These are the musicians being listened to more (and less) during the pandemic

Cardi B’s streams are down almost 20% as listeners contend with Covid-19.
Cardi B’s streams are down almost 20% as listeners contend with Covid-19.
Image: AP/Eric Gay
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Covid-19 is disrupting the world of music streaming. Mostly for the worse. In the US, the number of total on-demand streams were recently down 18.3 billion to 16.6 billion, a drop of about 10%, according to data from BuzzAngle. The data include streams of all major streaming providers, including Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora. Quartz’s analysis of Spotify data suggests streaming is also falling in other coronavirus-affected countries.

But not every artist’s streams are suffering equally. The rapper Cardi B has been among the major artists to see their streams take the largest dip. Her music was streamed 12 million times in the last week of February, but only about 10 million times in the last week of March, a decline about 17.5%. Over the same period, the Rolling Stones saw their streams drop less than 4%. Kidz Bop, a band that makes versions of pop hits sung by children with lyrics modified for kids, actually saw a jump of about 10%.

Cardi B, the Rolling Stones, and Kidz Bop are typical of the overall streaming trends seen since social distancing became a part of American life. Rolling Stones’ data shows the typical Latin and rap artist’s streams are declining most, while rock and R&B have been less damaged. At the same time, kids music received a bump.

There are a few key reasons for the coronavirus-caused decline in streams. A large share of music streaming occurs during commutes, and many people are no longer heading into work. There is also a decline in music streaming from the hospitality industry. Many of the restaurants, coffee shops, and stores that would normally stream music all day are shut down.

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The decline won’t necessarily be too costly for the music business. Streaming revenue accounted for nearly half of all music industry revenues in 2019, according to industry association IFPI. Almost 80% of global revenue comes from paid subscribers, and only about 20% comes from advertisements to non-paying users. Subscribers pay the same amount no matter how much they use, so declining streams will only impact the smaller, volume-dependent, advertising revenue side of the business.

With parents needing to entertain their kids all day, the rise of children’s music has an obvious explanation. It’s less clear why Latin, rap, and pop have seen a larger decline than rock, R&B, and country.

One possible reason is that Latin, rap, and pop are often social music. For example, Daddy Yankee, the popular Puerto Rican singer and songwriter, saw his streams fall by 24%. His mostly uptempo music, like the megahit “Despacito,” is what you might listen to when hanging out with friends, at a party, or at the gym.

Country and rock may have been less impacted because they are more popular in areas of the US where people have been less likely to social distance, particularly the South. Streams of popular country artists like Eric Church and Cody Johnson are actually up over the last month. As the coronavirus spreads throughout the United States, that increase seems unlikely to continue.