ENTERTAINMENT

Paid Streaming Grows as Consumers Head Indoors (Again): Five Key Insights From Nielsen Music/MRC Data's COVID-19 Report

With rising COVID-19 cases across the United States, many Americans are spending more time indoors and leaning on entertainment more than ever for information, connection and comfort. That’s according to the sixth installment of Nielsen Music/MRC Data’s survey series “COVID-19: Tracking the Impact on the Entertainment Landscape,” which also notes an increased interest in music listening, with the highest percentage of survey respondents yet saying they have added a new audio subscription streaming service over the prior two weeks. Despite mounting fears of the coronavirus, a willingness to return to live events also remains on the uptick, while interest in virtual concerts — and, in particular, opportunities to connect with others through them — has reached its highest level since the start of the pandemic.

Here are five key takeaways from the results of the new report, based on online survey data collected July 8-13 from a representative sample of 1,007 U.S. consumers ages 13 and older.

1. Americans are adding subscription streaming services at a greater rate than ever — but also canceling them more frequently than before.

Though video streaming services like Netflix and Hulu remain the most popular choices during the pandemic, consumers have increasingly turned to music, with 56% of respondents having added a service like Spotify or Apple Music over the past two weeks. That ranks as the highest percentage by far since the first MRC survey was conducted in late March, showing Americans are relying on music more than ever as concerns over job security and contracting the virus also reach new highs. Still, 40% of respondents also said they had canceled an audio or video subscription streaming service over the prior two weeks — the highest total since the start of the pandemic — suggesting services may need to do more to retain their subscribers.

2. Reggae and rock are surging, and country continues to overperform.

As genres such as Latin, dance/electronic, R&B/hip-hop and pop continue to trend down, the impressive growth of country music has shown no signs of slowing, with total weekly streams in the genre up a whopping 14.2% since the start of the pandemic. Additionally, reggae — typically a strong performer during the summer months — had the biggest gains in total weekly streams of any genre at 18.3%, suggesting consumers are looking to re-create those relaxing seasonal vibes even as typical outdoor summer activities have been curtailed. Rock, too, rose 1.5%, an increase likely tied to growth in catalog streaming.

3. Consumers’ willingness to return to live events has continued to go up, as has their acceptance of safety measures.

The percentage of respondents who had attended a live event over the past two weeks hit its highest level in the most recent results at 14%, an increase of 5 percentage points from the previous survey. That growth could well be tied to an increase in consumers’ acceptance of safety measures such as masks, temperature checks, social distancing and bathroom capacity limits, all of which had statistically significant upticks in the most recent data.

4. As consumers spend more time indoors, their use of at-home devices for music listening has experienced an uptick.

As lockdown measures increased with the surge in U.S. cases, more consumers reported using at-home devices such as smart speakers (up 6 percentage points to 36%), desktop computers (up 6 points to 33%) and 3D/smart TVs (up 5% to 28%) to listen to music than the last survey period. Meanwhile, the use of mobile devices including smartphones, tablets and laptop computers remained stagnant over the last survey period.

5. The ability to connect with others through livestream platforms has grown in importance.

The report found that 47% of respondents said it was important for the music industry to offer livestreams/virtual concerts — an increase of 10 percentage points from the last survey — while 44% said they were likely to stream a virtual concert in the next two weeks, representing a 7-point increase. As the pandemic continues, connecting with others through these virtual spaces has also become increasingly important, with 82% stating that virtual meet-and-greets help them feel more connected to artists while 76% believe having a platform chat with other guests during livestreams is also important to the experience. Additionally, 67% said they want brands that sponsor these events to provide connection opportunities with friends and family from a distance, a 4-point increase from the last survey.

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