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Let’s Talk Millennials and Music for a Second

Millennials, the huge cohort of young people born between 1980 and 2000, looks at music differently than previous generations. They’ve never known a world without broadband Internet and smartphones. Music has always been free (or close to it). Most of them have never set foot in a record store unless they’ve jumped into vinyl. And they care less about albums than other generations, preferring to go the a la carte choice and picking single songs.

They also have incredibly short attention spans when it comes to music. This is from Digital Music News:

“Millennials have short attention spans and constantly move on to the next new thing. When it comes to music, if a song is a month old, it’s ‘ancient,’ they don’t want to hear it anymore, they want something new and they want it now…”

This is a statement you’ll hear made by Gen Xers and Boomers, as well as Millennials who self-identify as “generation fluid,” not wanting to be defined by their demographics and wishing they “were born in a different generation.” Shit, I’ve probably said something similar to that statement. The fact of the matter is, this is a statement that’s been uttered about every generation when it comes to music, and the more startling fact is that it’s actually less true of this generation than any previous generation (actually, the more startling fact is that I’m about to defend Millennials).

To prove this, we’re going to use the Billboard Hot 100.  Some may argue against this, but Billboard is THE trend tracker, adjusting their rules and weights over the years to best display what is being listened to/consumed the most.  It’s a sales, airplay, and streaming chart all in one.  And it tells us that in the 1970s and 1980s, there were far more hits than there were in 2015.

The rest of this post is definitely worth reading. Once you’re done, please enjoy this new Millennial anthem by Micah Tyler. (Both links via FYI Music News)


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38293 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

7 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Millennials and Music for a Second

  • Those of us born in the early ’80s (80 – about 84/85) are not millennials, per se, nor are we Gen X’ers. We are that rough in-between (Xennials?). We didn’t have internet until we were about 14 or 15 (and even then it was dial up) and most of us didn’t have our first cell phone (nokia bricks, or a startac if you wanted to be spendy) until we were at least 17 or 18. Lumping is in with those that are mentioned in your opening paragraph is almost insulting. My friends and I spent many hours in record stores during our formative years, as it was the only way to get new music without taping it off the radio. I remember spending hours recording mix tapes from CD’s and radio stations so that I’d have something to put in my walkman for the bus ride to school….in grade 10. Anti-skip was still new and expensive. By the time I graduated, I carried around a 52-disc cd wallet in my school bag. So please, don’t put us early ’80s kids in with the rest of those. We were the last group to grow up without technology (and digital music) at our finger tips. Even to this day, I still do not buy digital music. I’m still happily stuck on buying cd’s (and vinyl for the last 12 years) for the artwork and liner notes, something that’s really starting to go by the wayside these days.

    • I was going to reply with something like this, but Dmac absolutely said it best. Born in 82, and this was exactly my experience. We have a bit of each generation mixed together. We’re the in-betweeners!

      • Oh and I hate buying digital as well; I feel like I need something tangible, and higher quality than MP3. Which is a problem because I’m not a vinyl guy, and CDs are overpriced coasters now. I guess I just want access to high quality FLAC files with good digital art – but not going all the way to HDTracks overpriced/overhyped quality – just like an iTunes for actual CD quality music. It’s a joke that vinyl comes with download codes for MP3’s. Why not FLAC?!

        • some vinyls do come with FLAC files, as well as MP3’s. I’ve got several in both formats for various listening devices. At least most MP3 downloads are 320kbs (except the new Lumineers album…only 160, WTF?!). But yes, getting that HD digital file is fairly rare.

          • Gotcha. My thought is it should always be FLAC and the user can convert from there. But the music industry isn’t traditionally friendly towards users having those abilities I guess. At least DRM isn’t really a thing anymore…

        • Ever checked out Bandcamp? They skew more toward independent music, but you can download in half-dozen formats, including FLAC.

          • Definitely! Big fan of it. Problem is, many artists aren’t able to put their music on Bandcamp unless they are indie since it is a direct-revenue platform… so then what about larger artists, where is the access to lossless music for them? I’m not going to buy either overpriced CDs or iTunes Mp3s just to feel good that I’ve ‘supported’ the artist. This is the struggle…

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