Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 7 August 2020

TikTok, Black Lives Matter and women are dominating the music industry in 2020

The Nielsen Music Mid-Year Report provides an interesting look into the US music industry

 Mariah Carey is the first artist to have number one hits in four different decades. Kamran Jebreili / AP photo
 Mariah Carey is the first artist to have number one hits in four different decades. Kamran Jebreili / AP photo

In a year where the pandemic has the US music industry wracked with uncertainty, a few developments have become increasingly clear.

There is no denying the star making power of social media app TikTok. And, thanks to many artists taking their concerts online, many are streaming music more than ever before.

These are just some of the insights gleaned from the Nielsen Music Mid-year Report, an influential trade analysis released annually each July that measures the pulse of the US music industry.

With the industry facing an unprecedented crisis caused by Covid-19, the report provides interesting data on consumer habits that will shape artists' and record labels' decisions for the rest of the year.

Here are six findings you need to know:

1. TikTok is becoming the place to be

Since its emergence in 2019, the social media app has been embraced by a growing number of artists as a way to promote their latest work.

"Of the year’s 20 most-streamed songs, 10 have gone viral on TikTok," states the report, citing examples such as Doja Cat and Nicki Minaj's Say So, Falling by Trevor Daniel and The Box by Roddy Ricch.

2. Live streaming is here to stay, for now

Before the pandemic, the idea of the live streamed concert was anathema to the US music industry. Hence the report labelling its newfound popularity as a "new dawn".

In its analysis, the report tracked the growing acceptance of the performance format in the initial weeks after the US live music industry shut down in the middle of March. By April 6, 19 per cent of people surveyed had seen a virtual performance, with 28 per cent saying they would pay to watch an online concert.

When it comes to the biggest virtual gig of the year, that honour belongs to rapper Travis Scott, who pulled in 12.3 million viewers as part of his appearance in the video game Fortnite.

Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli also attracted a large crowd for his live streamed YouTube performance from Milan's Duomo cathedral on April 12, garnering a peak of 2.8 million viewers.

3. Music inspired by Black Lives Matter

The death of African American George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25 set off a storm of protests nationwide and a flurry of action on streaming platforms.

In the week of the tragedy, millions went online to stream songs that captured the anguish of the time. When it comes to the 12 most streamed tracks between May 22 and May 27, all were by artists and bands of colour, with hip-hop the dominating sound.

This is America by Childish Gambino got a 268.5 per cent boost with 646,000 streams, followed by J Cole's Middle Child (606,000) and Alright by Kendrick Lamar (407,000 streams). Enduring 1964 Civil Rights anthem A Change is Gonna Come also received a 112.7 percent jump to achieve 122,00 streams.

4. Female artists breaking records

Female artists have been setting new standards over the past six months.

In some cases, it has been a joint effort, with three all-female collaborations (Say So by Doja Cat and Nicki Minaj, Savage by Meagan thee Stallion and Beyonce, and Rain on Me by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande) topping the charts.

With Mariah Carey’s 1994 seasonal staple, All I Want for Christmas is You, becoming the first chart topper of the year, she is now the first artist to have achieved number one hits in four different decades.

5. People still want new music

Covid-19 has understandably spooked a lot of major artists when it comes to releasing new material. Major acts from Adele and Miley Cyrus to Sam Smith have all withheld new releases until they are allowed to plug in and play to a live audience once again.

According to the report, that decision is questionable, with 62 per cent of consumers listening to new music during the pandemic. "By pushing release dates, artists may have missed an opportunity to connect with fans who, perhaps surprisingly, were seeking more than the comfort of familiar songs,” the report states.

As a case in point, the report points to the successful commercial reception that Lady Gaga's Chromatica received. Released on May 11, it topped the charts and sold 274,000 (streamed equivalent of album units) in its first week.

6. BTS juggernaut still going strong

The K-pop band's US success continues. Their latest album, Map of the Soul: 7, is the bestselling physical album of the year with 500,000 copies, and ninth best when combined with streaming figures.

Updated: July 19, 2020 08:52 AM

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