It’s time for a survey!
I’ve understood for a long time that I’m not typical when it comes to music. I’ve been buying music since I was 13, and listening to music is a central part of my life. The formats have changed, and so has the way I listen, but my interest hasn’t.
Today I was reading a couple of statistical studies about what usually happens. From ages 12 to 19, we are most likely to listen to current popular music. Our interests branch out, and peak by age 25. After that, we listen to less and less popular music. Two possible reasons are that we listen to more diverse music and no longer care what’s popular, or we are stuck in the past and we listen to what we liked before – and it’s not popular any more! One study said that many adults go through a “blip” of new music discovery around age 42, perhaps a midlife music crisis! There are differences by age and sex. Some artists have broad appeal regardless of both: the top example in the studies was Bruno Mars! Other artists are polarizing: some are listened to almost exclusively by the young (such as Skrillex) and others mainly by the oldest demographic (such as the Everly Brothers). Likewise, some artists (such as One Direction) are listened to mainly by people who identify as female, and some artists (such as Iron Maiden) are listened to mainly by people who identify as male.
You can read the full articles by Paul Lamere on his blog Music Machinery:
This one talks about where we get the music and how long we listen:
If you have a few minutes, I’d love to hear about you and music:
- What music do you like and dislike?
- How do you listen to music?
- When do you listen to music?
- Do you listen to any new music, and if so, where do you find it?
- Do you buy music?
- Do you sing or make music?
- How do your musical tastes compare to your family and friends?
- Tell me some songs or artists you’ve listened to lately.
I will say categorically that no one need be ashamed of what they listen to or don’t listen to!
Here are my answers:
I like rock music best, everything from the 1950s to the present, but I focus on new stuff. My current favourites (for the past 8 years) have been indie rock and indie pop. In order, my next favourites are R&B, pop and alternative hip-hop.
I wake up to music on an iPod clock radio and I listen to music on headphones during morning workouts. I usually choose something I own, but sometimes I pick a playlist from Songza. When I go skating, the rink plays an oldies Internet radio station! I don’t bring music when I go for walks. If I take my car anywhere, I listen to CBC radio (mostly non-music, similar to BBC 4 and NPR) and sometimes a modern rock station. Evenings and weekends, I play music on my computer during my endless hours of Internet (ab)use! I always played my own music collection on iTunes, but I am increasingly playing new music on Spotify. I expect I will still buy the occasional album if I want to be sure I’ll be able to keep it forever. I own 500+ albums already, not counting Rom’s, so I am willing to “press pause” on continued buying.
I wish I had funneled a lot of my wasted youth into learning a musical instrument, but I don’t have the motivation right now. My musicianship stops at playing the recorder! I sing along to music I listen to, but only in private, and I don’t belt out a tune very often – but when I do, it’s Motown, like Murphy Brown did 🙂
My dad is a lifelong music listener (enjoying the hits of his generation) while the rest of my family liked Top 40 during my growing-up years. Now I would say they are casual music listeners, going to the occasional concert, being aware of some major hit makers, but not keeping up very deliberately. Rom, of course, is a music collector and fan, and has a good memory for music facts, so we have endless discussions. He likes heavier music than I do, but we have substantial overlap in our tastes. I will listen to Primordial or Lamb of God with him, and he will listen to The Strokes or Tokyo Police Club with me. Mostly we don’t criticize each other’s favourites!
Lately I have listened to the new Sleater-Kinney, FKA twigs, Kate Tempest, and my current obsession, Melbourne’s own Courtney Barnett!
See also: How I Do Music