The Quarantine Soundtrack: Oldies and Finance News

Lifestyle Changes Impact the Audio Industry

Coronavirus has ushered in a wave of lifestyle changes. Everything from working to eating to dating has been upended. This new reality also has a new soundtrack.

Many people are not commuting anymore, which means time spent listening to talk shows and pop music on the radio is down. iHeartMedia (IHRT) and SiriusXM (SIRI) have seen a drop in listeners and declining demand for advertising air time. Though this period has been challenging for radio companies, they are adapting to their listeners’ new habits. SiriusXM, for example, will launch a free streaming service on May 15.

Though fewer people are tuning in to the radio, consumption of audio content overall is on the rise. A recent survey showed that about 9.5% of Americans have added a new audio streaming service since shelter-in-place orders took effect. Smart speaker usage has spiked 34% in April, and 42% among listeners ages 18-29. This is good news for the music services most commonly connected to smart speakers like Spotify (SPOT), Amazon Music (AMZN), and Apple Music (AAPL).

Solace Through Singalongs

In a time when many aspects of life are uncertain, people are turning to the comforts of familiar music. Classical, folk, and children’s music have all been popular recently, while streams of pop, rap, R&B, and Latin music have been down.

Unsurprisingly, people are playing “At Home” playlists and “Cooking” playlists, while streaming numbers for “Party” mixes are down. The amount of times listeners played the top 200 US songs on Spotify dropped by 28% between mid-March and mid-April. These top songs tend to be newer, but people are turning away from pop songs and leaning on oldies. Pop music consumption has also suffered because fewer new albums are being produced and released at the moment.

Finance News Surpasses Political News in Popularity

In addition to listening to music, people are flocking to audio and written content about business and finance. For the first time in years, business and finance news has surpassed political news in global popularity, despite the fact that this is a US presidential election year. Sports news, understandably, has seen a significant drop in popularity due to season cancelations as well.

Business and finance news websites have seen 42% year-over-year growth . Bloomberg reported a 178% jump in new subscribers in March. CNBC and Fox Business saw similar explosive growth as people around the world turned to their content for updates about volatile economic conditions.

Apple Podcasts is noticing this trend and creating audio content for people who want reliable, easy-to-understand content about the pandemic. The company recently launched a collection of podcasts titled “COVID-19: Essential Listening.” This adds to the already robust platform, which has 1 million shows in over 100 languages.

Both Spotify and SiriusXM report quarterly results this week, and investors will be listening in to gain more information about how coronavirus has impacted the audio industry.

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