In a turn of events that will likely come as no surprise to die-hard country fans, the genre is seeing an impressive rise in streams during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Billboard reports that on-demand audio streaming of the genre rose 10.7% for the week ending April 23, notching a record 1.26 billion streams for the week. The following week, ending April 30, brought an even bigger bump in streams: 1.3 billion, with 14.3% growth.
Part of that streaming boost could be attributed to new album releases, Billboard allows. Sam Hunt, Kelsea Ballerini, Ashley McBryde and more artists dropped highly anticipated projects during the time frame. The genre also lost some notable members: John Prine and Joe Diffie both died of complications of COVID-19, and crossover icon Kenny Rogers also died, of causes unrelated to the virus, in March.
But those factors don’t fully explain the growth, especially when you compare country’s rising popularity to that of other genres.
In fact, per MRC Data/Nielsen Music, quoted by Billboard, the only other genres to see growth during the seven-week period beginning March 12 are children’s music, with a 4.8% uptick, and classical, up 1.3%. All other genres have shown declines, with Latin music being the hardest hit, down 10.3%.
Dave Bakula, senior VP for analytics, insights and research for Nielsen Music/MRC Data, explains that the data eventually revealed a pattern that went beyond weekly fluctuations.
“Pretty soon we all realized that it’s not about new albums, nor the weekly news cycle, but country fans are becoming more and more engaged and the fan base is growing at streaming platforms,” he explained.
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