MUSICAL MATURITY—DO YOU LISTEN TO YOUR AGE?
Following “sixty years of research” one commentator has concluded that it is “conventional wisdom” that if you are 33 years of age or older, you will never listen to new music again. The study, which is based mainly on data from U.S. Spotify users, concludes that age 33 is when, on average, people stop discovering new music and begin the official march to the musical cliff. This study and its results can be found at www.skynetandebert.com and if nothing else, it is worth a look (posted April 22, 2015). However, whether you agree with this study or not might be another story depending on your point of view and I guess your age.
The study reached this conclusion by slicing up Spotify user data, as well as artist popularity data from another site called The Echo Nest. Here are some interesting observations and conclusions the study found:
… while teens’ music taste is dominated by incredibly popular music, this proportion drops steadily through peoples’ 20s, before their tastes “mature” in their early 30s.
… men and women listen similarly in their their teens, but after that, men’s mainstream music listening decreases much faster than it does for women.
… at any age, people with children (inferred from listening habits) listen to a smaller amounts of currently-popular music than the average listener of that age.
… for every age bracket, women are more likely to be streaming popular artists than men are.
The study cites two factors as driving the elders’ transition away from popular music. First, listeners discover less-familiar music genres that they didn’t hear on FM radio as early teens, from artists with a lower popularity rank. Second, listeners are returning to the music that was popular when they were coming of age — but which has since phased out of popularity. This study also hints at the demands of “parenthood” and a career as factors affecting the listener’s ability to move on.
“Personified, ‘music was better in my day’ is a battle being fought between 35-year old fathers and teen girls — with single men and moms in their 20s being pulled in both directions.”
I myself question the accuracy of the study for not considering other factors that really cannot be quantified. However, I will preface my comments by saying that I think the study is interesting and it shows some thought and a different perspective so as to effort, I would give the study high marks. But, that’s not the end of the story.
First, I question whether the study is accurate on a global basis. For example, if you venture across the Pond to England it is safe to say that fashion and culture are viewed differently over there. Older people tend to dress more contemporaneously and they also tend to listen to what is popular so age does not seem as much as a barrier as it does in this country. Do I have statistics to back that up? No. I am only going from observation and from talking to native Europeans.
Second, I think there is a nesting element to our musical tastes that cannot be measured. After all, music is often a placeholder in life. Our attraction to a particular song or genre may not necessarily be our inability to move on from that material but rather, our desire to go back to our youth or simpler times.
I think this study, despite overreaching presumptions or unwarranted assumptions, has really done the job. Why? Because, it has us thinking about the issue at hand. Do we stop listening at some point? Why are we like that or tend to be like that if indeed we are? I know this study made me pause for a moment and if that was the study’s intended affect then I would have to deem it a success. After all, the best compliment you can give to any study is reflection and a period for debate. Good job.