afapress /

We’ll put the big caveat up front: predicting the impact that the Covid-19 coronavirus will have on any industry or sector this year rests on the supremely shaky notion that anyone can predict what will happen with the pandemic itself over the next eight months. Some countries are getting back to work and easing social distancing measures, but there’s still every chance of another spike in infections, the return of restrictions, and another hit to economies and industries.

This, of course, isn’t stopping research firms from trying to get their heads (and their predictive modelling) around the crisis’ impact on the industries they cover. Futuresource Consulting, for example, has put out an optimistic report on music streaming. “Futuresource expects the growth of music streaming subscriptions to be relatively unaffected across 2020 as a result of Covid-19, with a total subscriber count forecasted to reach 371 million globally at the end of 2020, up 19% compared to 2019,” announced the company yesterday.

The music industry will hope that’s true, while taking any prediction of this kind with a bucketload of salt. What’s more interesting, though, are Futuresource’s thoughts on how Covid-19 will affect the “share of ear” between the big streaming services “as the competitive battleground abruptly transitioned from a fragmented multi-environment/multi-devices landscape (e.g. gym, car, office, on the go through smartphones, headphones, desktop, in-car infotainment), to relying on in-home consumption”.

That would be good news for Amazon in particular, which has a strong foothold in people’s living rooms through its Echo smart speakers. In an interview with Music Ally that will be published tomorrow, Amazon’s VP of music Steve Boom has offered some more context around that, noting that Amazon has seen “a decline in commute-time listening, which is streaming from people’s phones in the subway or in their cars” but also “an increase in home-device listening that more than offset the decline in commute-time listening. While the industry may have seen consumption time decline, we actually saw a modest increase.”

Futuresource is careful in its predictions of upheaval, noting that Apple, Google and Spotify also have, for different reasons, reasons for encouragement about home listening. But that’s the main talking point from the company’s report: not the 371 million subscribers prediction, but the question of how it will change the dynamics of the streaming market – and the habits of listeners – if they are streaming more in the home, from different devices.

But remember, too, this is less likely to be about people churning from one service to another – in a streaming world driven by personalised playlists and recommendations, there are strong hooks encouraging people not to churn – and more about which service people new to streaming choose first, and allow it to get its hooks into them. Just for starters, here’s a prediction: the upcoming marketing / price war for smart speakers will be fierce.

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