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Beating lockdown blues with nostalgia

Spotify data from six European countries shows that the demand for ‘nostalgia’ playlists increased sharply during the lockdown

The coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdown have taken an emotional toll on many. One way people dealt with the lockdown blues was by listening to old songs. Consumption of “nostalgia music" shot up on the music-streaming platform Spotify during the lockdown months, shows a Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) study.

The finding is based on data on 17 trillion song plays on the app between 1 January and 31 July this year across six European countries: Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. All these countries, except Sweden, were under some forms of national lockdown between March and May.

The study, by Timothy Yu-Cheong Yeung, classifies a song under “nostalgia consumption" if it was released at least three years ago. Consumption of such songs on Spotify increased sharply at the beginning of the lockdown and peaked roughly after 60 days of the lockdown before declining, the study finds.

Yeung suggests that the consumption of nostalgia songs could have been a coping response to the psychological distress associated with the lockdown. National policies during the pandemic involved many restrictive orders that affected people’s freedom and social lives. Many even lost their jobs. Indulgence in the music of the “good old days" may have helped people to distance from the present.

Yeung finds that the music choices were unaffected by the severity of the pandemic itself and was more linked to the lockdown. This is perhaps because the lockdown caused significant psychological impact even when the coronavirus incidence rate was low.

The findings point to “a possible and relatively low-cost remedy" in the time of the pandemic, the paper says. Public places, including care centres and hospitals, could consider the positive effects of playing nostalgic music during the pandemic, Yeung suggests.

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Also read: Did the COVID-19 Pandemic trigger nostalgia? Evidence of Music Consumption on Spotify

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