The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted how people consume media with music streaming consumption facing a decline, according to a new study.

The study, by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), and City University of New York which appeared in Marketing Science analysed online music streaming data for top songs for two years in 60 countries.

This was analysed alongside Covid-19 case and lockdown statistics and daily mobility data, to determine the nature of those changes. The study found that the pandemic had led to significant reduction in the consumption of audio music streaming in many countries.

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Rahul Telang, professor of information systems at CMU’s Heinz College, who co-authored the study said that, “It upends the popular expectation that online media platforms would benefit from the restrictions put in place during the pandemic, in part because this type of music consumption is not standalone entertainment, but complements activities that declined during lockdowns, such as commuting,” as per an official release by CMU published in EurekAlert.

Streaming data from Spotify was analysed as part of the study, for weekly top 200 songs during 104 consecutive weeks between June 2018 and May 2020 in 60 countries.

Researchers examined Covid-19 case data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, data on enforced social distancing measures by governments from the Oxford ‘Covid-19 Government Response Tracker’, and country-level data on changes to individuals’ time allocation during the pandemic from Google’s Covid-19 Community Mobility Reports.

In order to understand the impact of growth and seasonality on the demand for music streaming, researchers compared weekly streams with those of a comparable week the prior year for each country, comparing 52 weeks from June 1, 2018 to May 30, 2019, with 52 weeks from May 31, 2019 to May 28, 2020.

The study found that in over two-thirds of the countries that enforced lockdowns, music streaming volume declined significantly after the lockdowns came into effect. On average, audio music consumption decreased 12.5 per cent after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the pandemic on March 11, 2020.

Spotify lost 692 million euros ($838 million) of revenue in the first three quarters of 2020 during the pandemic, the study said. The reduction in the time workers took to commute correlated strongly with the decline in music consumption. Restricted movement contributed to the decline.

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Furthermore, countries with a higher fall in mobility and transit time witnessed higher marked reductions in music streaming after the pandemic. “Another factor driving consumption could be that people spent less money on music streaming during the pandemic, a time when many lost income,” as per the study.

The study also analysed music consumption through video platforms using data from YouTube’s music streaming platform from July 2019 to October 2020. Consumption through video platforms rose during the study period. Consumption increased significantly after the WHO’s declaration.

Based on counts of artists’ video views on YouTube, music demand through such platforms increased more dramatically in countries with more Covid-19 cases, stricter lockdown policies, and sharper declines in individuals’ mobility, as per the study.

The researchers, after examining how easing of restrictions impacted music streaming, found a partial rebound in streaming volume in countries with a decrease in Covid-19 cases and with declines in the amount of time people spent at home.

“Our findings suggest that the pandemic has changed the environment of media consumption, putting streaming audio music in fiercer competition with other forms of media,” said Jaeung Sim, a Ph.D. candidate in KAIST’s College of Business, who led the study.