The Music Charts In The Lockdown Era: Selena Gomez And A Rare Toronto Spring

As the global health crisis caused by the Coronavirus/COVID-19, and its consequent economic crisis continues, artists, listeners, and the music industry may want to know how these crises have affected the music chartsMusic Maven’s proprietary technology, which provides the most current and accurate data and analytics on all artist and song performance, offers some answers, as do analysis of data from streaming services like Spotify.

One consequence of the crises for the music industry is that major artists have publicly announced that they have delayed the release of their previously recorded albums because of the global pandemic. On Friday, Billboard still had Lady Gaga’s Chromatica on its list of imminent releases, but Gaga continued to delay the album’s release. This means that albums that would have likely been released if the pandemic had not occurred have been withheld, leaving the top of the charts without the promised blockbuster hits.

As reflected on Music Maven’s music charts, over the last three weeks, there have been no major debuts anywhere near Lil Uzi Vert’s Eternal Atake, which earned him 40M streams on his first day in early March, or The Weeknd’s After Hours, which earned him 34M streams on his first day in late March. Until today, The Weeknd held the number one position as Most Streamed Artist every day since March 21, but his overall number of streams declined from 12 to 8 to 5M streams by each weekend, and is now just under another Toronto native, Tory Lanez, whose release of The New Toronto 3 won him just over a thousand more streams than The Weeknd. Yet another Toronto artist, Drake, has led the song stream charts with “Toosie Slide” since last week, still with over 3M daily streams, but The Weeknd’s ex-girlfriend Selena Gomez rose to the top of the song charts with “Boyfriend” — an addition to the deluxe edition of her album, Rare, originally released in January — at 3.5M streams today.

Besides the releases by Tory Lanez and Selena Gomez, The Most Streamed Songs and Artists have remained the same over the last weeks. Besides The Weeknd, Dua Lipa has remained a close second since her release of Future Nostalgia on March 27, while Lil Uzi Vert and Drake, and often Bad Bunny and Post Malone, have remained in the top five for most streams through this last week.

The absence of any major release to totally transform the music charts, along with the decline of total streams for the top artists who released albums last month, tells part of the story of music listenership in the lockdown era. Even more striking this weekend was a decline in the music chart positions of most artists in the top 50 most streams. Apart from Tory Lanez and Selena Gomez, only 5 artists in the top 50 have risen in the charts, 7 have held their position, and 1 has debuted, The Strokes, at number 13. All of the remaining artists on the top 50 are now in decline relative to their previous position, though their absolute numbers of daily streams have not declined much.

The million dollar question is whether, and how much, listeners have stopped listening to music while on lockdown, and because of the pandemic. According to Spotify, in the US, the total number of streams of the top 200 songs declined much as soon as the crisis hit the US, from early to mid-March, and has continued to decline every week until Easter. From March 13-20, the top 200 US streams went from 690M to 590M, a 14% decline. The weekly declines since then have been 3% for March 20-27, almost 8% for March 27-April 3, and just over 1%, with 523M streams last week.

This decline has apparently leveled off, but the nearly 25% decrease in listening at the top over the last month has been much, and there has so far not been any weekly increase. It may be that listeners have just not been listening to as many of the top songs, and have instead dispersed their listening to songs beyond and below. Unless artists like Lady Gaga release their albums from quarantine, or artists like Selena Gomez add more deluxe cuts to albums like Rare, total streams at the top might decline further or stabilize, but still far lower than they were a month ago. Until then, the music charts may continue to stream in a rare Toronto spring.