Required Reading: The Change in Listening Habits of Students

Hypebot reports on the observations of Aram Sinnreich, an assistant professor at Rutgers University’s School of Communication and Information. Every year, he quizzes his students on how they assess, acquire and listen to music. My, how things have changed.

When I first started teaching a decade ago, the average undergrad was not that different than I had been as a college student. They had a music collection, mostly in CDs. Maybe augmented by a hard drive full of songs on MP3 that they had downloaded from file sharing programs and listened to using Winamp or iTunes. But they were very much in a librarying mode, and each of them really was like, “I’m into hip hop. I’m into country. I’m into modern rock. I’m into metal.” They each really identified themselves in terms of one specific genre or group of genres.

And now, almost without exception, when I ask my students at the beginning of the semester, I’ll say, “Raise your hand if you have more than five different styles of music in your music collection, whether it’s your iPod or your Spotify library or what-have-you.” And they’ll all raise their hands, and I’ll say, “All right, more than 10.” They’ll all keep their hands up. “More than 25,” and most of them will still have their hands up. I’ll say, “More than 50.” And the majority of them will still have their hands up.

So because the cost, both economically and procedurally, to experiment with new styles has become so minimal for these young consumers, for these young music fans, they have much broader tastes than my students did a decade ago, let alone than I did when I was their age. These are students who see no contradiction in having Taylor Swift, John Coltrane, Glenn Gould, Harry Partch, and Hassan Hakmoun all on shuffle in their playlists while they’re studying for a test. These guys are much more all-embracing, and because of that, much less prone to judge each other for their musical taste.

You really need to read the whole thing. Go here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ 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.

One thought on “Required Reading: The Change in Listening Habits of Students

  • March 16, 2015 at 12:24 am

    Haha! Over 50 different styles of music?!? I call ‘bullshit’ on this Aram professor guy. Either he’s lying, or he and his students are idiots and don’t know what a genuinely different style of music is. I’d love to see a list of even 25 genuinely different styles of music from his students.


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