Music Business

US On Demand Audio Consumption Stayed Strong Throughout Lockdown

While most of the music industry has taken quite a bludgeoning during the pandemic, new data from Nielsen Music/MRC Data shows that the on-demand streaming corner of the business has remained fairly strong throughout.

Guest post by Emmanual Legrand of Legrand Network

The report card from the US recorded music industry during the first half of 2020 remained positive despite the Covid-19 pandemic: audio streams were up 16.2% to 420 billion compared to the same period of 2019 (361m), according to data from Nielsen Music/MRC Data.

 Vinyl LP sales were up 11.2%, despite the lockdown (through March 12, LP sales were up 45%, or 1.41 million units). Total album-equivalent audio consumption — which includes sales of albums and songs, as well as on-demand streams — was up 9.4% year over year, at 361.2 million, thanks to new releases from Lil BabyThe Weeknd and Roddy Rich.

  The first quarter to March 12 saw significant fain compared to the previous year with total audio activity up 14.6%, thanks in part of a 20.4% increase in on demand audio streaming. After March 12, audio activity’s growth rate fell to 6.2% and on demand streaming retreated to a 13.8% growth rate. Total albums sales saw a 25.2% drop after March 12 compared to the same period of 2019. 

  “The recorded music business was celebrating rosy results on all fronts before the coronavirus crashed the party,” according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data analysts, with total audio consumption was up 14.6% to 141.8 million album-equivalent units to March 12. After the March 12 lockdown, “physical purchases took a hit” but subscription streaming services were “the big beneficiaries in the early weeks of the pandemic as people spent an extraordinary amount of time at home.”

  The two music genres that gained the most on streaming platforms were country music and children music. Nielsen Music/MRC Data analysts noted that after March 12, 87% of consumers turned to music they usually listened to, and 55% revisited music they hadn’t heard in a while.

Growth of Latin music consumption

  Catalogue titles (older than 18 months) took a slightly larger share of on-demand audio streams — 63.1% in the first half of 2020 versus 62.5% in the first half of 2019. “A change of just one percentage point represented a shift in streams from newer to older songs of about 23 million per day and 160 million each week,” according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data.

  Meanwhile, the consumption of Latin music in the US has experienced significant growth during the first half of 2020, with a share of the total US music market of 4.09%, up from 3.86% for the same period of 2019, according to the midyear report from Nielsen Music/MRC Data published by Billboard.

  Audio consumption of Latin music grew to 14.56 million units in the first six months of 2020, up 15.9% from the 2019’s midyear total. Between the start of the year and March 13, when the country went into lockdown, the average weekly on-demand streamed tracks reached 1.182 billion and fell 3.3% to 1.143 billion for the period onward through July 2.

Emmanuel Legrand is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist, blogger and media consultant, specialising in the entertainment business and cultural trends. He is currently the US editor for British music industry trade publication Music Week. Over the years, he has interviewed artists such as Peter Gabriel, Charles Aznavour, David Gilmour, Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois, Feargal Sharkey, Salif Keita, Manu Chao, among others, as well as filmmakers (Alfonso Cuaron, Wim Wenders, Ken Russell…), industry leaders (Virgin’s Richard Branson, Universal Music’s Doug Morris and Lucian Grainge, Vivendi’s Jean-Marie Messier, Google’s David Drummond), and a handful of politicians. From 2007 to 2013, he was the conference coordinator for the World Creators Summit, organised by CISAC (the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers). Previously, he was the editor of Impact, a magazine for the music publishing community (2007-2009), the global editor of US trade publication Billboard (2003-2006), and the editor in chief of Billboard’s sister publication Music & Media (1997-2003).

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