Oldies and Vinyl return as everything old is new again

Music Directors accepted the fact some time ago that music streaming services have carved out a significant segment of the new music discovery market in younger audiences.

But what is surprising in the latest music consumption data from US music research company MRC Data is that young audiences are discovering old music too. But, of course, it’s new to them because they weren’t around when it was first released.

With the streaming music business model offering almost unlimited back catalogs, as well as the latest music, there is no longer a distinction between old and new music. If you heard a Fleetwood Mac song on TikTok and then went to your favourite music service to find more from that group, nothing tells you that it is it is a 1970s band, you just get their music.

Great bands, with timeless lyrics and universal themes are now being rediscovered without the stigma of being branded as ‘oldies’ or ‘music my parents listen to.’

If the American trends are similar in Australia, this could be a good for gold format stations in 2022.

2021 was a “game-changing year for music consumption,” says the report, “as behaviors accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic led to several remarkable milestones.”

Overall consumption grew 11.3% year-over-year (YOY) in 2021, thanks to a 12.6% lift in on-demand audio streaming. Part of that lift is due to new albums from Adele, Drake, Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift and the controversial Morgan Wallen – but those releases only tell half the story of music listening in 2021.

For the first time since MRC Data began tracking streaming music in 2008, the audio streaming of Current music (music released less than 18 months ago) actually declined. This led to a significant increase in Catalog’s share of the audio on-demand streaming universe, with 76% in 2021 vs 66% in 2020, as consumers reconnected with old favorites or discovered them for the first time through platforms like TikTok.

This could explain why the big music companies are spending millions to acquire the back catalogs of great artists like Bowie and Dylan in recent deals. The potential for audiences to rediscover the greats has never been stronger, and remixing great songs for new audience segments is also easier when you own the rights to the originals.

Read this related commentary from broadcaster Jen Seyderhelm.

Vintage music formats took on new relevance in 2021 too, as vinyl album sales outpaced CDs for the first time in MRC Data’s 30 year history.

Vinyl album volume increased a whopping 50.4% YOY and finished the year with 41.7 million versus CD album volume at 40.6 million. This included the first week in MRC Data history that saw vinyl sales in excess of 2 million copies, with 2.11 million albums sold the week ending Dec. 23 as consumers stocked up for the holiday season.

Globally, red-hot genres like Afro-Pop and K-Pop continued to crossover to the U.S. and other territories in an even bigger way, led by hits from artists like Wizkid, CKay, BTS and BLACKPINK’s Lisa and Rosé. Many international territories continued ramping up their adoption of streaming services, too, led by Japan, Colombia, Poland, Turkey and the UK.

Other trends identified by the report include:

Music in Video Games

After artists like Travis Scott, J Balvin and Lil Nas X kicked off a virtual concert craze in 2020 on gaming platforms platforms Fortnite and Roblox, music and gaming integrations continued to pick up steam in 2021 and helped drive U.S. consumption of the artists’ catalogs.

Spending Habits

Broadway music listeners buy more tickets to theatre shows

Children’s music listeners have purchased clothing in the past 12 months

Holiday/relaxing music listeners purchase more holidays

Download the full report at MRC Data.

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