People in COVID-19 lockdowns listen to nostalgic music on Spotify

I'm coming a bit late to this one, but Timothy Yu-Cheong Yeung recently analyzed Spotify listening trends, and found that people in COVID-19 lockdowns prefer to listen to the oldies.

His paper reporting his findings is here, and there's a good story about it in the Guardian (they created that cool chart, above). Yeung based his analysis on almost 17 trillion songs streams in six European countries; significantly, he defined a nostalgic song as one that's only three years old or older — rather a shorter time-frame than I'd have picked, but hey.

Nonetheless, a lot of much, much older hits also have been breaking into Spotify's top 200 during lockdowns, as the Guardian notes …

Toto's Africa made Spotify's UK daily top 200 only 12 times in both February and March. But this had risen to 28 times by May. This increase was eclipsed by the huge surge in popularity of Electric Light Orchestra's 1977 classic Mr Blue Sky, which charted only once in January but peaked at 31 times in May. Another 1977 hit, Fleetwood Mac's Go Your Own Way – one of several tracks by the band to make the top 200 – enjoyed similar success while Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles from 1969, which had never been in the UK's top 200 in the months leading up to Covid-19, made it into the listings 19 times in May and was played up to 63,000 times a day.

Other old songs that benefited from the nostalgia trend include Oasis's Wonderwall and Don't Look Back in Anger from 1995, Queen's Don't Stop Me Now from 1979 and Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars from 2006. Elton John's Tiny Dancer from 1971 and Bryan Adams's 1985 hit Summer of '69 also crept into the UK top 200 during lockdown. On Friday, the reissue of the Rolling Stones' 1973 album Goat's Head Soup went to No 1 in the UK album charts.

Nostalgic listening is a bit of a lagging indicator, apparently — as Yeung found in his paper, the peak of nostalgic listening is "roughly 80-100 days after the first day of the lockdown". We apparently need to be cooped up for a few months before we start sweatin' to the oldies.

He also compared 2020 listening trends to pre-COVID 2019, and in most cases you can really see how nostalgic listening rose as the pandemic wore on. In this chart below, the blue line is 2020 listening, the dashed red line is 2019, and the Y axis is labelled — deliciously — "Average Nostalgia Level". The solid red line marks the point at which Yeung considers the pandemic to have begun in Europe …