An Ageing Fan Base and Rock Music Decline

An Ageing Fan Base and Rock Music Decline | Society Of Rock Videos

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As we get older, the majority of individuals tend to become less attentive to new music and prefer to stick with the songs they grew up with. Researchers are investigating why our interest in exploring new music diminishes as we age, highlighting the potential benefits of listening to unfamiliar tracks in forming new memory connections and experiencing different pleasures.

Modern Music Consumption Trends and Challenges

Based on a calculation by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, which represents the global music sector, the average time spent listening to music worldwide per week has risen to 20.1 hours, up from 18.4 hours in 2021.

Today, we have unprecedented access to music through various channels, offering a plethora of unfamiliar styles waiting to be explored. The excitement of encountering new songs and sounds has the potential to enhance the lives of individuals regardless of age. However, in reality, this eagerness to delve into new or unfamiliar music often wanes over time. Numerous studies support the observations of a U.S. songwriter.

As Bob Seger sing:

Today’s music ain’t got the same soul
I like that old time rock ‘n’ roll

From Childhood to Adulthood

The concept of open-earedness, which refers to the willingness to explore unfamiliar music genres, is widely discussed in academic circles. This trait tends to evolve over time as individuals become more open to embracing new musical experiences.

Typically, children up to the age of 11 display a strong curiosity in discovering fresh tunes. However, as early adolescence begins, there is a decline in open-earedness, although overall interest in music remains high. During young adulthood, there is a modest increase in openness to novel musical experiences, but this diminishes with age.

A significant study conducted in 2013, involving more than 250,000 participants, validated these dynamic shifts. The study also highlighted that the importance we place on music decreases after adolescence, with the time dedicated to listening to music decreasing from a peak of 20% of waking hours during adolescence to 13% in adulthood.

Researchers have put forth different, yet generally complementary, theories to explain the trends observed in music engagement. One theory suggests that the decline in music engagement can be attributed to psychosocial maturation. During adolescence, individuals use music as a means to establish their identity and navigate social circles. However, as adults develop their personalities and establish social groups, the drive to engage with new music diminishes.

Factors Influencing Music Consumption Across the Lifespan

Age-related changes in hearing acuity, such as a reduced tolerance for loud and high-frequency sounds, have also been proposed as a contributing factor to the waning interest in new music among certain individuals.

Furthermore, it has been suggested that the decrease in music consumption with age can be attributed to the limited discretionary time that adults have compared to younger individuals. Adults may have less opportunity to explore their musical interests due to responsibilities and other obligations.

While some argue that the decline in music consumption is directly linked to an increasing intolerance towards new music as individuals age, others refute this notion. They emphasize the importance of considering the different ways in which music is processed and used throughout the lifespan. For instance, teenagers tend to be more conscious of their listening choices, whereas adults may use music as background accompaniment for activities such as exercising or completing mundane tasks, making them less aware of their exposure to new music.

Despite the varying viewpoints, there is a consensus among researchers that the music individuals encounter during adolescence greatly influences their musical preferences and tastes.

The period of adolescence plays a crucial role in shaping our musical tastes, influenced by two primary factors. The first factor is the fully developed state of our brains that allows us to comprehend and appreciate different genres and styles of music. The second factor stems from the intense emotional experiences of puberty that create an enduring emotional connection between music and our memories. These profound emotional bonds that form during adolescence lead to long-lasting influences on our musical preferences, shaping our taste in music for life.

The Decline of Rock’s Respectability

Rock music has garnered significant respect, yet ironically, this very admiration may be detrimental to its popularity. Parents and guardians of tweens and teens are well aware of the desire of young people to disavow anything associated with “old people.” This detachment from adult culture compels younger generations to seek out music that they can lay claim to as their own, thereby differentiating themselves from their elders.

The fact that rock music is embraced by parents, and even grandparents, adds another layer of complexity. For some young people, the knowledge that their family members also enjoy the same music can diminish its appeal. The desire to create a sense of ownership over their music choices and form a distinct identity motivates them to seek out fresh sounds and novel genres.

The Challenges of Rock Music Fandom

Rock enthusiasts are known for their sometimes contentious nature. While elitism can be found in all music genres, it is particularly prevalent within rock music circles. To some fans, only iconic bands like The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, or Led Zeppelin are considered worthy, while all other musicians are dismissed.

Another common phenomenon within rock fandom is the tendency to reject artists once they achieve mainstream success. Fans may initially embrace a band or artist when they feel like they have discovered them independently, only to turn against them once their popularity expands. This behavior is not exclusive to rock music; it can occur in any genre, including indie, alternative, or emerging music scenes.

This critical outlook can discourage rock acts from pursuing mainstream recognition or engaging in collaborations that could broaden their audience. In the rock music world, artists often face a dilemma: they can either maintain their underground credibility and niche appeal or aim for commercial success and risk facing backlash from die-hard fans. Paradoxically, while rock music fans express concerns about the genre’s diminishing presence on the charts, they also tend to criticize any artist who achieves significant success in mainstream music.


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The Limitations of Traditional Rock Music

Defining what qualifies as “proper” rock music can be subjective and contentious. For many purists, rock music is characterized by a specific instrumentation: electric guitars, bass guitar, drums, keyboards, and a vocalist. However, operating within this narrow format can be restrictive, as countless variations of traditional rock have already been explored.

When rock musicians venture beyond this conventional framework and incorporate elements such as piano accompaniments, orchestral arrangements, electronic sounds, rap vocals, or Latin beats, questions arise about whether it still falls under the category of “proper” rock. The dilemma intensifies for aspiring rock acts who must navigate between adhering to the established formula, risking being labeled as unoriginal, or daring to experiment outside that formula, potentially facing condemnation for deviating from the expectations of traditional rock music.

The reality is that the rock music of the past, spanning the sixties, seventies, eighties, and nineties, has been thoroughly explored and reinterpreted countless times. Aspiring rock musicians face a challenging decision regarding the musical direction they should pursue. They must either adhere to the traditional formula and risk being seen as derivative, or venture into new territories, risking criticism for not conforming to the notion of “proper” rock music.

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