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The verdict is in: Music is podcasting’s biggest missed opportunity

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Photo of Rutger Rosenborg
by Rutger Rosenborg

While there are plenty of charts that provide insight into the most downloaded podcasts on each platform globally, these data give a very granular perspective on consumer preferences. Podcast platforms, in turn, have access to private user data, but again these data are largely limited to each platform’s own users. For these reasons, it is a lot easier to answer the question, “What is the most popular podcast on Spotify in the United States?”, than it is to answer the question, “What is the most popular podcast genre across all platforms in the world?” However, being able to answer both is vital for any party — creators, advertisers, podcast platforms, and other industries — trying to make strategic decisions in podcasting.

Given the podcast titles that typically top the charts, you might assume that true crime and chat shows are the most popular podcast genres in the world. However, according to MIDiA’s recent report, “Defining podcast taste: The universal appeal of music, news, and comedy”, these genres are actually some of the least popular globally. True crime podcasts may matter to English-speaking markets, where the topic comes in at number four, but there is only one podcast genre for which global audiences indicate universal preference: music. According to MIDiA’s Q1 2024 consumer survey, 51% of global podcast listeners choose music as their top podcast genre. While popular music-focused podcasts do exist, such as Song Exploder and Popcast, the music industry has yet to fully take advantage of the music podcast opportunity.

The recommendation and marketing potential for music podcasts

Given the universal appeal of music podcasts, even across age and gender, there is a huge opportunity for DSPs to improve crossover recommendations on platforms that include music and podcasts in the same place. As long as Spotify remains the number one platform (besides YouTube video — more on that in our 2024-2030 global podcast forecasts) that users turn to for podcast consumption worldwide, the potential for porous borders between music and podcast formats remains high. Spotify’s users are primarily music fans who are accessing podcasts from within a music app, so podcast listeners on Spotify are likely already in a music-forward mindset. That not only helps explain the skew toward music topic preferences in podcasting, but it also paves the way for more cross-format integration, both from a DSP recommendation perspective and also from a music marketing perspective.

Music podcast listeners will only grow as podcasting explodes in markets beyond North America and Europe. For marketers and advertisers looking for new verticals (and audiences) in the face of the diminishing returns of social media advertising, that opens up wide swaths of new markets to tap and / or new ways to engage existing markets. It also helps that music podcast fans trust advertisers more than fans of other podcast genres, according to MIDiA surveys. Music consumers are used to being advertised to by creators (that is largely how music marketing works today, after all), and have also arguably been conditioned to ad-supported music streaming. As such, music podcast listeners may be primed to be more open to advertising than other podcast audiences.

So what’s stopping music podcasts from taking over?

Music podcasts can take any number of forms — history, commentary, culture, interview-based, and artist-hosted — but infrastructural barriers prevent music from appearing in podcasts like it does in radio. If radio continues to decline and cross-format consumption increases on digital platforms, there is a higher likelihood that those barriers start to fall. However, music companies — especially record labels — must first see the brand value and audience engagement opportunities in podcasting. 

While the demand is already high in markets like Turkey, South Africa, and China, there is still room for music podcasts to grow in English-speaking markets. And if Spotify has anything to say about it, that growth will happen. However, because the US still controls the lion’s share of both global podcast and global music revenue, it will likely require infrastructural changes in America before the global podcast industry seizes upon the biggest missed opportunity in podcasting to date. 

For more insight into global podcast preferences, read our new report, “Defining podcast taste: The universal appeal of music, news, and comedy”, here.

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