Friday, 16 January 2015

Have we lost the 15-25 effect?

For decades it has seemed to be the rule that the music we listen to between the ages of 15 and 25 (give or take a few years either way) defines our musical tastes for life. It's certainly true for me - assorted prog rock groups, the likes of Simon and Garfunkel, plus the same basic taste in classical music, serve me still many years later, and if I buy an album these days, it is far more likely to be filling a gap in that oeuvre than anything more trendy.

However, it struck me the other day as I listened to one of my 20-year-old daughter's Spotify playlists in the car, that this phenomenon may now be doomed. In the olden days we bought albums, and once we got into an artist, we bought more of their albums. And this continued indefinitely. (Witness the fact that my Christmas stocking contained Al Stewart albums and a Curved Air album.) Now, though, a playlist is an ever-shifting collection of individual tracks. Certainly the download-and-stream generation will have favourite artists, but these also seem much more fluid, in part because the listeners are not immersing themselves in artist's work.

Of course things could change. It's too early to say what the download-and-streamers will be doing in their 30s. They may still develop a longing for the music of those key years and start to expand their playlists to include more from the bands and singers they liked best. But equally, and particularly if they are pretty much pure streamers, their taste could continue to evolve. If so, it will be a sad day for those whose pension resides in their backlist.

In one way, the new approach has advantages. It's more eclectic, less set in its ways. But I can't help but feel it's not the best way to really appreciate music.

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