07 September 2015

Skynet & Ebert: “When do we stop keeping up with popular music?”

For this study, I started with individual listening data from U.S. Spotify users and combined that with Echo Nest artist popularity data, to generate a metric for the average popularity of the artists a listener streamed in 2014. With that score per user, we can compute a median across all users of a specific age and demographic profile.

What I found was that, on average…

  • … 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.
Ajay Kalia

Interesting study, both looking at the results, and because it demonstrates how powerful insights can be gained by properly analyzing the data online services routinely gather on their users. I’m over 33, so this could partially explain my lackluster reaction to Apple Music, where I haven’t bothered with curation, discovery and playlists. But it also signals a problem for the music industry: new artists and hits appeal mostly to the demographic under 30, who have less disposable income to spend on purchasing music, concerts and streaming. And the more mature demographic with more varied tastes is probably inclined to purchase their favorite albums (or have already done so), rather than spend on streaming services.

The Coolness Spiral of Death
The Coolness Spiral of Death: Currently-popular artists lie in the center of a circle, with decreasing popularity represented by each larger ring. As users get older, they “age out” of mainstream music.

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