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Listening Habits and the Pandemic: The New or the Nostalgic, what did you turn to?

The last year and a half found us turning to different cultural sources including books, Netflix series, and hours upon hours of mind-numbing TikTok videos and reels as we struggled to find some semblance of solace and comfort in a world that was getting increasingly disconnected and distant. Music, which most find essential at the best of times, became nearly indispensable during the pandemic.

As many artists began to look at the pandemic as an opportunity to get creative, studies show that people’s listening habits also changed to accommodate and more accurately find new music. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) reported a significant growth in music streaming, specifically through paid subscription platforms. In India, there was a sharp increase in the streaming of hip-hop and electronic music. Lo-fi music began gaining popularity, most likely owing to its calming and “chill” sound. In addition, there was considerable growth in the streaming of indie and regional music as people began exploring and engaging with new music during the lockdown.

Research also showed, however, an increase in Spotify users listening to music deemed ‘nostalgic’ as a means to cope with feelings of uncertainty, with familiar songs kindling feelings of comfort and safety. People also turned to group music listening tools such as Spotify ‘blends’ and ‘group sessions’ in order to combat feelings of isolation and loneliness and regain pre-covid levels of sharing music with friends and family.

Music and Emotional Regulation

Numerous recent studies have reflected the benefits of music listening in terms of enhancing well-being and facilitating emotional regulation in the face of psychological distress. Music was also reported to have taken on the role of a ‘social surrogate’ with many people experiencing listening to music in the same way as they would process real social interactions. The use of playlists and other music listening tools such as ‘release radar,’ ‘listening together,’ etc., on various streaming platforms, have further contributed to an expanding cultural reach and the consequent feeling of connection to the outside world.

The IFPI Chief Executive, Francis Moore, put it best when he said, “As the world contends with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are reminded of the enduring power of music to console, heal and lift our spirits.”

How has music helped you during the last two years? Did you prefer listening to nostalgic or new music? Let us know in the comments!


“Forbes India - How Music Helped the World through the Pandemic.” Forbes India, 2021,

“Music-Evoked Nostalgia and Wellbeing during the United Kingdom COVID-19 Pandemic: Content, Subjective Effects, and Function.” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 12, Mar. 2021,

“Shifting Listening Niches: Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 12, Apr. 2021,

“IFPI Issues Global Music Report 2021 - IFPI.” IFPI, 23 Mar. 2021,

“IFPI Releases Engaging with Music 2021 - IFPI.” IFPI, 21 Oct. 2021,

“India’s Experimental Indie Music, Now Shaped by the Pandemic.” The Hindu, The Hindu, 30 Aug. 2021,

The Hindu. “Was COVID-19 a Disaster or an Opportunity for Indie Artists?” The Hindu, The Hindu, 26 May 2021,


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