US music listening has jumped 13.5% in the last six months. According to MRC’s Data’s Mid-Year US Report, music was streamed 555.3 billion times. This is an almost 10% (54.3 billion) increase from 2020. What is more startling is this. It is old music, not new releases, driving this increase. The popularity of catalogue music, songs more than 18 months old, rose from 60.8% in 2018 to 66.4% in 2021. In sharp contrast, new music listenership is falling. Why?
Why are more people listening to older music?
Live music has been on hold for the past 18 months. What could be a more obvious answer than this? Billions across the world have spent more than a year in lockdown. International mega tours and festivals have been suspended. With the US returning to live music this month, many still see it as an uncertain prospect. At least until the virus subsides. What is more, many live events are now being hampered by the deadly new Delta strain of the coronavirus.
Touring helps promote albums. The last 18 months have demonstrated just how crucial this connection is. A flow-on effect from the collapse of the live music industry has been that musicians who rely on music for a living are withholding new releases. When it comes to those who have sought to overcome the breaking of live and recorded music’s symbiosis, there have been many notable exceptions. Yet as many fans now know, live streaming concerts and virtual music festivals are no substitute for the real thing.
Even superstar artists have had to come to grips with the fact that new releases without tours underperform. Ariana Grande‘s Positions is a clear example. Her sixth album arrived in October last year. The album, both by Ariana’s megastar standards and relative to predecessor thank u, next, lacked impact.
Not all artists are in the same position as Ariana Grande. Career songwriters have continued unperturbed. Paul McCartney‘s McCartney III and Taylor Swift‘s recent releases have been critical, commercial and career-defining successes.