Streaming music consumption dropped during COVID-19 lockdowns

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The COVID-19 pandemic was supposed to alter people’s media consumption habits. To evaluate the nature of those changes, a recent study reviewed internet music streaming data for popular songs for two years in 60 nations and COVID-19 case and lockdown statistics and daily movement data. According to the survey, the pandemic drastically lowered audio music streaming consumption in numerous nations.

“Our study is the first to assess the impact of COVID-19 on digital streaming consumption in a worldwide setting,” said coauthor Rahul Telang, Trustees Professor of Information Systems at CMU’s Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy.”It defies popular belief that online media platforms would benefit from the restrictions imposed during the pandemic, because this type of music consumption does not serve as a stand-alone form of entertainment but rather complements activities that were reduced during lockdowns, such as commuting.”

COVID-19 shutdowns have had significant economic consequences around the world. However, some predicted that demand for digital streaming services would increase due to the market crash, as many individuals were compelled to stay at home and work remotely, spending more time online. Furthermore, with the closure of theaters and live performances, it was expected that consumers would be more inclined to listen to music on their phones.

Researchers looked at streaming data from Spotify, one of the leading music streaming services, for the top 200 songs in 60 countries for 104 consecutive weeks between June 2018 and May 2020. They also looked at data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control on COVID-19 cases, data from the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker on government-enforced social distancing measures, and country-level data from Google’s COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports on changes in individuals’ time allocation during the pandemic.

Researchers compared weekly streams with those of a comparable week the previous year for each country, comparing 52 weeks from June 1, 2018, to May 30, 2019, with 52 weeks from May 31, 2019, to May 28, 2020, to account for the rise and seasonality of streaming demand.

Music streaming volume dropped dramatically after the lockdowns went into effect in moreover two-thirds of the countries analyzed. After the WHO (World Health Organization) announced a pandemic on March 11, 2020, audio music consumption dropped by 12.5 percent on average. As a result, Spotify lost $838 million in revenue in the first three quarters of 2020 because of the epidemic.

The study discovered that reductions in workers’ commute time were substantially connected with decreased music consumption, implying that restricted movement contributed to the shrinkage. Countries with greater reductions in mobility and travel time experienced more significant drops in music streaming during the pandemic. Another factor boosting consumption could be that when many people lost their jobs during the epidemic, they spent less money on music streaming.

Finally, in late April and early May 2020, the study looked at how a brief relaxation of many COVID-19 regulations influenced streaming volume. The findings point to a partial rebound in streaming volume in nations where COVID-19 instances have decreased, and people spend less time at home. Researchers believe that a return of new virus cases could result in additional restrictions and more work from home, lowering streaming demand once more.


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