The consumption of music is a highly social form of activity. Musical and other cultural events integrate individuals into groups (Gurvitch 1971), and at the same time express and reinforce social values (Dalhaus 1982). A variety of music styles exist in this modern age. Different genres could appeal to distinct individuals, but at the same time these genres could be categorized by classes of people with common characteristics. Characteristics which influence taste in music include age, gender, mood, or even socioeconomic background.
This article highlights the first factor, the diversity of music preference with regards to age. In one study, using data gathered from more than a quarter of a million people over a ten year period, researchers divided musical genres into five broad, “empirically derived” categories they call the MUSIC model – mellow, unpretentious, sophisticated , intense, contemporary — and plotted the patterns of preference across age-groups.
It was found in the study that the first great musical age was during adolescence. This period employed sharp bursts of ‘intense’ and then steadily climbed over to ‘contemporary’. Intense’ music — such as punk and metal — peaks in adolescence and declines in early adulthood, while ‘contemporary’ music — such as pop and rap — begins a rise that flattens until early middle age.
“Teenage years are often dominated by the need to establish identity , and music is a cheap, effective way to do this,” said Dr Jason Rentfrow , senior researcher on the study. ” At the stage they are in, the environment and mood of the people around them influenced their musical taste. ‘ Intense’ music, seen as aggressive , tense and characterized by loud, distorted sounds has the rebellious connotations that allow adolescents to stake a claim for the autonomy that is one of this period’s key ‘life challenges’ ,” Rentfrow said.
“As ‘intense’ gives way to the rising tide of ‘contemporary’ and introduction of ‘mellow’ — such as electronic and R & B — in early adulthood, the next musical age emerges,” researchers write in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Clearly, this study showed that, indeed, there is a general change in musical taste with consideration to age.
In another study, as part of the enrolment process for most music services, the user was asked for a few pieces of demographic data, including gender and year-of-birth. 5000 64-year-old and 13-year-old listeners were selected. The top artists for the average 64-year-old listener include a mix of currently popular artists along with a number of artists from years gone by. While the top artists for the average 13-year-old includes only the most current artists.
Summing it all up, this quick overview confirms our thinking of the age of a listener being directly linked to their music taste. We can use this information to help find artists that may be acceptable to a wide range of listeners. But we should be careful to consider how popularity bias may affect our view of the world. Times were different for different age groups, and songs were not released at the same time. A nostalgic bias could have been influence to the individual’s music preference.