Does Music Preference Change With Age

Ever since I was little, it was always clear that my parents liked different music than me. Although I didn’t quite understand how or why they didn’t enjoy listening to the newest rap songs with me, I always just accepted the fact that they didn’t. Although my parents and I have never been a fan of the same artists, my brother—who’s only four years older than me—and I have usually had similar taste in music…up until a couple of years ago. My brother is now in his twenties, and our music preferences have never been more different. Curious as to why his sudden preference change has happened as he has gotten older, and our recent discussions in class if certain relationships are correlational or not, I decided to research if there is in fact a correlation relationship between age and music preference.

In a recent study, Ajay Kalia, put this question to the test. To figure out when we, on average, stop listening to popular music, Kalia looked at Spotify user data along with an artist popularity database, Echo Nest to see who is listening to recent popular music. 


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In this study, three major revelations were found. First, on average, teens mostly listen to what is considered popular at that point in time. They then slowly start to fade away with their liking of popular music in their twenties, and then ultimately have no to little preference in popular music anymore by their thirties. This data clearly explains why my brother, who is twenty-two, now has a differing music taste than me, eighteen. The second revelation found was that although both men and women listen to similar, popular music in their teens, men typically stop listening to this type of music faster than it takes women to stop listening to mainstream music. Again, this explains why my brother is already showing signs of a change in music preference, even though he is only in his early twenties. The last major concept discovered in this study was that people who have children, no matter their age, listen to less mainstream music than other people of their age, who do not have kids.

Although it may seem sudden when someone, or your own, music preference has changed, there are actually a few reasons for this. First of all, as you get older, you are more likely to discover music from different artists and genres who are less popular. This is due to listening to the radio less, or merely listening to different stations. The second reason is that when you age, then listen to music that was popular music when you were younger, those artists are most likely not considered popular anymore. Therefore, although you once liked what was popular, that music is now considered old and unpopular. As for a reason why parents listen to less popular music than other people their age, it is due to the fact that these people are listening to a mixture of children songs and nursery rhymes more often than music they actually enjoy. It was even found in the same study that having a child is equal to having the same music preference as someone four years older.

In conclusion, it is clear there is a correlation between age and music preference—as you get older, your music preference changes. Although this is a correlation relationship, we can not say it is causal due to the fact that this was an observational study, not an experimental experimental. In other words, no variables were manipulated in this study.  



4 thoughts on “Does Music Preference Change With Age

  1. Alyssa Marie Frey

    I definitely agree with the fact that my parents listened to very different music when they were younger than what I listen too now. However, my parents actually like a lot of the music I listen to which I’m not sure is good or bad. My dad is constantly telling me what new song or band he heard on “Alt Nation” and if I’ve heard of them. My mom on the other hand loves country music like me and I think is even more in love with Luke Bryan than I am. However I can’t help but wonder, what made them change their music interest so much from what they grew up listening to? I also think that it should be considered how much music changes as we get older, so we in turn change our music preferences.

  2. Trevor Richard Dennehy

    I think another explanation for this that the source article seems to ignore is that popular or mainstream music seems to be geared towards young people, with themes of young love and partying, etc. This is noted in this rather old, but still relevant in its ideas, article on why young people prefer popular music. Less mainstream music typically deals with some more mature themes, which have less mainstream appeal, which makes them less popular, which is why less young people listen to them and more older people seem to.

  3. Kaitlyn A Kaminski

    Hi Melissa,

    I have always wondered if and how our music choice changes through the years. I found this post to be interesting and enjoyable because my parents hate my kind of music. I listen to country, pop, and rap- being at PSU my choices haven’t really changed that much but there’s a lot of EDM and rap here. I feel like if you go to a party and you don’t know the song, you learn it very quickly because you hear it everywhere you go. I know my parents listen to The Who, The Beatles, Zeppelin, Rush- I think them trying to push that kind of music onto me made me hate it. Literally whenever I hear a song by those “bands” (with the exception of a few songs) I cringe. I know my kids will probably hate my music when I’m older, but I am curious to see what they’ll listen to and vice versa.

  4. rvm5523

    When I read this post I fully agree with the main point. As a kid I never liked the same music as my parents and I never really thought my preference would change. As time went on my taste in music changed to new artists in correlation with new methods of listening to music such as Spotify. I can relate to this article.

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