Q1 RAJARS: Six takeaways from the latest radio results

Q1 RAJARS: Six takeaways from the latest radio results

The music industry has woken up today to a seismic shift in radio as digital’s share of listening passed 50% in the first set of RAJAR figures for 2018. So it’s perhaps no surprise that it was another good quarter for BBC digital stations such as 6 Music and 1Xtra. Here, Music Week rounds up all you need to know from the Q1 RAJARS…


It’s finally happened – digital now accounts for more than half of radio listening. The Q1 RAJAR figures revealed that the share of all radio listening via a digital platform now stands at 50.9% - up from 47.2% a year earlier. Five years ago, it was just 34.3%. While the market penetration of DAB has perhaps taken longer than expected over the last two decades, the technology has gradually become significant – it now accounts for 36.8% of listening and has a 72% share of digital listening hours. Overall, 63% of the population tune into digital radio every week. 

But there’s no great clamour for a switch off of FM, which still has such a vast user base. “We’ve already said it would be premature to switch off FM,” said James Purnell, director, radio and education, BBC, in response to the latest figures.

Bob Shennan, director of BBC Radio and Music, said: “The majority of listening is now digital - a really significant moment for all of us in UK Radio. The BBC has played an important part in the success of digital innovation and our brilliant digital stations continue to attract new, wider audiences.”

BBC’s solid Q1

It’s hard to know if digital-only stations are driving uptake in digital listening, but it seems likely that early adopters BBC 1Xtra and Music Week Awards winner 6 Music are doing their bit. Both networks posted solid growth for the BBC again: 6 Music was up 7.7% year-on-year (2.531 million listeners) and 1Xtra’s audience increased by 8.3% to 1.017m (though it was down on the quarter). 

Bob Shennan said he was “delighted” about the record listeners for 6 Music, where presenters including Shaun Keaveny, Lauren Laverne, Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie and Steve Lamacq are reaching 1m listeners a week for the first time.

“We’ll continue to reach younger audiences and those who increasingly listen online as we reinvent BBC Radio for a new generation,” he added. 

Radio 1 was up 4% year-on-year to 9.467m, though down on the previous quarter, which featured programming around its 50th birthday celebrations.

The Radio 1 Breakfast Show With Nick Grimshaw secured 5.1m listeners per week, compared to 5.72m last quarter and 5.14m last year. Radio 2 was up 2.6% year-on-year to 15.413m but dipped 0.5% on the prior quarter. Radio 3 was up 2.6% on Q1 in 2017 to reach 1.933m.

Commercial surges forward

It was a good quarter for commercial radio, which outperformed the overall market. All national commercial radio listening was up 10.4% year-on-year, compared to 1.9% for all radio listening and 2.4% for BBC radio.

Global was typically bullish about its results and “more listeners than ever” for its brands – 25.3m people every week and a 22.9% market share in listening hours. Ratings may have been boosted by its inaugural awards.

Heart is the biggest national commercial brand at 9.507m (up 6.1% year-on-year), while Capital is London’s No.1 commercial station with 2.1m listeners a week (nationally the network was down 4.6%). Classic FM was up 4% year-on-year to 5.579m. Urban station Capital Xtra, which does benefit from an FM licence in London, saw a massive 46.1% year-on-year increase to 1.651m and leaves 1Xtra trailing.

Ashley Tabor, founder & executive president, said: “This is another particularly strong RAJAR card for Global. Capital winning the breakfast reach and share in London against Radio 1 and Kiss is superb, whilst also making and breaking new records with some of our highest ever numbers across the board.”

Bauer stations also had a decent quarter with Kiss up 9% year-on-year to 5.523m and Magic up 5.8% to 3.764m. Kiss presenters Rickie, Melvin & Charlie have the No.1 national commercial breakfast show with a reach of 2.1m listeners. Bauer Media’s overall reach grew 3% on a year ago to hit 17.5m.

Rock’s resurgence

Music Week has reported on the rock revival at radio – and it’s not going away. 6 Music is obviously going gangbusters but rock-oriented commercial networks also had a good Q1. Even Radio 2 is launching a rock show.

Global’s Radio X has added 262,000 listeners in a year – a whopping increase of 19.9%. Planet Rock was up 3.4% year-on-year to 1.061m, while Kerrang! posted a 3.7% increase to 617,000. Absolute increased by 11.4% year-on-year to 2.418m, though was down 7.3% on the quarter. So it’s a resurgence that’s still subject to some volatility…

Social media matters

When Radio 1 recently recruited Maya Jama, they got a presenter with a significant social media audience (552,000 Instagram followers). Increasingly, social media platforms are building radio brands and connecting presenters to listeners. RAJAR has revealed that 43% of 15-24 year old social media users receive updates about their favourite station or presenter.

Radio is also becoming a more visual medium, which is why BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra & Asian Network controller Ben Cooper focused as much on platforms other than radio today in his reaction. “Radio 1 has reinvented how the BBC reaches young people in the digital age with over 10 million listeners each week, over 10 million weekly views on YouTube and 10 million followers across social media,” said Cooper. “Radio 1 remains the biggest and most relevant youth station in the UK, with over a third of all 15-24 year olds listening each week.”

Tomorrow’s world

DJs and radio executives often insist they aren’t worried about the threat of streaming. Perhaps their confidence isn’t misplaced. On average, a listener tunes into 20.8 hours of live radio per week. Latest RAJAR data also shows that streaming-enabled devices such as smartphones and tablets are actually helping radio listening.

Crucially, the growth is occurring across the generations with those over 25 increasingly picking up the habit of listening to live radio on their iPod or iPhone. In Q1, 27.8% of adults listened to radio via a smartphone or tablet at least once per month, compared to 13.1% five years earlier. Somewhat predictably, 36.5% of 15-24s opted to listen to radio via the latest technology rather than an old-fashioned wireless. But over 25s are catching up – 26.3% are now tuning in on devices. So Daniel Ek may have his work cut out getting them to switch off Ken Bruce and fire up the Spotify app…

author twitter FOLLOW Andre Paine

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