Digital Audio: Who’s Top Dog?

Digital streaming audio has become a staple in our daily lives, with more and more people opting to listen to music, podcasts, and other audio content online. In this article, we will delve into the current state of digital streaming audio, exploring the audience, how often they listen, and what the future holds for this industry.

Who is Streaming Audio?

Streaming audio appeals to a diverse age range of listeners. However, research suggests that the majority of new streaming audio adopters are among younger generations. According to Insider Intelligence, of those aged 16- to 24-year-olds, 91.1% listened to digital audio in 2022, representing a large jump from 2021 when this percentage was only 84.1%. These age groups have grown up in the digital age and are more likely to have embraced technology and the convenience of streaming audio.

Among Millennials and Gen Xers, adoption has slowed. Mostly due to a saturated market. In 2022, 74% of US internet users, or 222.7 million people, listened to digital audio. That is two-thirds of the US population, not leaving much room for significant, new growth. By 2026, the total share of the US population listening to digital audio will rise by just 1.6%.

That being said, the time spent is increasing quickly among existing listeners. 

  • In 2022, US internet users spent an average of 1 hour and 56 minutes per day streaming music, up 12 minutes from 2021. 
  • US listeners also listened on average to 58 minutes of podcasts in 2022. 
  • Combined, that’s a whopping 2 hours, and 54 minutes, nearly even with the average amount of time spent watching broadcast TV daily!      
  • Older Gen Xers have the largest year-over-year leap in digital audio adoption among 45-54-year-olds. Penetration increased by 12 points, to 72.4% in 2022.

Major Players

This industry is dominated by a small handful of companies, but not all of them treat digital audio as their core business. Five entities control all subscriber activity and digital listening in the US: Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube, Amazon Music, and Pandora.  


Although its period of significant growth has cooled off, Spotify has positioned itself as a key piece of the US digital audio ecosystem. Subscribers, exclusive podcasts, and advertising success are all to thank for Spotify growing into one of the most widely used digital products in the US. In 2023, more than 30% of US internet users will listen to Spotify monthly. Of note, Spotify’s ad-supported listener base is quickly growing. From 2017 to 2022 the premium user base has grown faster than its ad-supported base – but that narrative has flipped as of 2022. 


Streaming music on YouTube accounts for the second-largest share of time spent listening to audio content among US adults (13%). That figure is nearly twice as big as any of its would-be competitors; Spotify, for example, accounts for 7%. YouTube has reached a maturity cap as far as the ad-supported initiatives go. Their focus, however, has been on corporate telecom partnerships (SoftBank, LG U+, and Vodafone) and YouTube Premium subscriptions (predicted 40.5 million subscribers in the US in 2023, up 4.8 million YoY).


Sadly, not much to mention here. Pandora was one of the first movers in the digital audio streaming space. But 10 years after being used by nearly half of all digital audio listeners in the US, it is on its way to being irrelevant. 

Apple Music:

In 2018, Apple Music’s market share reached its peak when it claimed 38.4% of paid digital audio subscribers. In 2023, it will claim 28.4%, a share that will slide to 27.4% by 2026. This fading is mostly due to the fact that they have never offered an ad-supported tier to their listeners.

Amazon Music:

Amazon Music more than doubled the size of its audience between 2016 (16.9 million) and 2019 (38.7 million). A lot of this is due to the release of their smart speaker devices. Since the pandemic, growth has cooled significantly. The future outlook seems  hazy. One promising opportunity — the announcement of their ad-free Amazon Music library expansion, available to Prime members.

Future Disruptors: 

Sirius XM has amassed an impressive 34 million subscribers as of 2022. Most of these numbers, however, are individuals listening to music via satellite while traveling in their vehicles only. 

TikTok is a very interesting player to watch out for. With its one-of-a-kind algorithm that doesn’t discriminate on who sees posts solely based on your number of followers, but rather, the popularity of your video, musicians have been using it to go viral. The problem is the low royalties that TikTok is paying these musicians. If they can strike a deal, this may be a viable option for social users to turn to discover new tunes. 

Digital streaming audio is a rapidly growing industry, with more and more people turning to online platforms to access their favorite music and audio content. The audience for streaming audio is diverse, with people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds using these services. 

You need a partner who listens and Brkthru will help your company meet and understand your audience where they are online. At Brkthru, we’re all ears. So reach out and let’s start a conversation.

Get In Touch