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Spotify Study Finds That Musical Taste Stagnates At Age 33

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A new study has concluded that as people age, their musical taste tends to drift away from popular music of the times. The study finds that the average adult's taste in popular music peaks at age 33.

As children become teenagers and start developing tastes and interests in various types of popular music, there always appears to be a time when a generation gap develops, when the taste of children veers away from that of their parents and the kids often criticize or make fun of their parents' "old-fashioned" musical tastes.

Ironically, once those kids grow up, they will then be subjected to the same teasing and criticism from their own children. Rock music fans that grew up making fun of their parents' interest in crooners or doo wop are now subjected to the ridicule of their kids, who find the once-groundbreaking rock genre dated and only want to rave to the latest EDM anthems.

A new study reflects that reality and quantifies its influence. Ajay Kalia analyzed streaming data of popular music from Spotify and Echo Nest to determine how and when musical tastes develop, change and stagnate. The study determined that kids of 14 or 15 generally listen to top 40, chart-topping music, gradually veering off in their 20s into interests in different genres until age 33, when their musical taste peaks and often stagnates.

Kalia, a taste profiler at Spotify, stated, "Two factors drive this transition away from popular music. First, listeners discover less-familiar music genres that they didn't hear on FM radio as teens from artists with a lower popularity rank. Second, listeners are returning to music that was popular when they were coming of age — but which has since phased out of popularity."

Kalia describes the latter phenomenon as "taste freeze." He also found that being a parent accelerates the development of taste freeze by about four years, regardless of a person's age, and attributes this fact to the parent suddenly listening to a great deal of children's music instead of following his or her own personal tastes.

It appears that, since the data analyzed comes only from streaming Internet music services, it actually skews the results. Older individuals who subscribe to a streaming music service such as Spotify are clearly more technologically-savvy than the average person their age and thus, are more likely to be more in touch with current popular culture. With that in mind, if the data analyzed were from a random sample of all music listeners, it would find that "taste freeze" begins at an even younger age than Kalia determined.

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