ARTISTS QUESTION RELEASING MUSIC DURING PANDEMIC
When the coronavirus broke out in the United States in early March, every industry faced the dramatic effects that came with the closing of nonessential businesses. The music industry, in particular, continues to undergo some of the most drastic impacts, due to the canceling of all shows and tours, putting not only artists in debt, but also venue owners, managers, record labels, booking agencies, and advertising companies. Although the industry was suffering, no one thought the physical music would be taken away as well. However, with fewer people streaming music during the pandemic, and more serious concerns on the consumer’s mind, artists question if now is the right time to release their music.
In the early weeks of the stay-at-home order, reports released stated streaming rates fell 7.6 percent. Executives and researchers attributed much of the decline to the reduced rate of people traveling to work and school. These minutes are the time where many consumers stream their favorite playlists or podcasts.
These statistics made artists and record labels reevaluate their decision in releasing music. Would the album release capture listeners the same way it would with streaming rates down so low? And if there was such low attention given to the music, the label and artist might want to think twice about heavily promoting a record that may not recoup expenses.
Artists and labels raised concerns about releasing from an economic standpoint, but, for many artists, reasons for not releasing were because of their own morals and beliefs. At a time when their fans were faced with their own physical, mental, and economic threats because of the ongoing situation, artists felt uncomfortable releasing music and expecting the fan to pay and show support for their music. Lady Gaga, for example, held off releasing her album Chromatica, which was initially set to hit platforms in March. She notified her fans with a tweet: “This is such a hectic and scary time for all of us…it just doesn’t feel right to me to release this album with all that is going on during this global pandemic.” Her album was then released on May 29th, and fans have accepted and understood the reasoning behind holding off. Singles like “Stupid Love” and “Rain on Me” have gained much traction from listeners, charting high on iTunes.
However, some artists chose to go through with releases, and they have proven to be successful as well. Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia and The Weeknd’s After Hours have charted high and have been heavily shared by fans on social media. These releases were in the early days of quarantine (The Weeknd’s being March 20th and Dua Lipa’s release being March 27th). To achieve any success while streaming was taking a hit is impressive. However, these were major artists with loyal fanbases. If an independent emerging artist attempted this without a large label or fan base backing them, the story might not be the same.
With streaming rates now rising and more parts of the economy opening in certain states, artists have a clearer vision of when they may want to release music. And the quarantine period has definitely given many artists the time to create new music for their listeners. Art can bring people together at such an unprecedented time, and fans definitely are looking forward to the work of their favorite artists this summer.
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