Why music has become one of our closest companions during the pandemic

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In March 2020, the world seemed to stop for some. Stores closed, schools were closed and the streets were empty as COVID-19 spread across the world. While this meant that many people spent a lot more time indoors, it also gave them more time to explore and indulge in creative interests, like music.

In the first weeks of the pandemic, music streams plummeted for the first time in years. But once recovered, they flew away. The global recorded music market recorded 7.4% revenue growth in 2020, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. World Music Report 2021. It also showed $ 21.6 billion in global music revenue – the highest revenue ever.

However, this growth was not immediate. According to Alpha Data, via Rolling Stone magazine, music streams in the United States fell 8% when the pandemic began in March, before finally rebounding in May. This initial drop was attributed to the closure of retail stores, people no longer listening to music on their commute to work, as well as recording and performance delays on the artist’s side.

But once people started listening to music again, the streams increased, which, according to the IFPI report, “more than made up for the drop in revenues from other formats.”


In Syracuse University’s Bandier program, students study music trends and statistics on the corporate and label side, but during the pandemic, some of these students said music was becoming more emotionally important to people. them. Midlife was a prolonged period of fear and unpredictability for many, and for Payton Dunn, a sophomore at Bandier and co-host of the WERW radio show Six Figures Under, music was a channel for expressing and indulge in emotion.

“My listening has doubled over the year,” Dunn said. “I was listening to the most depressing music I have ever listened to, but as things opened up again, I was listening to music even more catchy than before.”

Dunn organized his music to match the situation he found himself in, which in unprecedented times often meant finding new music suited to the changing culture and environment of an America in quarantine.

This meant exploring more experimental genres like hyperpop, over-the-top, electronic music that draws inspiration from many tropes of pop music while sounding more progressive and avant-garde than pop itself. Dunn said he started engaging in this new genre during the pandemic.

“It’s also gotten cool to just listen to super experimental genres of music like over there,” Dunn said. “Because the more you listen to music, the more you look for different flavors and get interested in what it is. “

Shannon Kirkpatrick | Presentation director

Communities inevitably form niche genres like hyperpop. Because equally narrow genres have grown in popularity so much during the pandemic, Dunn said, these communities have formed virtually on servers like Discord, where people can join specific chat rooms and share speeches without any physical barriers. .

Dunn said overnight hyperpop sensation Bladee was one of his favorite artists, who then gained popularity through constant interaction and communication on sites like Discord.

The IFPI report showed a 10.1% drop in revenue from performing rights – a category that includes live performances – the first negative statistic in this area after more than a decade of growth. As most concerts and live shows were canceled, creating virtual spaces where listeners could still engage with music and people with similar musical tastes became all the more important.

Bandier junior Jack Barsh said that at a time when he listened to a lot more music, he had to explore new avenues to find music, which meant working with his friends to share and organize new playlists on Spotify.

“I asked some friends to help me find other artists who could be more independent, so now I have a bunch of playlists that people have created for me in a different genre than I did. ‘would listen normally,’ Barsh said.

The junior added that he also started listening to pop singers like Charli XCX, Summer Walker and Kehlani – many of whom have become some of his favorite artists he always comes back to – thanks to recommendations from his friends.

Without this newfound enthusiasm to explore new music, Barsh said he might not have ended up finding these artists.

“It’s not like I don’t give them the chance, it’s just that I like to stick with what I know I like, so (the pandemic) kind of got me. pushed to do something like that, ”Barsh said.

Barsh said that when he wasn’t streaming playlists curated by his friends, he still used other forms of music media like NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts and Genius’ “Verified” lyrics explainer videos, which both generate more feed for the artists in the same way as TikTok by promoting the song on all platforms.

TikTok – which had 100 million US users in August 2020 – played a major role in the discovery of new music during the pandemic. Bandier Program teacher Ulf Oesterle teaches several courses on the music business and emerging technologies, but he’s also a huge presence on TikTok as a creator, with some videos receiving millions of views.

Music Listening Revenue Growth

Shannon Kirkpatrick | Presentation director

Oesterle said TikTok has dramatically changed the way people discover new artists, and that during the pandemic, TikTok’s tightly adapted algorithm was able to override other settings like clubs and parties where new music typically was. introduced to the general public.

In the early months of the pandemic, when streaming slowed down, Oesterle said people were turning to TV and video streaming apps first, rather than music, but TikTok is a place where video complements. actually music flows.

“TikTok has replaced a lot of environments,” Oesterle said. “Their algorithm really sets it up to bring you content that they know you’re going to like based on the millions of people watching the same types of content.”

Even after the initial drop in streams of 2020, physical and digital recorded music revenue growth could still reach the highest recorded level, illustrating that music was something that kept many people stable even though an unpredictable year.

“Whether it’s going back to that old song that always makes you feel good… or finding something new that makes you feel like you can relate to the content of that song, music has been the companion. constant from a lot of people, ”Osterle said.


Contact Sidney: [email protected]

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