Guy Zapoleon’s 10-year music cycle already declared CHR was in “the extremes” phase, with “the doldrums” its next stop.
Our own Generational Music Cycle theory noted that as Millennials age out of youth, CHR music would sound increasingly stale and divisive until the next generation takes over control of determining popular music tastes in the mid-2020s.
And then. Sigh.
Whether the world had bigger issues or simply wanted familiar comforts, programmers sensed a collective meh in 2020’s releases. Many Integr8 New Music Research clients noted languishing passion scores and other signs of lackluster response to new songs. As we always remind our clients, however, callout research identifies the best songs you can play for your chosen music strategy today. Callout can’t evaluate the health of your format compared to others.
To see the big picture that our own research isn’t designed to see, we’re examining resources that broadly measure all the contemporary music Americans consume and how they’re reacting to that music.
First up, we analyzed Billboard’s 2020 Year End Charts, which showcase music consumer behavior from MRC Data, including:
- The Hot 100 Songs: The 100 most-consumed songs of the year across platforms
- Digital Song Sales: The 75 most purchased songs on iTunes and other digital download services
- Radio Songs: The 75 most-heard songs on radio stations monitored by BDSRadio
- Streaming Songs: The 75 songs streamed most on both programmed and on-demand audio and streaming services such as Spotify and YouTube
We then tracked how many of 2020’s most consumed songs were actually from 2020—and how many were holdovers from previous years. We then compared how many of 2019’s and 2018’s most consumed songs were from their respective years.
By every measure—but especially when examining what radio and streaming service users played—2020 had fewer hits than normal years.
- In 2020, streaming users streamed 10-percentage points fewer songs from the current year than they did in normal years like 2019 and 2018.
- Most dramatically, while about half of the songs listeners hear on the radio in a typical year are released in that year, only a third of the songs they heard on the radio in 2020 were released in 2020.
Let’s dial in on radio’s 10 biggest hits each year. During a typical year, about half of those biggest songs on U.S. radio are from the current year:
In 2020, however, not a single song that was released in 2020 made radio’s Top 10. All were from 2019:
Was radio right to be so disinterested in 2020’s music? Were listeners really that down on last year’s music as they were everything else last year?