A new survey of music listeners attempts to make sense of aging and musical discovery.
According to new research, Americans hit their music peak at 24, with fans listening to ten or more new tracks per week. But four years later, right around our 28th birthday (27 years and 11 months to be exact), we tend to become overwhelmed by choice and enter a state of “musical paralysis.”
The new study by the music streaming service Deezer, surveyed 5,000 people in France, the UK, Germany, USA, and Brazil to help gage the dial on contemporary listening habits and it turns out most of us are in a sonic rut; 65% said they only listen to tracks they already know, yet 60 percent want to expand their musical repertoire.
When asked why they endure a constant state of song limbo, most said it was because they just simply didn’t have the time to scout out new sounds: 25 percent blamed a demanding job, 18 percent felt just too overwhelmed with the breadth of music choices available, and 14 percent had to care for young children.
But if we hit peak choice by age 24, then our music tastes must get fine-tuned far earlier. Back in February, economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz analyzed thousands of datasets from Spotify for New York Times to prove that the songs we loved as teenagers go on to form the bedrock of our adult lives. “For both men and women, their early 20s were half as influential in determining adult musical tastes as their early teens,” he explained.
What both studies actually hint at is that how pivotal our first forays into music are, and how our tastes are shaped by experience and emotion over appreciation. One argument is that love songs and angsty anthems alike ring truer on the start of adulthood than when you’re already in too deep: it’s on the cusp of adolescence that we find every lyric and sound as novel as they are personal.
In a blog for British music mag, the NME journalist Mark Beaumont argued that all the new survey does is help us separate the musically-challenged chaff from the wheat: “What new music you do come across is often a cliched rehash of stuff you liked the first time around, it’ll never help form who you are as a person in the way that the bands you discovered in your late teens did, and its broiling churn of teenage lust, insecurity and heartbreak isn’t made for you and I to relate to, grandad. There are not many hot young laptop-slingers singing about unreliable nappy linings, investment ISAs or the constant fear of sclerosis.”