The Music Artists Travelling Through Generations
Music can transport listeners on a journey of nostalgia and emotions, helping to relive old memories. Similarly to this, some artists can resonate so strongly with a listener that they support them throughout their career by being avid fans.
At Roberts, we wanted to find out if older artists' fans are interacting with the world of modern music, and just how involved the older generations are with music in 2022. We surveyed 2,000 UK respondents to find out how familiar they are with various artists and their views on music and how, or even if, their tastes have developed.
Where are people finding the music they love?
We wanted to find out where people find the music they want to listen to and, interestingly, only 30% of people follow the music in the charts. It may not come as a shock that 76% tell us that they prefer to follow their own music taste, as opposed to current songs on the radio. In addition, just 18% of the Silent Generation (74+) told us that they enjoy listening to music that people younger than them listen to.
Now we know that older music artists tend not to appear in the charts unless the song becomes popular again or is a re-release, but when we asked if people find older songs and artists boring, Gen Z was the generation that agreed that they did the most at 34%, followed by the other generations, with decreasing returns in chronological order. Just 1.85% of the Silent Generation agreed. We also found that men are nearly twice as likely to find older music boring, with 21% compared to women at 11%.
When asked if the UK public found it difficult to enjoy modern music, more Millennials (aged 24-42) were in agreement than Gen X (aged 43-54). However, of all the generations, Baby Boomers (aged 55-73) were the generation least interested in getting to know older music.
Now we’ve established where the UK public is finding the music that best fits their taste, we wanted to find out how open they are to listening to artists that may not be in the Top 40. Our data shows that nothing is stopping younger generations from becoming more aware of older music, with 57% of people telling us they want older music to be played more on the radio and 36% are looking to have more of an interest in older music themselves. It is apparent that the world of music has changed drastically since earlier decades, such as the 70s and 80s, but that isn’t a blocker for bringing in new listeners, as only 18% of people admitted they find it hard to relate to older music.
Over a third of the Gen Z told us they wouldn’t listen to a song if it was released before they were born. That’s a whole library of classics released before 2000 that the younger generation could be missing out on!
How well does Gen Z know older music stars?
We asked every generation how familiar they were with older artists, and it’s safe to say the results are shocking. The artist least familiar to Gen Z was Aretha Franklin, with over 60% of those from ages 16 to 23 unfamiliar with the music legend’s work. Following closely behind were U2 and The Supremes with over half of the generation unfamiliar with their work. Also included in our study were Elvis Costello, Bee Gees, Phil Collins, The Beach Boys and Blondie.
The other end of the list found that Gen Z was most familiar with The Beatles, closely followed by Elvis Presley and Whitney Houston with over two-thirds of people being aware of these artists.
Interestingly, there were some artists from this list that even the Silent Generation weren’t too familiar with. Only 51% of The Silent Generation said they were familiar with the band that brought us songs such as ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ and ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’, Bon Jovi.
How well does the Silent Generation know modern music stars?
By utilising a list of the most popular artists over the last few years, we then wanted to find out how familiar the Silent Generation are with modern music. Through our research, we found that less than 1% of the Silent Generation know who AJ Tracey is. Popular TikTok favourite, Olivia Rodrigo comes in second with only 2% of the Silent Generation being familiar with the artist. Olivia’s popular song ‘Driver’s License’ has been used over 1.3 million times on TikTok and only four days after its release it broke the record for the most one-day streams for a non-holiday song on Spotify.
When will these music fans disappear?
We have investigated how the familiarity with certain artists is decreasing/increasing with each new generation, and it begs the question; will there come a point in the future when the artists of previous generations are no longer known at all?
The Beatles, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys and The Supremes are all artists that are seeing a decrease in familiarity from each younger generation. The Beach Boys and The Supremes are the bands most likely to lose fans in the younger generations with over 15% average decrease in familiarity with each generation. The Silent Generation were over 80% familiar with both bands compared to just over 40% for Gen Z. If each generation were to continue to lose familiarity at this average rate, there could be a scenario in the next three generations in which they will have no fans in the youngest generation.
The Beatles and Elvis Presley, however, do have more of an influence on the younger generation and could still see fans of a young age for the next 10 years, meaning there will be plenty of opportunities to continue their legacy and celebrate their music.
The music fans on the rise
While some artists' fans may be disappearing with every new generation, who is going to be replacing them for Gen Z’s attention? Drake, Nicki Minaj, Dua Lipa and Olivia Rodrigo are all artists that are very familiar to the younger generations but see a drop off as we ask each age group. Around two-thirds of Gen Z are familiar with all of these artists, compared to just 1.85% of the Silent Generation being familiar with Olivia Rodrigo. Ed Sheeran is the most popular modern artist in our study for the eldest generation with 61% being familiar compared to 77% of Gen Z.
On average, Nicki Minaj’s popularity grows 33% with every younger generation, very similar to Dua Lipa at 34.6%. Olivia Rodrigo’s popularity, however, grows 55% with every younger generation, does this mean Olivia is ‘the artist’ of these newer generations? With her popularity on TikTok, songs like ‘Driver’s License’ and ‘Good 4 U’ have been used on the platform over a million times. ‘Driver’s License’ reached number 1 in the official charts and stayed there for nine weeks, becoming the longest-running number-one debut single in 15 years.
Our survey results show us that, regardless of the time when some artists were most popular, their music can continue through the generations, while the older generations are finding it more difficult to relate to the newer music releases. There is a huge opportunity for new artists to create the soundtrack for Gen Z and the ones that follow, which will continue to be heard for years to come.
The research was conducted by Censuswide with 2,000 general consumers (nat rep) aged 18+ between 08.04.22 to 11.04.22. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which are based on the ESOMAR principles.