

Some of the increase may have been driven by the pandemic; people staying at home with more time on their hands to dedicate to an hour-long podcast.

The numbers aren’t scary; but as music-podcast divide continues to morph with further investment in audio, the music world might have to up its game to keep up.

I write about music for RouteNote, sharing fun stuff, news, and tips and tricks for musicians and producers. Also a saxophonist and hater of marmalade.

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