The Power of Audio: Chapter 1

The Moment: Audio is...

Champagne popping. A baby’s heartbeat. That time you heard Dark Side of the Moon and blew your freaking mind.

Our lives are shaped by what we hear—and each one of us has a unique soundtrack. Ever since streaming gave us instant, on-demand access to all the world’s music and podcasts, it’s become easier than ever to personalize that soundtrack.

What is it about audio that has the whole world pressing play? What does it mean for marketers? And where will trends like voice activation, connected devices and personalization take audio next?

To find out, we asked industry experts who think about audio all day long—from neurologists and artists, to marketers and content creators—and spent time with consumers from all walks of life. Over the coming weeks, we’ll share the insights we learned. Sign up to stay tuned.

Audio is everywhere.

In your pocket, on the move.

Have you seen Stranger Things? Checked out your Discover Weekly playlist? If you said yes, you’re far from alone. Nearly half the online population now streams entertainment content weekly, whether it’s TV shows, movies or music.1

At this point, few would dispute that streaming is mainstream. But there’s an interesting detail in the data: 60% of music streamers are listening on mobile, compared to 40% of TV and movie streamers.2 Why is the growth of mobile and audio so closely linked? Unlike eye time, ear time is limitless. Fully 79% of audio consumption takes place while people are engaged in activities where visual media cannot reach them.3

60% of music streamers are listening on mobile, compared to 40% of video streamers.

The result? Music streaming is more prevalent than TV or movie streaming in almost every moment of the day—whether it’s commuting, where music is 5 times more likely to be streamed than TV or movie content, working out (3.5 times more likely) or focusing (3 times more likely).4

“It can be a hectic place here in New York, so when I’m on the subway I can set the tone for myself with music,” says Greg, a 25-year-old brand strategist. “I can still see my surroundings, but music gives it a calmer setting than the normal hustle and bustle of the city.”

“Audio can go wherever you are going,” says Karen Pearson, CEO of audio production company Folded Wing. “It is part of your life. You don’t have to stop and watch it.”

What’s next for brands?

Streaming opens up an entirely new set of addressable moments for marketers. The music streaming ad revenue opportunity is worth $1.5 billion today, and it’s expected to reach at least $7 billion by 2030.5 Audio’s unique ability to flex to consumers’ need states makes it an especially powerful marketing tool. The mobile moments “at work” and “working out” alone have opened up $220M in ad revenue opportunity.6 Leverage audio to reach your audience when they’re most engaged, with messaging that matches their moment.

TIAGO, 33 - Brazil : English Teacher, Fitness Enthusiast, Self-Proclaimed “Geek”

"At the gym, I like to listen to hard rock, because it makes you pumped."

TIAGO, 33 - Brazil

Audio is intimate.

Let's get personal.

That feeling when you slip on a pair of headphones for a long flight? That’s the one. While visual media constantly competes for our attention, audio uniquely acts as a companion to everyday moments and enhances them.

Our deep connection to audio starts in the womb, where hearing is developed at six months in utero. Two key developments are deepening this already-intimate relationship. First, headphones have moved way past the trend phase to dominate the way we listen throughout the day—especially if you’re young. People in Generation Z (born between 1992 and 2000) are 54% more likely to stream on their headphones than the general population.7 Second, connected devices are eliminating the friction in our most personal listening environments, from the home to the car. By 2020, smart speakers are expected to reach 21 million households.8 By 2021, about 380 million cars on the road will be connected to the internet.9 Soon enough, on-demand, personalized audio will be available in every living room, and on every road trip.

As voice activation technology gets smarter, the way people interact with these connected devices and cue up content will feel increasingly like a conversation, with audio driving the exchange. “Accessing the internet with your voice…is just so simple,” says Joy Howard, CMO of Sonos. “And [it’s] so much less taxing than having to do it with your eyes and your fingers. I think voice will become the way that we access the internet in our homes increasingly.” Generation Z is 54% more likely to stream on their headphones than the general population.

Generation Z is 54% more likely to stream on their headphones than the general population.

Nowhere is audio’s intimacy more evident than in podcasts, where a great host or storyteller can feel like an old friend. Lea Thau, host and producer of the podcast Strangers (Radiotopia and KCRW) and creator of The Moth Radio Hour and Podcast, says podcasts have already made audio more intimate than ever. “People actually listen…you are talking right inside someone’s head,” she explains, adding that it’s a different experience from radio, where people might tune in from the car just to listen to “whatever is on.”

What’s next for brands?

What’s good for consumers is good for marketers. The growth of headphones and connected devices will provide more opportunities to engage with music and spoken-word content, and in turn give marketers more ways to gain eartime. The possibilities to build intimate, 1:1 connections with consumers are endless, from native content to dynamic creative—all with 100% share of voice.

YUMI, 39 - Japan: Technologist, Punk Rock and Trance Lover, At-Home Cook

"Music separates me from reality and I can focus."

YUMI, 39 - Japan

Audio is evocative.

Good or bad, happy or sad.

Last Valentine’s Day, one dedicated Spotify listener in Los Angeles listened to the “Forever Alone” playlist for four hours. Another played Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” 42 times. We’ll never know if they listened to feel better or worse. But we do know they listened to feel.

Studies show that people use music to regulate their moods and emotions more than for any other purpose. Thanks to streaming, it’s easier than ever to do this, whether you’re curating your own breakup anthems or listening to popular playlists like Mood Booster and Life Sucks (1.7 million and 486,000 followers, respectively).10

People use music to regulate their moods and emotions. Spotify's Mood Booster playlist has 1.7 million followers.

Because music stirs up such strong emotions, it also has the power to evoke vivid memories. When people flash back to their favorite memories just from hearing a simple chorus, it’s not magic—it’s science. “There is a really strong connection between music and experiences,” says cognitive neuroscientist Amy Belfi. “Music can take us back into a specific moment and cause us to feel all the emotions we were feeling then.”

TBTs aside, this is quite different from the way we interact with social media, which acts as a filter for us to curate our best selves. Streaming audio, on the other hand, functions as a mirror. It’s the closest we get to a true reflection who we are, what we’re doing and how we’re feeling.

What’s next for brands?

Streaming audio will reveal profound insights about consumers. The ability to understand how people are feeling—not just what they’re doing—is a remarkable opportunity. Instead of relying on demographics and device IDs to approximate a target audience, marketers will soon have the possibility to achieve truly perceptive advertising—that is, connecting with consumers on a deeper level by understanding their state of mind.

ADELE, 31 - United Kingdom: Mother of Two, Design and Decor Aficionado, Meditation Enthusiast

"As soon as I can hear that music, I can see my sister and Dad..."

ADELE, 31 - United Kingdom

Sources for Chapter 1:

1, 2, 4, 6, 7 Spotify and GroupM, Streaming State of Mind (2016), surveyed population includes: US, DE, UK, FR, CA, AU, SE
3 IAB, A Digital Audio Buyer’s Guide (2015)
5 Goldman Sachs Group, Music in the Air (2016)
8 The Wall Street Journal, What’s Next for Tech and Media in 2017 (2016)
9 Business Insider, The Connected Car Report (2016)
10 Spotify playlist data

About The Power of Audio:

The Power of Audio explores the role of audio in consumers’ lives and its impact for brands and advertisers. Fourteen experts were interviewed and 46 consumers were tasked with creating audio diaries, (four were interviewed in depth in the US, UK, Brasil, & Japan) between September and November 2016. Custom panel-based research measuring the effectiveness of audio advertising was conducted in partnership with Nielsen Content Solutions, December 2016 through January 2017.

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