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Finding the Surge in Summer Radio Listening

2 minute read | July 2017

Americans are deep into the summer season now, and as the days slowly begin to draw shorter, there’s a lot to examine in Nielsen’s June portable people meter (PPM) insights. Historical precedent has shown that radio listening habits shift during the warmest months of the year—and every year one format grows more during the summer than others.

The format of the summer is based on looking at major music formats across the first five months of the year (January through May) and comparing that average to the results of the June, July and August surveys.

In May, Classic Rock listener share surged, and comparing the most recent June results to the rest of 2017, the format has a substantial early lead in terms of summertime increase.

However, the summer is far from over, with two survey months to go. And as last year proved, a late closer can upset the race: Classic Rock closed the summer of 2016 strongly, outpacing Classic Hits which previously had been the format of the summer for two straight years.

In June, Urban Contemporary (a format also referred to as hip-hop) set new records for share of audience across all three of the demographics we profile. And this builds on the format’s overall performance this year, which is its best year ever in PPM measurement. 

Despite this strong performance, Urban Contemporary isn’t necessarily a lock to be “format of the summer,” and it all comes down to the math. Summertime surge is analyzed based on how much a format jumps in the summer months, and Urban Contemporary has instead been rising steadily and consistently for some time now.

Millennials have played a key role in driving this sustained growth in Urban Contemporary listening. Among listeners aged 18-34, Urban Contemporary first cracked the 5%-share threshold (hitting a 5.0% average quarter hour [AQH] audience share) in November 2012. And if you look back to the summer of 2011, the format had a 4.7% share. This year, it is peaking at a 7.1% share and is now the third most-listened to radio format among Millennials behind Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (11.7%) and Country (8.7%).

Data used in this article is inclusive of multicultural audiences. Hispanic consumer audiences are composed of both English and Spanish-speaking representative populations.

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