“Evacuate the Dancefloor”: Exploring and Classifying Spotify Music Listening Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic in DACH Countries
„Evacuate the Dancefloor“: Exploration und Klassifizierung von Spotify-Hörverhalten vor und während der COVID-19-Pandemie in den DACH-Ländern

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Kework Kalustian
Nicolas Ruth


Many people used musical media via music streaming service providers to cope with the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic. Accounting for such behavior from the perspective of uses-and-gratifications theory and situated cognition yields reliable explanations regarding people’s active and goal-oriented use of musical media. We accessed Spotify’s daily top 200 charts and their audio features from the DACH countries for the period during the first lockdown in 2020 and a comparable non-pandemic period situation in 2019 to support those theoretical explanations quantitatively with open data. After exploratory data analyses, applying a k-means clustering algorithm across the DACH countries allowed us to reduce the dimensionality of selected audio features. Following these clustering results, we discuss how these clusters are explainable using the arousal-valence-circumplex model and possibly be understood as (gratification) potentials that listeners can interact with to modulate their moods and thus emotionally cope with the stress of the pandemic. Then, we modeled a cross-validated binary SVM classifier to classify the two periods based on the extracted clusters and the remaining manifest variables (e.g., chart position) as input variables. The final test scenario of the classification task yielded high overall accuracy in classifying the periods as distinguishable classes. We conclude that these demonstrated approaches are generally suitable to classify the two periods based on the extracted mood clusters and the other input variables, and furthermore to interpret, by considering the model-related caveats, everyday music listening via those proxy variables as an emotion-focused coping strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic in DACH countries.

API; COVID-19; interpretable machine learning; k-means clustering; popular music; SVM classifier; streaming behavior

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