Data crunch: At 33 you lose interest in new music

A survey of Spotify data shows that people’s interest in new music tails off at the advanced old age of 33. After that, we tune into the oldies and assure one another that music was so much better back then.

Same in classical-contemporary music?

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  • ==Same in classical-contemporary music?

    I would say no. Go to any concert of new music by London Sinfonietta, Ensemble InterContemporain, Ensemble Moderne (etc) and you will see a lot of grey hair in the audience.

    • But these grey hairs result from listening to the music. A research team from Oklahoma University has discovered that exposure to sonic art breaks-down the pigment cells in hair and skin (Nature, issue september 2012). In India beauty salons use CD’s with Stockhausen to lighten-up the clients’ skin colour.

  • Strictly pop-culture victims only. Every classical music lover I know is enthusiastically exploring new stuff well into later life. Walter Cobbett got excited about Berg and Hindemith in the pages of his “Cyclopedia of Chamber Music” in 1929 – when he was 82 years old.

    There’s no audience on earth more exclusive, cliquey or conservative than a pop audience – I’ve heard of pop bands having bottles hurled at them when they try and play new material at live gigs. It’s not unusual to read pop critics actually complaining if a well-known artist’s live performance doesn’t contain their best-known numbers, even if those are decades old.

    • Boulez lost interest in music alltogether after his passionate love affair at 16. After that, he developed sonic art and academic conducting skills, in an attempt to completely dry-out any residu of emotional juices. And he got very old with that, so….

  • I have to say that at 33 I find myself interested in more different kinds of music than ever. In my early to mid teens I listened to almost nothing but early music and religious choral music.

    I remember for practice sitting an old GCSE music exam in which one of the questions involved listening to a recording of Louis Armstrong singing What a Wonderful World, and the question was, “Who is singing?” Not only did I not know that it was Louis Armstrong, I actually asked my teacher how on earth anyone was supposed to know who was singing. He said that anyone should be able to recognise Louis Armstrong’s voice! I also remember being rather surprised when Peter Croser (no less) told me that if I wanted to learn how to sing, or indeed how to be a musician of any kind, I should listen to Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.

    Needless to say, my musical interests have broadened considerably, and I can now be found listening to, and genuinely appreciating, musicians such as Elvis Presley, Simon and Garfunkel, Bobby Short, Louis Armstrong, and Frank Sinatra. I absolutely loved the film Inside Llewyn Davis, and ever since I’ve been trying to listen to more folk music. I do remain interested first and foremost in classical music, specifically the music of central Europe from the baroque through to the middle of the twentieth century, but I am pleased that I am now just as likely to be listening to I Just Can’t Help Believing (a great song, which Elvis performed with superlative musicianship) as When David Heard that Absalom was Slain.

    I also remember that when I studied A-level music, and was forced for the first time in my life to try to take a serious interest in the Second Viennese School, Boulez, Bartók, and Messiaen (among others), my reaction was to wonder why I would want to listen to this dreadful stuff when we had already the unsurpassable works of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. But in fact the older I’ve got, the more I find myself drawn to the music of Wagner, Mahler, Strauss, Schoenberg, and Berg. I suspect that at 16 most of us have not yet had enough experience of life for this music to mean anything to us, just as one probably would not expect a 16-year-old to appreciate a very difficult painting such as Picasso’s Femme nue au collier. While I still struggle with Boulez, the Quatuor pour la fin du temps has become one of my lost loved works. I also try to keep up with music by living composers, such as Pēteris Vasks, Arvo Pärt, Sofia Gubaidulina, John Adams, and Philip Glass.

    So far, then, my musical horizons have only broadened with age. I hope that the trend will never stop!

  • If you read the underlying article, the key finding is that people listen to less and less “popular” music in their 20s and 30s, and the proportion stabilizes from the 30s onward.

    As the study’s author recognizes, this pattern could mean at least three things:
    1. People are continuing to listen to music they enjoyed in their youth, which has become less popular;
    2. People are listening to more non-mainstream music.
    3. Some combination of the two.

