Audio Consumption Increases Overall in H1 2020 Despite COVID-19’s Tempering Force

August 28, 2020

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Industries | Media & Entertainment

Nielsen Music Consumption Trends in H1 Aug2020Audio consumption in the US is on the rise in 2020, with total audio activity up 9.4% year-over-year in the first half of the year. However, it appears that this growth has been stymied by COVID-19, per a new midyear report [pdf] from Nielsen and MRC Data.

In the first months of 2020, audio consumption appeared to be well on its way to meeting or surpassing last year’s H1 year-over-year (y-o-y) growth of 15.7%, with year-to-date growth reaching 14.6% by March 12. Yet, between March 13 and July 2, total audio activity grew by only 6.2%, bringing total 2020 year-to-date growth to 9.4%.

Total album sales dropped 18.1% y-o-y in H1, with much of the decline coming during the months following the start of the pandemic (-25.2%).

Physical albums were clearly impacted by the pandemic. Pre-COVID-19 data shows growth of 4.6%, but sales plummeted 35.4% in the following months, resulting in a y-o-y decrease of 20.3% to 27.9 million. Digital album sales continued to decrease (-14.3%), albeit less than at the same time in 2019, with sales figures down by a smaller amount after the declaration of the pandemic, likely as consumers switched their album buying from physical to digital formats.

Vinyl LP sales, which is included in the physical album sales data, remains the exception, growing by 11.2% y-o-y to reach 9.2 million sales.

Although on-demand audio streaming seems to have been somewhat impacted by the pandemic, it is the driving force behind audio consumption growth, as it has been for the past few years. Indeed, while streaming did dip after the reported growth of 20.4% pre-COVID-19 to 13.8% post-COVID-19, H1 y-o-y growth remained in double-digits (16.2%), to reach 419.8 billion streams.

Other data from Comscore shows that the time spent consuming streaming audio increased during COVID-19. It looks as though some of this increase was spent with Jazz and Classical music. While other genres of streaming audio such as Children’s (+57.4%), Country (+21.2%), Latin (+17.7%), R&B/Hip-Hop (+13.6%) and Pop (+13.5%) saw y-o-y growth overall during the first half of the year, only the soothing sounds of Jazz (+3.1%) and Classical (4.5%) saw growth in the post-COVID-19 months. Classical, in particular, went from a decrease of 1.3% in streams pre-COVID-19 to 8.7% growth after March 12.

Here are some of the top-ranking artists in H1:

  • Drake ranked #1 in total audio consumption, with 2.46 million in Total Album-Equivalent consumption;
  • He also topped the list of on-demand audio streams (3.02 billion);
  • Roddy Rich’s “The Box” was the song with the most audio streams, with more than 728.7 million streams;
  • 10 of the 20 most streamed songs went viral on TikTok; and
  • In the #1 spot for total album (includes album sales, TEA and on-demand SEA) was Lil Baby’s “My Turn”, while BTS’ “Map of the Soul: 7” was #1 in total album sales (552K) and The Weekend’s “After Hours” was #1 in digital album sales (273K).

The full report, which contains many more mid-year charts can be found here.

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