The closing down and limiting of all live events and venues due to strict quarantines across the globe, has meant that artists and the live entertainment industry have been dealt a hard blow by the global spread of Corona Virus. Whilst difficult, it is necessary to help the world reduce the spread of COVID-19 and allow for us to hopefully return to normalcy later in the year.
However so far little has been said of the impact of another primary revenue for artists – their recorded music which typically accounts for almost half of music revenues. While the profits of streaming now won’t come until later in the year, the income will help to support artists to make ends meet. So what has the Corona Virus meant for recorded music?
Recorded Music Consumption Might Be Down
Given large portions of the world are stuck at home, it can be assumed that people are listening to more music. While we know it’s definitely true for video, as see by the European Union urging Netflix and other video streaming platforms to stop showing content in high definition to prevent the internet from breaking under the strain of unprecedented usage. However, when it comes to music streaming the impact might not be the same.
While the numbers are not all publicly available, a report by Quartz noted some significant statistics for the biggest artists, with the top 200 songs on Spotify dropping in streams in Italy by a whopping 23%. Meanwhile some managers in the biggest music manager Facebook group AMC, including Pop Music consultant Dani Olivia; have reported a 5% decline in the amount their artist’s music is being played on Spotify versus previous weeks and months before the virus hit.
Changing Routines & Habits
Why could this be? Well when we think about music consumption habits, lots of people like to listen to music while they work at the office, at the gym while working out and in stores – the majority are now closed. The other primary place people listen to music is while they travel, on public transport, long plane trips and waiting at the airport or driving. With reduced ability to travel and in some places zero travel, as seen in countries such as Italy, Malaysia and China. In short the listeners who ordinarily tune in are not currently doing so. However, as the quarantine continues we expect people will eventually find solace in music, inspiring hope and keeping them positive as the crisis continues.
Given the circumstances, we may see shifts in listening behaviour where listeners are choosing to listen to music that might support their emotions, meanwhile, those feeling like they need to calm down might choose to listen to more chilled songs, and for many dealing with sadness around the emotions of a virus is one cough away might choose to listen to sad and emotional songs. Ultimately though this leans towards older music which they already know rather than new hits, supporting the decline in Top 200 songs being streamed.
In addition, unsurprisingly, several playlists have popped up to help people with songs to jam out to while they are stuck at home including crafty names such as Quarantine Party, Ultimate Corona Playlist, Corona Virus & Chill, COVID-19 EDM Party, Corona Lockdown, Quarantine Beats and Cancel Everything. These playlists are often filled with tracks that feature some of the biggest songs using relevant titles and lyrics. Among the results of Corona virus under playlists, it was interesting to see that Spotify had also included it’s Chill Playlist.
Budget savy consumers who are expecting to take a hit to their income may reduce the revenue of streaming platforms. While many in the industry have high hopes that things will return to normal in a few months, even after it has been resolved with many countries heading for a recession, the economic consequences will likely linger in the industry for some time. With the sudden loss of income, additional expenses such as streaming services subscriptions which might not be seen as vital might be among the first to get cancelled. If this happens it may take some time before fans opt to sign up again. This is notable as higher-paying streams for artists come from these users, rather than free ad-supported users.
Less Social Media Attention, People Are Hungry For Virus Information
With less focus or care on social media around typical entertainment news and new releases, the discovery of new songs will likely be on the down. Another factor which might impact music streaming and break in the usual listening habits is the current hunger for information, as the virus continues to spread and people are increasingly worried about the virus. Understandably they want to learn more about how it’s transmitted, where it’s spreading and how the scientists are tackling the virus. As such, they are looking to traditional news sources and informative podcasts more than usual. Podcasts are clearly stepping in to meet the demand for information about the virus around the world, with already popular shows featuring episodes on how it affects sports, business and of course, people’s health.
More Music Is Being Made
Meanwhile on a more positive note, for artists, the lockdowns which require them to stay indoors give an opportunity to focus on the one thing they can do, write music. For those at the top levels, they might not have the resources they usually would and they won’t be able to work with their usual co-writers and sound engineers in person but they should be able to work on new ideas themselves. For some fast thinking artists, they have been releasing songs about the virus already. On Spotify there are more than 40 tracks which come up with the title COVID-19, including 2 albums under the virus name, as well as songs titled with other related names including ‘Quarantine & Chill’ and ‘Corona Virus’.
Understandably, Amazon has prioritized delivery in and out of essential good and services during the pandemic – meaning that they’ve halted incoming shipments of physical media such as CD’s and vinyl records. Being a major blow all labels that work with physical media via these major distribution platforms or even smaller outfits. Amazon has announced that its warehouses have “temporarily disabled shipment creation” for discretionary items through at least April 5.