Health officials identified the first case of Covid-19 just over three months ago. Before then, most had never heard the term “coronavirus,” which is what causes the disease. Now, it has spread around the world, killing thousands of people, and become a worldwide subject of conversation.
In the recent past, it would have been difficult for a musician to instantly respond to an event like this and reach a large audience. Releasing a song to the public involved booking time in a studio, recording live instrumentation, and then packaging that recording into a tape, CD, or record. Finally, the recording would have to be shipped to a retail store for sale.
Not anymore. After composing a song, today’s artists can record and edit it on their personal computer. And to reach the masses, they can then upload the song to a popular streaming application, like Spotify, Apple Music or YouTube. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said in early 2019 that close to 40,000 tracks were added to Spotify ever day. That’s more than 14 million new songs each year.
The ease of producing tracks means artists can now more quickly react to current events. And with the spread of coronavirus, they are doing just that. As of March 3, there is already more than 65 songs on Spotify that include “coronavirus” in the title. There’s another seven with “covid19” or “covid-19” in the title. Most of these songs are relatively low production tracks to which few have listened. The Singaporean metal group Dozethrone’s song “Coronavirus,” for example, has fewer than 1,000 streams.
The most popular coronavirus song these days is “La Cumbia Del Coronavirus” by Mister Cumbia, which nearly 100,000 people have streamed so far. Mister Cumbia’s song implores listeners to wash their hands and avoid friends if they have the virus. Spotify pays whoever holds the rights to a song anywhere from about $0.003 to $0.008 per play. That means Mister Cumbia, a US-based singer writing for a Mexican audience, would have received about $300 to $800 in revenue.
The Argentinian comedian Ramses Hatem told Quartz that he was nervous about writing a song about coronavirus because so many have died, but recorded one anyway. His song, “cORoNAviRUs,” has about 1,600 streams. It uses coronavirus as an analogy for toxicity in relationships. He said he recorded and published the song quickly so that it might do well on social networks. Hatem said he relies on streaming revenue from YouTube and Spotify as a secondary income.