How People Listen in the Car

Although these are American numbers–and numbers collected by radio-related companies (Arbitron, Edison and Scarborough)–there’s something to be gleaned here.

At the moment, 84% of drivers and passengers say that AM and FM radio is their top choice for entertainment while in a car.  That’s comforting for radio group owners.  However…


  • 24% of those 18 and older have used their iPod/MP3 player in the car.
  • If we move to just 18-24 year-olds, 55% of them have hooked up an iPod in the car.
  • About 20% of people 18-24 (6% overall) access Pandora on their phone in the car.
  • 40% of Americans want built-in wireless in the car (and this beyond connecting just your smartphone).

Dig deeper and you’ll find this:


  • The dominance of radio listening in cars has dropped by 12% since 2003.
  • In-car listening to satellite radio has increased from 1% in 2003 to 8% today.


Now look at this chart:

 Radio had better pay attention to these trends.  More detail here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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3 thoughts on “How People Listen in the Car

  • I just recently rented a car and was listening to a satellite radio station that played music similar to a very quickly flipped station here in Edmonton. And I was a little sad I didn't have the, local, terrestrial choice.

    Hopefully radio stations are thinking about new content to engage listeners and aren't hanging their futures on being the top choice in-car, since that is clearly starting to erode.

  • Jeff – was that station like The Sound? If so, I'd pay for satellite radio just for that. Great station.

    (Also, hello!)

  • It was indeed The Sound (which, for non-Edmontonians was a short-lived station aimed at people in their late 20s and early 30s featuring 90s rock and pop, some new stuff, and even local music). It was a terrible decision to flip formats after, what, a few months?, since it was actually entertaining and fresh.

    I really hope radio stations figure out why satellite radio, podcasts, and iPods are good options: they aren't the same predictable stuff I can hear in every single city on 3 different stations. Be original, take chances with your format (such as being a little more niche), and embrace your city's music.

    p.s. Hi back!


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