The COVID-19 pandemic is upending the entertainment industry, with music, film and television, and other industry sectors experiencing profound disruptions to the status quo. The economic and cultural effects of the pandemic may leave significant portions of the industry on the wrong side of change. In many ways, the pandemic accelerated trends that predated it. Some segments and players will be changed inalterably by the pandemic, but many may be repositioned for adaptation and potential growth when the crisis abates.
This isn’t an abnormal experience, at least according to Jessica Pouranfar, music therapist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital. “The way we listen to music is extremely psychological and physiological,” said Pouranfar. “Music activates so many areas of the brain at the same time, in both hemispheres that involve emotion, memory, language, and motor. It activates the neurotransmitter dopamine, which helps you feel pleasure. Music can decrease your cortisol levels, the hormone in charge of stress.” While it can be cathartic, Pouranfar notes that music has the potential to cause harm if what they’re listening to triggers a bad or traumatic memory.
While the in-person live music business experiences turmoil, there are some glimmers of hope for the industry at large. For example, the New York Times recently reported that consumer spending on music streaming has increased significantly this year. Spotify reported that monthly active users for its service increased by 31% in the first quarter of 2020. Warner Music Group’s first-quarter numbers show that, despite revenue declines in physical music sales, streaming revenue grew 11%, up by $49 million on the equivalent figure from the first quarter of 2019. Writer and musician Keegan Bradford once said that, “Lockdown has me running again because I’m going crazy sitting in my apartment, and that has me listening to way more hardcore, just big mushy loud nonsense that I never listen to around the house.”
“Sometimes people who are anxious listen to intentionally calming music but it just makes them more anxious. It’s because the music doesn’t match where they are emotionally right now.” Pouranfar said. The way we listen to music is personal as well as mood and activity based.