Pandemics and the Music Industry
2020 has been crazy for many of us. From elections to lockdowns, we have all shown resilience through the ups and downs of this year. Pushing through the barriers of the pandemic, the music industry has proven to be one of the stronger markets in these times, as artists and executives continue to push out new content. This time, funnily enough, could even be looked at as an A&R boom — with artists benefitting from captive audiences finding themselves with solitary time on their hands.
What was once a normal rollout for a project, has completely changed with a blink of an eye. With the negative impacts the pandemic has had on our culture, you’d think the pressure for releasing music would be even harder, however, this industry is showcasing more than ever, audiences are asking for more music content. Through this time we have seen various artists experiment with sound, showcasing innovations with their recent releases.
The Weeknd is a perfect example of this, returning to the spotlight to share his recent body of work ‘After Hours’, his sound now has a multi-generational appeal. The main single off the project, ‘Blinding Lights’ certainly benefited heavily from the time and circumstance of its release: A catchy, pop-driven, uptempo song with a strong hook when all of us were trapped at home - all the planets certainly were aligned! The timing of this pandemic period has provided artists has led to the success of new content being embraced and introduced on the radio.
Through lockdowns and self isolations, the way we digest music has changed. We now have more time to actually listen, discover, and hit repeat. Coming at the perfect time, this need for more content has created a higher demand than ever before. Spotify data is proving this alone, reaching 130 million paid subscribers over the pandemic period. With the music-streaming platform gaining six million subscribers in the first quarter of 2020, this also led to an impressive 27% increase of subscribers year on year.
Around the world, people are sharing music together, even in the face of their physical separation. Being a collective experience, we have seen numerous responses to social distancing laws, innovating ways people can bond with each other. Take the viral videos of neighbours in Italy singing with each other across their balconies. This started a trend across many countries experiencing the brunt of heavy lockdowns, not just on balconies, but on rooftops, windows, and of course online.
This need to bond, through music especially, gives us insight into what lies at the core of our humanity.
Although we have seen an increase in artists delivering diverse content across the year, it is clear that the impact of social media has been the driving force behind the promotion. Previously, touring had been the most lucrative avenue for musicians; with live shows on hold along with press runs and major music video productions. However, with a pandemic surprising us all, artists were sent back to the drawing board. The spike in streaming and audience attention falls under many interacting on social media and the need for new content to keep us entertained. So how do artists like Drake, Beiber, and Travis Scott release music throughout a pandemic? They utilise their most valuable assets—social media and their obsessive fan bases. After laying the groundwork for a necessary shift in release strategy, creating interactive musical experiences that fans can participate in from home has proven to showcase great results. An audience engagement, especially involving visual content, is crucial to an artist’s success while fans remain in quarantine, as music consumption climbs.
Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande’s collaboration is a prime example of this, with their shared management team creating a music video for their first-ever duet, “Stuck With U.” Inspired by living in social isolation during COVID-19, the song was released on May 8 in 2020 to benefit the First Responders Children's Foundation. The music video also featured a montage of home videos of dancing in quarantine submitted by fans and celebrities alike on Twitter—garnering more than 130 million views on YouTube and debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. According to Nielsen Music/MRC Data’s latest entertainment impact report, 54% of people surveyed said they engaged with new music from popular artists and 67% of people said they’re opting for short-form videos like those on TikTok.
Although the stardom of musicians may be enough alone for a successful release during the pandemic, the innovative moves from artists like Bieber and The Weeknd are blazing a trail for the new future of music. Rather than try to wait for a return to some form of normalcy, musicians now have a new blueprint to work towards.
David Gusevski is the Community Executive at Resolve Content.