The 1970s chanteuse could expand her fan base beyond Gen X, just like Kate Bush did with Netflix’s “Stranger Things”
HBO’s “The Last of Us” featured a poignant song by Linda Ronstadt at the end of a recent episode, and she looks set to benefit the most from the exposure — in the short term at least.
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That’s right: Ronstadt, the 76-year-old singer, is experiencing a surge in interest after a song from her 1970 album “Silk Purse” featured on the Jan. 29 episode of “The Last of Us.” “Long, Long Time” (also the title of the episode) provided the musical backdrop to one of the episode’s most touching moments.
The moment features Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett as Bill and Frank, respectively, two minor characters from the video game whose story gets filled out to an incredibly poignant subplot in the show. Like Ronstadt, Offerman and Bartlett definitely got a lift, as demand for the actors reached the highest point in the past three years at 168 and 102 times the average respectively, according to Parrot Analytics‘ data, which takes into account consumer research, streaming, downloads and social media, among other engagement.
Yet while Offerman’s prospects for next year’s awards ceremonies are already getting talked up, Ronstadt is getting her time in the spotlight.
We’ve seen this before. Recall last year’s surge in demand for Kate Bush following the key role her song “Running Up That Hill” played in the fourth season of Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” By playing a part in one of this generation’s cultural touchstones, Bush reached an entirely new audience that had likely never heard of her but came to love her through her music’s new association with a beloved piece of content.
It helps that global demand for “The Last of Us” hit a new high of 68.9 times the demand of the average series globally on Jan. 31, two days after the episode’s release, and ranked as the fifth most in-demand show worldwide.
Two days after the third episode of “The Last of Us” premiered, U.S. demand for Ronstadt more than quadrupled, going from 11.9 times average on Jan. 29 to 48.9 times on the 31st. Compare this to Bush’s surge in demand following the premiere of the fourth season of “Stranger Things” on May 27. Her demand started from a higher point on the day of the premiere at 27.1 times average and climbed to 44.6 times average two days later. By this metric, Ronstadt is outpacing Bush in both absolute and percentage growth terms.
Demand for Bush peaked four days after the “Stranger Things” premiere on May 31 at 66.5 times average. Her demand fell gradually throughout the summer but ultimately settled at a higher baseline than she had been at prior to her newfound fame. This seems to indicate that she found new audiences who stuck around rather than being a fleeting summer trend.
It remains to be seen how this surge in demand will play out for Ronstadt, but one positive indicator we can look at are the demographics of her current audience. Unsurprisingly, her current fanbase skews heavily towards older generations, with 70% of her audience made up of members of Gen X and older.
This presents an opportunity for Ronstadt to make inroads with younger audiences. While it’s a bit harder to imagine “Long, Long Time” getting the same dance-remix treatment that “Running Up That Hill” received at the peak of its popularity in 2022, we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, sit back and watch those Spotify numbers tick up, Linda.
Christofer Hamilton is a senior insights analyst at Parrot Analytics, a WrapPRO partner. For more from Parrot Analytics, visit the Data and Analysis Hub.
Parrot Analytics is the industry leader in global audience demand measurement. The company measures global supply and demand for entertainment, capturing over 2 billion audiences expressing demand for content and talent in over 100 languages, across all platforms, in 200+ countries. Parrot Analytics' partners use this knowledge to help better understand global supply and demand across all platforms to value content and talent, drive better production, distribution, acquisition and marketing decisions, as well as increase D2C growth and retention. For more information, see www.parrotanalytics.com.