NEWS & INSIGHTS

In-car audio streaming is accelerating — here’s why

Music and cars go hand-in-hand. From Smokey Robinson’s “Cruisin’” to Rick Ross’ “Aston Martin Music,” there’s no shortage of songs capturing the vivid imagery of driving with the perfect soundtrack playing in the background.

Now, the rise of connected technology and digital streaming has completely changed people’s relationship with audio behind the wheel. Instead of passing around CDs or waiting for a favorite song to come on the radio, people turn to smart devices and streaming audio to soundtrack their rides. And despite a dip in in-car streaming during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-car streaming is back on the rise.

Let’s take a look at what’s driving this shift (sorry, we had to).

Goodbye, tape decks — hello, smart dashboards

From 2010 to 2019, the number of people who have listened to online audio in a car through a cell phone grew 8X to 41%.1 Last year, about one in five (19%) drivers owned an in-dash information and entertainment system — over 3X the number from the beginning of the decade.2

In the coming years, you can expect even more connected cars sharing the road. By 2023, an estimate of 70% of all vehicles shipped worldwide will be connected.3 And now with more car-less people thinking about purchasing cars in a post-pandemic world, this trend shows no sign of slowing down.4

  • 70%

    of all vehicles will be connected by 2023.

    By 2023, an estimate of 70% of all vehicles shipped worldwide will be connected.

Streaming audio takes the front seat

With the rise of smartphones and connected dashboards, we’ve seen higher and higher in-car streaming rates on Spotify over the last few years. But what happens when a global pandemic shuts down cities, forcing people indoors?

It’s no surprise that we saw time spent listening in-car decline in the early months of the pandemic, while connected device listening at home increased.5 But once cities started reopening, in-car streaming accelerated.

  • +40%

    time spent streaming Spotify in cars.

    Since April, time spent listening has increased by more than 40%.

Since April, time spent listening has increased by more than 40%.6 And despite the early quarantine dip, people are spending more time streaming in their cars than ever. Since June 2019, total monthly time spent listening to Spotify in cars has grown multiple times over.7

One reason for this jump? Podcasts.

Podcasts steer in-car listening

Podcasts have grown from a niche medium to a staple for drivers all over. This massive growth makes sense when you look at why people listen to podcasts. Without the distraction of screens, time behind the wheel is the perfect moment to catch up on the news, or hit play on the next Your Daily Podcast pick. It’s no surprise that one in four Spotify podcast listeners say they do most of their listening in a car.8

  • 25%

    of Spotify podcast listeners say they do most of their listening in a car.

    One in four Spotify podcast listeners say they do most of their listening in a car.

That being said, music is still as popular as ever for drivers and backseat DJs. But now, listeners have even more ways to personalize their driving soundtrack with streaming audio. Especially during one of Spotify’s fastest growing moments right now: road trips.

Podcasts and music fuel road trips (especially right now)

Summer vacation this year looked a little different. But even with lower overall travel between July and August, hundreds of millions of Americans took to the safest option this summer: their cars.9 And snacks weren’t the only thing on their list of road-trip essentials.

  • 121%

    more time spent listening to Spotify’s Road Trip Moment

    Since May, listeners spend 121% more time spent streaming Spotify’s Road Trip Moment in-car.

Since May, Spotify Free listeners have increased time spent listening to Spotify’s Road Trip Moment in-car by 121%.10 Spotify has thousands of playlists for drivers, like “70s Road Trip,” “Hip Hop Drive,” and “Happy Drive.”11 And with the launch of “Your Daily Drive,” drivers now have a personalized playlist that blends the best of music and news in one place for their perfect trip.

We’ve also seen a 35% increase in the number of road trip playlists created by Free listeners,12 with the Summer moment a top theme for these playlists.13 And it doesn’t appear that road trips will stop after Labor Day, especially with people feeling more open to car travel than air travel throughout the rest of 2020.14 So far, we’ve seen a 56% increase in Autumn-themed user-created playlists for road trips.15

What the rise of in-car streaming means for brands

Car audio has been evolving for nearly a century. In just the past year, this evolution has accelerated dramatically. With connected devices like smart speakers, Bluetooth headphones, smart TVs, gaming consoles, and now cars, it’s never been easier to stream digital audio everywhere. That means drivers are more engaged than ever. A recent study showed that people are 1.6X more likely to pay attention to Spotify content in-car than traditional radio.16

For digital marketers, that means new ways to reach listeners at the right time, in the right moments. Picture drivers on a long road trip hearing about your restaurant just in time for their next rest stop. Or listening to your ads while bingeing podcasts on a long drive. Or families enjoying a branded fun fact or story during an ad break as they travel together, making memories. In-car streaming could be the perfect way to take your ad campaigns further.

  1. Edison Research Infinite Dial Study 2019, US
  1. Edison Research Infinite Dial Study 2019, US
  1. IDC, “Worldwide Connected Vehicle Forecast, 2019-2023
  1. Cars.com,”Ride-Sharing Drops, Online Car Shopping Increases in Coronavirus’ Wake”, March 30, 2020
  1. Source: Spotify Internal Data, Q1 2020
  1. Source: Spotify Internal Data, Global Free Users, Platform=Car, Last 30 days as of 6/17/20
  1. Source: Spotify Internal Data, Global Free Users, Platform=Car, Last 30 days as of 6/17/20

  1. Edison Research Podcast Consumer Tracking Report, Q4 2019
  1. Source: AAA 2020 Summer Travel Forecast Report, June 2020
  1. Source: Spotify Internal Data, Global Free Users, May-August 2020
  1. Source: Spotify Internal Data, Global Free Users, May-August 2020
  1. Source: Spotify Internal Data, Global Free Users, May-August 2020
  1. Source: Spotify Internal Data, Global Free Users, May-August 2020
  1. Source: Destination Analysts, “Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Report: Week of June 1, 2020,” June 1, 2020 via eMarketer.com
  1. Source: Spotify Internal Data, Global Free Users, May-August 2020, Moment = road trip, travel, commute, Playlist = Autumn, Fall
  1. Spotify Kantar TNS Study, 2019, US

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