    So the study does not necessarily mean that people lose interest in “new”, “unusual”, “original,” or “different,” music–and could mean just the opposite.

    In my case, the last option is the case. As I get older, I tolerate radio offerings less and less, and listen to a mix of my old 1980s pop and unusual music–be it electronic or orchestral–from today.

  • I didn’t even *start* listening to modern classical music until I was 38, picking up the DVD sets of Simon Rattle’s “Leaving Home” from the Tower Records across the street from my office (then significantly investing in a collection of works as that store started to close up).

    As for other types of musics? I stopped listening to ‘pop’ stuff in 1990, age 20. I stopped listening to ‘classic rock’ with much regularity by 1993, having more or less heard it all (or at least, all that the radio stations would play). I listen to celtic dance tunes and have since I was 23, but to a degree that music is as timeless as classical is.

    I’m 44, and in the last season, I invested in a few boxed sets of Dave Brubeck albums, only one of which I had before (Time Out, which everybody should have).

    So, yeah, my life is anecdotal and breaks the trend…

    …but then again, I refuse to join Spotify as I believe its business model is exploitative of the artists. To me, I see their model as “we buy one CD and share it with 2.7 million of our friends”. Spotify itself is a service with a limited demographic.

  • The original piece is definitely talking about the average age when a statistically significant number of people give up on current POP music.

    When I was approaching 40, nearly 2 decades ago, I started a long-running comic riff with my friends about how I was going to give up on (current) rock music for my 40th birthday. And then it turned out it wasn’t a riff any more, it was reality.

    It turned out that the last time I discovered lots of new rock music I liked was in the year I turned 33, exactly as the Spotify article would predict many years later. But this doesn’t mean I stopped looking for new music: there was the whole “world music” thing, several waves in folk & roots music, and I accidentally came to classical music in a big way when I started listening to BBC Radio 3 for the Late Junction programme, via Internet streaming.

  • Assuming this is correct (and I have no reason not to accept it) I would hope orchestras in the USA would stop the mind-numbing annual all-Gershwin concerts we are subjected to. There is no one alive (well, almost) who came of age when Gershwin was the popular rage. Most concert-goers today had their pop music ears ossified during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. But every year, usually on New Year’s Eve, it’s a Gershwin orgy. As a player I’m sick and tired of it and I don’t believe audiences respond all that well to it anymore either. But I do feel sorry for the younger generation whose idea of good music is the likes of Bon Jovi, Slayer, AC/DC, Alice Cooper and other crap.

    • When US orchestras tour Europe the seem to forget that there are other American composers than Gershwin, Ives and Adams.

    • If you think Bon Jovi, Slayer, AC/DC and Alice Cooper are crap compared to what passes for popular music these days, then I really pity you, you philistine….

    • If you don’t like modern contemporary rock music then don’t listen to it in the same way I give a wide berth to the music of Boulez, Xenakis and that ilk.
      Yes, there are some people who think the light shines out of Boulez’s bum and good luck to them, as they say “it takes all sorts”, perhaps it is because I am not a musician and cannot read music that I respond to music on a purely emotion (and visceral) level.
      I do try to keep an open mind and have discovered less well known composers like Silvestrov, Čiurlionis (wonderful tone poems) Moondog and Terry Riley.
      So I have no problem with listening to Led Zeppelin followed by Steve Reich then a little Northern Soul, a long interval before Bruckner 8 and finish off with Howlin Wolf.
      There is just so much good music out there……………..

  • Doubtful — although maybe your experimentation widens to include more than just whatever the latest pop is. At the advanced age of 40, I discovered Baroque in far more depth, in addition to Renaissance and early music. The very, very old was “new” to me.

    I think the older you get, you continue to cast your net looking for new and interesting things, but maybe not in the same locations. I don’t know about Taylor Swift, but I didn’t learn about John Dowland until after I started going grey.

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