More People Listened to This Kind of Music Than Any Other in Lockdown

One surprising genre skyrocketed among stay-at-home orders.

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With nothing else to do during lockdown, many of us turned to streaming to keep ourselves entertained. Yet, oddly enough, throughout the pandemic, music listening plummeted by 550 million streams per week (3.4 percent), according to Billboard/MRC Data. While hip-hop, Latin, and dance music suffered the most, one genre actually captured a more eager audience: country.

These twangy tunes have been thriving, with an increase of 127 million streams per week (that's an 11.1 percent lift) since mid-March. Back-to-back records were set, culminating in a total of 1.3 billion streams the week ending April 30. And in the last week of May, country music streams skyrocketed another 22.4 percent higher.

There are a few reasons for this spike in popularity. For one, big-hitters like Kenny Chesney, Kelsea Ballerini, and Sam Hunt released new albums. Plenty of fans also tuned into events aired on TV, including ACM Presents: Our Country and a special with Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, both on CBS.

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Pandora has seen a significant jump in engagement, too. Its Today's Country station had the most streams of any Pandora station (of all genres) in April, according to Billboard. Another similar station, Country Chill, reported a 91 percent increase in listening hours and a 69 percent increase in unique listeners since March.

"People are looking for country music to be their therapy and to motivate them to see the silver linings and hold out for hope in a situation, as we're seeing on our Country Faith station, or to motivate them to exercise via Country Fitness," Beville Dunkerley, Pandora's head of country, told Billboard.

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Additionally, some industry experts say country lovers—who are the second most popular CD buyers by genre—are finally getting with the times and turning to streaming devices to listen to their favorite songs. This explains why Luke Combs—whose record came out seven months ago but became one of the best-selling albums in the U.S. in May—is reigning in 30 million streams a week, more than pop superstars like Billie Eilish. Or why Southern stalwarts, including Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, and Chris Stapleton, have seen a boost in listeners.

Dunkerley also attributes country music's swift rise to another thing fans may be doing more of: drinking. "Look at alcohol sales right now. They're through the roof. What other genre of music has better drinking songs," she told Billboard. "Country music can't lose right now. It's the soundtrack of our lives whether our lives are going great or going terribly." And for more music news, check out The Best Albums That Have Come Out in Quarantine.

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