Country Music Popularity Has Risen During the Pandemic

by Jennifer Shea
Jason Kempin/CMT2020/Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has dealt the country music scene a surprising bonus: a sudden surge in popularity.

Country Music Surges

The music industry as a whole has grown just 2.6% on streaming services over pre-pandemic numbers, Time magazine reports. But country music has jumped by 15.8%, MRC Data/Nielsen Music data show. 

Country music concerts were among the first to return to stages across the country. And the Grand Ole Opry is back next month. Moreover, artists like Luke Combs, Morgan Wallen and Gabby Barrett are drawing large streaming followings and gaining major name recognition.

Industry insiders say country music is thriving. And they fully expect the coronavirus quarantine will yield some of the best country music in years. Artists stuck at home are likely to turn back to songwriting.

“Country music is authentic, relatable, and gives you comfort,” Brittany Schaffer told Time. Schaffer is Spotify’s head of artist and label marketing in Nashville. “You want to be in a place that feels like home at a time when the world feels uncertain.”

Country Fans Catch Up

While some county music listening is surging – on streaming services, for example – other formats are dropping, such as the early morning commute radio time.

“Partially what we’re seeing is the natural progression of country fans starting to catch up with these other formats—and the country market had a lot of catching up to do,” Melinda Newman, Billboard’s executive editor of West Coast and Nashville, told Time.

Even artists who aren’t signed to a big label have benefited. Singer-songwriter Lauren Jenkins tried out livestream concerts after her label dropped her and all her tour dates evaporated with the spread of the virus.

“A lot of my fans in Europe and the UK are the way I’m paying my bills right now,” she told Time. “From what I’ve seen, I could do it every single day of the week and the same people would tune in—and I’m seeing new people I’ve never met tune in and come back every time.”