Music continues to play a central role in shaping how we engage with videos and evoke emotions within the digital landscape. For our second annual Sound of the Internet Report, we analyzed metadata and user-generated content from YouTube and TikTok videos featuring restriction-free Epidemic Sound tracks.
In 2023, Epidemic Sound’s music continued to be an integral part of countless stories and narratives. Our music was featured in over 26 million YouTube and TikTok videos, generating 2.5 billion views per day across both platforms — surpassing the viewership of the 2023 Super Bowl by more than 20 times each day.
Epidemic Sound's 100 most popular tracks of 2023 accumulated 30 billion video views on YouTube alone, marking a 50% increase from 2022. A testament to the power of musical storytelling, if ever there were one.
Unraveling the top music trends, our report highlights the powerful role of music in challenging times. Creators are orchestrating their content around themes of escapism and tranquility, turning to music as a medium for relief and comfort.
The rise of inspirational music
The past year has been marked by a noticeable surge in usage of music that inspires and uplifts. According to our research, inspirational music on YouTube has grown by over 300% in the past year, making it the fastest-growing genre used by content creators in 2023.
Notably, this trend isn't limited to one region; it's a global phenomenon, with inspirational music ranking first in growth worldwide and second in North America. We’ve also seen a 180% year-over-year increase in downloads of the genre from the Epidemic Sound platform.
But this surge isn't just about musical preferences. It signifies a deeper need: the desire for a refuge from life's chaos. Recent years have witnessed a rise in spirituality, particularly among Gen Z.
Inspirational music has become a form of escape for listeners worldwide. Amid the hustle and bustle of daily life, inspirational music acts as a sanctuary, helping people to tune out, regain balance, and find some kind of calm — if only for a few minutes.
"I've consistently strived to create an uplifting YouTube channel for filmmakers, offering insights for better filmmaking and encouragement to persist. The growth in my subscriber count serves as evidence of a shift toward uplifting and inspirational content, which is fantastic news. I'm particularly pleased to see an increase in inspirational music, as it aligns with the current needs of the world," said filmmaker and YouTuber Matti Haapoja.
The timelessness of classical music
Classical music continues to captivate audiences and creators alike. The genre’s remarkable journey within Epidemic Sound emerged last year, when it was identified as the fastest-growing genre of 2022.
This trend has continued, with classical music growing 80% YoY from 2022 to 2023. This leap secures its position among the top three fastest-growing genres in several regions and content categories, placing as our seventh most-used genre of the year. This trend is proved further by the nearly 40% YoY increase of downloads from the Epidemic Sound catalog.
Classical music is not only experiencing substantial growth within Epidemic Sound, but is also part of a broader trend transforming how the genre is perceived and consumed across various industries and by diverse audiences.
Younger audiences are gravitating toward classical, embracing it as a means of digital relaxation and escape, similar to how they engage with ASMR content. Classical music's inclusion in popular culture, such as Nicholas Britell's theme for HBO's Succession and Ludwig Göransson's score for the blockbuster Oppenheimer, underscores the genre’s ongoing influence.
Embracing happiness, hope, and dreams
Whether creators are producing short-form or long-form content, audience engagement is critical. Creators are leaning toward themes of happiness, hopefulness, and dreaminess, regardless of the content style they adopt. Notably, ‘happy’ was the second-most-popular music search term on the Epidemic Sound platform in 2023, with a YoY increase of 30%.
Furthermore, content creators have increasingly used words like ‘upbeat’ and ‘dreamy’ in their music searches, with these terms experiencing impressive YoY growth of over 30% and 20% respectively. Similar to the genre trends we’ve been seeing, this highlights creators' inclination to fill their content with positivity and escapism, responding to an audience eager to find joy in the captivating world of sound.
A collaborative approach to positivity and inspiration
Likely in response to the concept of 'tragic optimism,’ consumers are seeking more humor, playfulness, and absurdity from brands. This is likely a way to address feelings of powerlessness, playfully confronting challenges they can't easily overcome.
By comparing musical trends among YouTube content creators against those within a subset of thousands of YouTube channels from brands including Red Bull, Ubisoft, and L’Oreal, our research highlights a noteworthy alignment between brands and content creators.
Both, it turns out, aim to deliver content that serves as an escape, spreads joy, and inspires. This collaboration is clear in the storytelling and the choice of music genres, with both brands and creators favoring electronic and pop. Their content consistently incorporates happy, hopeful, and dreamy moods, contributing to a shared narrative of positivity.
As creators and brands navigate the ever-changing digital space together, this year’s trends reveal a universal yearning for positivity and escapism. Inspirational and classical music emerged as the main genres to offer comfort, balance, and a home away from the chaos of daily life. If that doesn’t convince you of the power of music, what will?