BookWatch: No more Mozart? Americans streaming habits reflect what life will sound like after the pandemic


After a year of staying home, the climbing vaccination rates in the U.S. are getting Americans excited to travel, attend concerts and even return to their offices. 

But before they ditch their sweatpants and kiss their “pandemic pets” goodbye before spending their first workdays without them, they’re rehearsing what life might feel — and sound — like in a world with few COVID restrictions.

In doing so, they’re listening to fast-paced electronic and rap songs by artists like Lil Nas X, Jacob Collier and The Weeknd and watching office comedy shows like NBC’s

“30 Rock,” according to data from TasteDive, a recommendation engine. They’re also listening to “99% Invisible” a podcast about urban architecture and infrastructure.

It’s a sign that people are “yearning for a degree of normalcy and ready to accept it again,” said Alex Elias, founder and CEO of Qloo, a company that specializes in making entertainment recommendations using artificial intelligence. Qloo, which acquired TasteDive in 2019, receives funding from celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Elton John.

It’s a sign that people are ‘yearning for a degree of normalcy and ready to accept it again’

—  Alex Elias, founder and CEO of Qloo

That’s a stark contrast to last March when hunkered-down Americans listened to Mozart, Louis Armstrong and watched “The Handmaid’s Tale” on Hulu

and “Contagion” Netflix

Many New Yorkers clung to the sounds of subway doors opening and nightclub bouncers checking IDs featured in “Missing Sounds of New York,” a collection of audio from New York City before coronavirus, produced by the New York Public Library in partnership with creative agency Mother New York.

At the onset of the pandemic “it felt nerve-wracking to see people not wearing masks in television shows,” he said. That may explain why Americans avoided shows like “30 Rock” and movies like “Almost Famous”. 

Lately, both are streaming at record rates, TasteDive found based on recommendations made to over 93 million users that generate traffic to sites to purchase books, watch films or listen to music.

But even as children return to in-person learning, parents haven’t cut back on purchasing children’s books, according to data compiled by NPD BookScan, a weekly report on book-purchasing trends.

Americans also appear to be taking a break from classic novels like Leo Tolstoy’s ‘Anna Karenina.’

“Juvenile books started to rise in March 2020 at the onset of the pandemic as parents rushed to get materials to entertain kids during the pandemic and support the sudden need to school from home,” NPD BookScan analyst, Kristen McLean, told MarketWatch.

In fact, the best-selling book across all genres in the last week of March was “Dog Man: Mothering Heights,” a graphic children’s novel illustrated and written by Dav Pilkey, according to NPD data.

“Parents worry about kids falling behind in math and reading skills,” she said. “We expect kids’ books will remain strong in 2021 even as we see states opening up heading toward fall.”

Adults, meanwhile, are taking a break from classic novels like Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” as well as Michelle Obama’s autobiography, “Becoming,” which was one of the most read books during lockdowns last year, according to data from The New York Public Library.

Instead, Americans are reading murder mysteries like “The Guest List,” by Lucy Foley, and travel books according to TasteDive. Among New Yorkers, the most-read book since the pandemic began was Brit Bennett’s “The Vanishing Half,” a historical fiction piece set in the 1950s that explores race and identity. HBO

recently acquired the rights to produce a limited series based on it.

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