Why Does Discovering New Music Get Harder the Older You Get?

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this question.  My theory is quite simple:  life gets in the way.

For most of us, there’s a period of time in our lives–usually from the time we enter high school until we leave college/university–when music means everything.  It consumes us to our very souls.  We also use music to project an identity to others.  We listen constantly. We research it.  We go to gigs. We wear the t-shirts.  Music is an essential part of our coming of age.

But eventually, other things begin to intrude.  Jobs.  Relationships.  Kids.  Mortgages.  Debts. Responsibility. It’s just not possible to devote the kind of time, energy and emotion to music that we once did.  Music discovery is no longer a priority.  Instead, we tend to go back to the old and the familiar–the music our youth.

That’s one way of looking at it. offers up this explanation:


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.

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5 thoughts on “Why Does Discovering New Music Get Harder the Older You Get?

  • I think time is definitely an important factor, in that as an adult, you have less time to spend searching for new material. However, there's more to it than that.

    As you mature, your own personal tastes become more refined, and your "comfort zone" becomes more defined. As a teen, you're prone to mood swings and abrupt changes to your persona. Same goes with the music. But once you "find yourself" and stabilize your own identity, the music you feel best correlates to you becomes more defined.

    Then, with a 'sweet spot' that is much smaller, is it any wonder its hard to find bands that land right in it? I've tried to keep an open mind for new music, and some of my favorite bands today are fairly new acts (Shiny Toy Guns, Blue October, Metric, Stanfields, etc.), but it hasn't been easy to find acts that I truly like.

    It's not that music today is better or worse, but rather, finding music today that fits perfectly into my own tastes is harder since my tastes have 'narrowed' over the years.

  • I think part of it is that a lot of music starts to sound repetitive. Since almost all new bands are heavily influenced by artists that you've heard before, it's much harder to get excited about something if you feel it's not all that new.

  • But it's not harder! In fact it's the opposite.
    As quality takes precedence to quantity (due to aforementioned distracters), we know better and faster what to look for, and where.
    The result is … being productive.

    People do look for new music in their middle age, and find it. And that goes for books, movies.

  • I think it's because you don't change, music changes. I listen to everything, from classic rock to some some of the cheesiest commercial pop from the 80s and 90s. I still like the same stuff, but what's out there right now doesn't do anything for me. So if my tastes haven't changed at all, the music landscape and the world around us has changed, thus, finding music that resonates becomes more difficult.

  • This is a really interesting topic to me, since I've hit the big 5 OH a few years back and music used to be an incredibly important part of my life, less so now. Your theory has some merit – *every* week on Friday after work I used to hit the music store and typically snag 1-3 albums, go home and listen to the hell out of them. I'd pull out the guitar, try to play along, it simply ate up a significant portion of my week. I want to find bands that I like, I love my Arcade Fire, Radiohead, but when asked my favourite music I tend to run out of steam after a few names like that. Everytime I try to hunt down new music, it all sounds the same. Predictive services online that forum the 'if you like X then you'll like Y' have pretty much been utter fail to me. I love Poe, for example, and they point me to Sara & Teagan(!), without even *mentioning* Aimee Mann? I think this stuff is coded by people that don't understand music history and styles – everything is conveniently wedged into alternative or 'chick bands'.
    So yes, time is related, but I also think the resources out there are oversimplified and geared towards the pop machine.


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