Are music consumers still longing for the good old days, as in, before COVID? It would seem that way, based on the just-released results of Coleman Insights' fourth annual Contemporary Music SuperStudy, where the highest-testing song for the third straight year is Ed Sheeran's 2017 hit “Shape Of You” with Imagine Dragons' “Believer,” also from 2017, again ranking second. 2021, meanwhile, is represented by just one song in the top 10, Adele's “Easy On Me.”
The intent of Coleman's study, conducted online among 1,000 consumers ages 12-54 in the U.S. and Canada, is to assess the degree to which consumers embrace each year's new releases as opposed to earlier contemporary hits, and how the texture of the most popular contemporary music changes from year to year. Tested are nearly 300 of 2021's most consumed songs based on streaming, sales and radio airplay according to data from Luminate, along with top-tier songs from individual genre charts, excluding titles more than five years old.
The results show a clear lean toward pre-pandemic hits, with “Easy On Me” the only song released in the past two years to break into the top ten, with the only other song popular from lockdown forward the again-third-ranked “Blinding Lights” from The Weeknd. As it stands, nine of the top ten were at or near the top in last year’s SuperStudy.
“The lean towards older music is notable, and substantially different from the first two editions of our study,” Coleman Insights Executive VP/Senior Consultant John Boyne says. “Consumers are not embracing the very newest releases to the extent they were previously.”
That means less turnover among the most popular songs, with a greater percentage of them older relative to the study's timing. Coleman's report notes that since its first SuperStudy, the number of titles more than two years old among the top 100 testing has doubled from 17 to 34, and those older songs are testing better than more recent titles. Songs released in 2021 and 2020 account for 66% of the top 100 even while making up 84% of 2021's most-consumed songs, while songs from prior to 2020 comprise 34% of the top 100 while making up just 15% of all songs tested.
“What is surprising is the degree to which newer songs 'underperform' has continued,” Coleman's report says, making reference to the lower presence of songs from the most recent year among the top 100 titles, at 28% in the latest study following a drop from 36% to 27% last year. “Songs from the most recent year have underperformed in all three of the previous editions of our Contemporary Music SuperStudy, but the magnitude of this underperformance accelerated with the pandemic. [While] we expected that as society significantly reopened over the past year, this would be reflected in consumers’ evaluations of contemporary music, we have yet to detect any rebound in consumers’ enthusiasm for contemporary music.”
Additional findings from Coleman Insights' Contemporary Music SuperStudy 4 will be revealed over the next several weeks as part of its “Tuesdays With Coleman” blog series and during a free webinar on May 11 at 2PM Eastern Time, which will cover trends based on age, gender, ethnicity, geography and platform usage.