Classic rock and deep cuts from country artists are providing comfort during the COVID-19 pandemic as Americans stream older songs instead of the latest pop releases. With many pop artists delaying release dates and postponing or canceling tours, Nielsen Music/MRC Data reports a decrease in pop music streaming, which brought the overall streaming numbers down over the past month, even with an uptick in more classic titles being streamed.
The Wall Street Journal reports that cumulative streams of the Top 200 U.S. songs has dropped 28% from the week ending March 12 to the week ending April 16, the lowest it’s been this year. This drop came even as some popular artists, such as J Balvin, the Weeknd, Childish Gambino and Dua Lipa, went ahead with their scheduled releases, while others, like Lady Gaga, Sam Smith and Alicia Keys, postponed projects.
Meanwhile, catalog music, defined by The Wall Street Journal for the article as those more than 18 months old, hit a high for the year in the week ending April 9, making up 63% of total audio streams, up from 60% for the week ending March 12, according to Nielsen Music/MRC data.
Midia Research analyst Mark Mulligan says “we are seeing something of a shift toward comfort music.”
In a recent study, Nielsen/MRC says more than half of music consumers are going back in time when choosing music during the pandemic. Some of the artists seeing increases in streams are Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Hank Williams Jr., Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney and Alan Jackson. The Marley catalog has seen an increase of 23% in the three weeks through April 2, compared to the prior four weeks.
The interest in classic rock and older tracks from country artists is also keeping the two formats healthy at radio. AQH shares of classic rock stations in PPM markets increased from 5.2 in February to 5.4 in March (Adults 18+), Nielsen reported earlier this month. The country format held steady over the same time period, down slightly from a 6.2 format share to 6.0. Meanwhile, AQH share for pop CHR dropped from 5.6 in February to 5.1 in March and hot AC was down from 4.6 to 4.2.
With parents working from home and their children schooling from home, streams of children’s and classical music also increased for the two weeks following the beginning of the shelter-in-place orders in most cities on or around March 12.