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When Are You Too Old to Rock? A look into our music buying trends

The future of guitar-based music seems to be in constant decline. The same old guitar bands are headlining festivals like Reading and Leeds and it’s been an age since any have topped the charts. For many people in their 30’s and beyond it seems that music has become a simple nostalgic fantasy.

They listen to the same music library now as they did at university and only go to see live shows when their favourite band is celebrating yet another anniversary of their debut, second, or third album. It appears that I am in the minority of people over 30 who still has a passion for discovering and witnessing new music. It is interesting how films and comedy are a constant in many people’s lives of all ages, cinemas are not just full of adolescents, they represent a massive cross section of society; so, why is music seen as something of a youth culture, especially rock and popular music?

Though there are a few music lovers that have stayed the course – we surveyed 500 fellow music fans over 30 years of age from all walks of life, and questioned their listening and live music habits have changed since becoming an “older listener” according to the music industry (Radio 1 aims at the 15-29-year old for example).

Here are our findings :

When did you last pay for an album? 60% said they had paid for an album in the last year, 24% had paid for music in the last 2-5 years leaving 16% of people had not paid for music in over 5 years!

For the under 30’s 54% had paid for music in the last year, 21% had paid in the last 5 years leaving 25% who have not bought an album in the last 5 years.

Gig habits: 83% had attended a gig at least once a year with 24% seeing more than 10 acts. Interesting 36% said they spend more money now then they have in their lives (mainly on live concerts) and their mid to late 20’s is when they slowed down due to starting careers and families. 65% said they listen to music for at least 1-2 hours per day and 71% will use streaming services. 25% stated that they can see bands with friends but only the bands that they liked when they were in their 20’s. One of the participants said that they find it harder to attend, “now I tend to buy two tickets for anything I go to, then go about asking select people if they want to come with me ”

84% of under 30’s had attended a gig in the last year. A massive 79% listen to music more than 5 hours week, only 4% spend less than 2 hours a week listening to music. The under 30’s went to see live music as much as the older category with 24% seeing 5-10 bands a year.

Listening habits: Sadly less than 40% of the over 30’s still have like minded music friends and 10% said they have to attend gigs alone. Most claimed they have a core group of friends, but have found themselves talking to strangers online. 71% use streaming services to listen to music, 13% still use CD and the rest, 9% listen to the radio and just 7% buy vinyl.

84% of the under 30’s listen to music by a streaming service, the ones who buy physical albums regularly favour vinyl over CD’s by 2%, and its nice that a very smaller percentage of them are apparently buying tapes. Spotify playlists are the main source for new music, followed by radio. No one asks the hipster at the indie record store anymore it seems. The under 30’s said spent the most amount to time on music from 18-25 years but less than 5% attended gigs alone.

Conclusion: Could it be that older music fans grew up in a time when you had to pay for music, so they haven’t kicked the habit even when they have less disposable income. The over 40 year old’s were especially more prone to buying albums on a regular basis. It’s interesting to see that the younger generation choose vinyl over CD, could be the novel factor? As many would not have grown up having much access to the format and enjoy the collecting experience. It isn’t surprising that the a generation who grew up with smartphones were going to choose streaming services as their preferred option. Barely anyone admitted to illegally downloading music, which a decade ago would have been much higher.

What I have learnt is that the suspicion that music is only for the youth is a massive lie. There is plenty of love out their for music and with so many bands selling out arenas with their 10th/15/20th etc anniversary albums – it shows that ‘older’ fan is still willing to pay their money (though with now added babysitter expenses) and embrace their passion.