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Quarantine culture report: Louis Armstrong is trending. Billie Eilish is not

A new study from recommender engine TasteDive shows that classics are trending with art lovers sheltering in place.

Quarantine culture report: Louis Armstrong is trending. Billie Eilish is not
[Photos: Library of Congress (Armstrong); Flickr user crommelincklars (Eilish)]

Culture mavens under quarantine are embracing jazz and classical music, Russian literature, and science-fiction films.

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And they’re ditching electronic music and buddy movies.

According to a new report by recommendation engine TasteDive, interest in jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong is up almost 19% from the pre-quarantine days, while singer Billie Eilish’s stock is down 11%. Leo Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina and Nassim Taleb’s business book The Black Swan saw 13% and 12% increases in cultural currency, respectively; TasteDive’s “signals” for Eat Pray Love fell 12%, and The Goldfinch dropped almost 10%.

“I think the most profound impact might be the emotional impact of quarantine and all the introspection that comes with that,” says Alex Elias, founder and CEO of Qloo, an artificial intelligence platform that acquired TasteDive last year. “We see a pattern across books and movies and even TV shows in which a lot of period pieces [are] starting to surge—people yearn to be transported to different times.”

TasteDive analyzed nearly 80 million “taste signals”—such as recommendation requests, likes, dislikes, saves, and searches—starting in mid-March, when many U.S. cities began ordering citizens to shelter in place, through late April. TasteDive compared 2020 data to comparable activity from a year earlier, but only looked at content that existed before March of this year to get an accurate year-over-year comparison. (So new hits such as Netflix’s Tiger King were not included.)

Some of the genre losers are not surprising: In television, signals for sports and travel content took big blows (33% and 28%, respectively) with health and news on the rise. In music, classical signals rose 13%, interest in singer-songwriters was up 10%, with 9% gains for blues and jazz.

“People want content that isn’t disposable,” Elias notes. “Seeing genres like classical music surge speaks to that. And with the rise of jazz and blues, we can speculate, those genres are all about confronting complexity and pain—rather than shying away from it—and turning it into something beautiful.”

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Qloo specializes in using artificial intelligence to help predict consumer tastes for clients in entertainment, media, consumer packaged goods, and other sectors. The company has raised money from a variety of high-profile investors, including Sir Elton John, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cedric the Entertainer, and Starwood Capital Group CEO Barry Sternlicht.

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