How I Listen

How Coronavirus Is Altering Music Consumption

With artists no longer able to count on any revenue from live performances for an indefinite amount of time, industry attention is now focused more than ever on streaming, the income it will hopefully provide artists.

Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix

With every artist unable to tour for the foreseeable future due to coronavirus concerns, all eyes are on music streaming and the revenue it (hopefully) produces.

Coronavirus has left countless musicians off the road, out of work, and struggling to make ends meet. The dependency on album sales and streaming has never been as high as it is now, but startling data brought to light by Rolling Stone (and other sources) say that music streams are declining.

According to numbers from Alpha Data, the data analytics provider that powers the Rolling Stone Charts, streams in the United States actually fell last week, failing to offset a far more grim downturn in digital and physical album sales.

During the week of March 13 through March 19, the same week most businesses and restaurants were forced to close, streams dropped 7.6 percent, to under 20.1 billion. Programmed streams on services like Pandora dropped 9 percent to just under 3.5 billion, while on-demand streams (audio and video) dropped 7.3 percent to 16.6 billion.

The sales side of music did not far any better. Digital song sales dropped 10.7 percent to 3.9 million, which is the lowest one-week total since Alpha Charts began tracking the sales. Physical album sales plummeted 27.6 percent and digital album sales dropped 12.4 percent. Album sales declining is nothing new, but these changes are closer to jumping off a cliff than rolling down a hill.

What the charts fail to reveal, however, are the likely reasons for these changes. With businesses closed and more people working from home, commutes have temporarily dissipated. The vast majority of listening time for individuals can be attributed to time spent in their cars, but most have nowhere to go right now. People also have limited time to themselves at home, as everyone (spouses, partners, kids) is home together. Finding time to listen to an album in full or even music in general, is difficult.

But fear not! As host James Shotwell explains in the latest episode of Music Biz, there are still reasons to keep hopes high. Some areas of music are thriving in the streaming age, and there remains a huge audience of devoted music fans who are constantly seeking the next song that makes them feel good. Your music may very well end up being the soundtrack to someone’s quarantine, and that possibility is all the reason anyone should need to keep going.

More importantly, the panic and existential dread people feel right now is temporary. As people come to understand and accept our new reality they will once again turn to music. It’s music, not film or television or video games, that offers hope for a better tomorrow. You have a role to play in the recovery, and we are going to be with you every step of the way.

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company’s podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.

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