While amidst my daily hour of internet surfing the other day, I came across an AV Club article about a recent study. In it, it described how the study’s author researched Spotify and Echonest to see what users listen to based on age, and ultimately came to a conclusion that the average age that people stop listening to new music at is 33. This seemed realistic for trends I’ve seen in other people, but I felt with my established listening habits that the study’s criteria would not apply to me…then I kept reading.
The study documented how teenaged users of the sites typically listened to music that was predominantly available through FM stations. That was my adolescence sure (there was a time that I liked Linkin Park), but my tastes became far more varied as I got older. Then of course, the article went on about how as one grows to college-age, their taste becomes much more eclectic, and they begin pursuing other options and become more privy towards sharing their discoveries. Well, that was me too I guess, but I feel there’s still so much for me to discover. Lastly, the article pointed out that as the researched listeners became older, they tended to return to music they had listened to as teenagers. Sounds preposterous…oh wait, I was actually listening to “Forget About Dre” the other day.
The piece got me thinking that maybe I’m not so different from the average music listener. Since I made music-collecting a hobby back in my early teen years, my taste has evolved in an virtually parallel manner to what this study showed, and even made me realize that I don’t listen to as much new music as I used to. Sure, I regularly keep up with news, and I use Spotify to discover new artists, but I havn’t been quite as prevalent at it as I used too. I also haven’t been so quick to jump from genre-to-genre just for the sake of iPod-mileage, and have actually been primarily sticking with my comfort zones lately.
When people used to ask me what kind of music I listened to, I often reply by saying this: “Let’s just say I can go from listening to Portishead, to Mastodon, to The Wu-Tang Clan, to The Stooges in one sitting.” Still accurate, but this is something I’ve been saying for nearly six year now, as these are all groups I listened to on the cusp of my young adulthood. Since then I’ve certainly kept up with newer artists like Danny Brown and Amen Dunes, but often I wonder if I’m just doing this to stay topical both socially and career-wise. In fact, lately when accumulating new music, I’ve been quicker to seek out older artists who I missed the first time around, and have been greatly rewarded for my spelunking (Masta Ace is possibly the greatest rapper you have never heard of).
I’ve also noticed the age-range of the artists I appreciate has advanced in recent years. For example, when feeling depressed during my early 20s, I’d often seek out the music of emo bands like The Dismemberment Plan or Sunny Day Real Estate, while now I often find their sound a bit juvenile, and their aesthetic distant from my own. Instead, I find I seek out the crooning of older blues-influenced musicians like Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen, whom both allow me to wallow in my sorrow, and feel mature about it too. Don’t make any mistake, I’m still a 20-something lost in the world, but I just traded in my teen idol (whoever they may be), for a statue of Scott Walker.
Any young person who becomes enamored by the prospect of accumulating the massive spectrum of music out there is in for an uncomfortable realization: there’s just too much for one to experience in one lifetime. I’ve been aware of this reality for a while now, but then hasn’t stopped me from listening to a large amount of music daily, and even developing a systematic schedule to do so. Now though, this is even becoming less-and-less of a concern for me as I begin to understand more-and-more what adult responsibility really means. As the reality of starting a family, and leaving my comfort zone becomes more apparent, my affinity to diet so much popular music is all but certain to dwindle. Maybe I very will completely lose the urge to listen to new music the time my mid-thirties role around, but until then I can rest with the thought that I’ll have another half-a-decade to just be as efficient a music nerd as possible.
FDRMX Eyes: A MEI is a pseudonym of a Taiwanese pop singer Chang Hui-mei. She became famous in the 90s and remains one of the most popular musicians in Mandarin-speaking world. Here is her video for “Do You Still Want to Love Me.”