Survey the crowd at most any electronic music festival (like, um, ours, for example) and it’s massively apparent by the lithe bodies, fresh faces and spirit of enduring optimism that most of the people in attendance are too young to remember TGIF and pogs.
It’s no secret that EDM is a youth movement. A 2014 Nielsen study, in fact, found the scene is primarily composed of millennials under the age of 25. Research has long indicated that people listen to less new music as they age, and a new study indicates that one reason why you don’t see many forty-somethings at, say, a Hardwell show, is because people typically stop listening to fresh, popular music (as found on the Billboard Top 200) at age 33.
This means that folks older than 33 have, by and large, not gotten into the new wave of throttling computer music that’s hit mainstream popularity in the past few years, as they are presumably just at home listening to their old Beck albums, or whatever.
A recent study by tech analyst Skynet & Ebert surveyed the listening habits of Spotify listeners (the study doesn’t indicate how many) via individual listener profiles and artist popularity data from the Echo Next. Research found that being young is highly correlated with listening to new, popular music. Check their chart!
Analyzing this image, Skynet & Ebert states, “The average U.S. teen is very close to the center of the chart—that is, they’re almost exclusively streaming very popular music. Even in the age of media fragmentation, most young listeners start their musical journey among the Billboard 200 before branching out.”
Albums by David Guetta, Jack Ü and Odesza are all currently ranked in this top 200 list, which is in and of itself remarkable, in the sense that it was only in the last few years that electronic music hit this level of mainstream appeal.
“While teens’ music taste is dominated by incredibly popular music,” the study continues, “this proportion drops steadily through people’s 20s, before their tastes ‘mature’ in their early 30s.”
Essentially, the music we fall in love with when we’re young is typically what guides our subsequent listening habits and is also the music we carry with us as we age. (Consider that in decades past, young people fueled Beatlemania and the rise of rock, rap and early electronic sounds.) Young ears are generally just more open and impressionable. The fact that our tastes are largely locked in by our early 30s is no doubt aided by the fact that the music we love when we’re young composes the soundtrack to many peak and profound life moments (ahem), which gives it a certain amount of weight and nostalgic importance.
This is certainly not to say that people over the age of 33 aren’t fans of electronic music. It’s simply that older people (and obviously the word “old” is being used liberally here, as 33 is in fact not that old at all) are typically into more longstanding genres like house, deep house, techno, jungle, drum & bass and the like. This is arguably because these genres have just been around for decades, and fans that heard these sounds when they were younger have simply been in the scene since then.
Festival EDM, as played by noted whippersnappers including Martin Garrix (18 years old), Alesso (23 years old) and Zedd (25 years old), is, on the other hand, a relatively new and wildly popular addition to the realm of music, and has thus been embraced by people with more impressionable tastes (i.e., ALL YOU KIDS OUT THERE!). To wit, in 10 or 15 years, there will probably be a whole lot of parents explaining to their kids who Arty is and why festivals were better back in their day.