Teenage music trends: Do you know what's making their headphones hot?

 

Gangnam Style – and I could finish this blog here! But, as we know, teenagers can be fickle, and it’s possible that in a week or two, this most “liked” video in YouTube history, as awarded by the Guinness World Records(i) could be, well,history! Yet, if that were to happen, teenagers would still carry on listening to a huge amount of music.

Passionate about music
Young people love their music. When they were asked what entertainment
they’d miss most, if suddenly transported to a desert island, 90% said music (ii). In the UK, research has shown their digital collections have grown to over 8,000 tracks. That means they could press play and not hear a repeat for over two-and-a-half weeks! On their iPods and MP3 players they pack, on average, 1,800 tracks(iii). Over three-quarters of them listen to music off their computer every day. It’s the soundtrack to their lives: at a time of huge physical, emotional and intellectual changes(iv).

Listening Trends
But what of the trends? Well, on a weekly basis we have a fair idea of what’s going on through the various official charts. Today we can find Gangnam Style, Rihanna, Swedish House Mafia, Taylor Swift, Maroon 5 and Bruno Mars in the Australian, American and UK lists. But, next week will be different. On a side-note, it’s fascinating to see just how similar the charts can be, around the globe.

Over a longer time span, big-selling album artists like Adele, Lady Gaga and Jessie J have meant that, after seven years, pop over took rock in Britain(v). In the US, on the other hand, rock has remained the dominant genre for over 10 years(vi).

In the techno/dance genre, it looks like dubstep is eventually moving into the mainstream after its first appearance in 1998. It’s now been picked up by Rihanna and Justin Bieber(vii).

Then there’s the emergence of “folked-up” pop, with the likes of Mumford & Sons and the Fleet Foxes(viii).

Away from the charts, it has to be worth mentioning the incredible popularity of specifically commissioned music for video games. Full orchestral concerts, with additional choirs and rock bands, featuring video game music have sold out in hours(ix). Here, packed concert halls listen to the music of Final Fantasy IV, Halo or The Elder Scrolls. I’m sure we all know someone who can tell what town we are leaving in Skyrim, based on hearing just two bars of muted strings and a thud from a bass drum!

Changing but constant
There’s no doubt that the range of music, and the ease of access to this music, has changed remarkably in the last decade. In my mind, I see what was once a fast flowing river of popular taste, spread out into an enormous delta of musical styles. And we can as easily listen to one stream as to any other.

Yet, despite the way teenagers access and listen to music going through this seismic shift, and the choices available to them now, the broad tastes of young people remain remarkably consistent. And this consistency is across time, age and even countries(x).

Earlier this year, researchers in the Netherlands asked teenagers about their music preferences. Earlier research had show that despite the massive range of musical styles, they can be reduced to five broad styles:

Pop – chart, pop music
Rock – rock, heavy metal, punk, gothic
Urban – hip-hop, R&B, reggae
Dance – house, trance, techno
Highbrow – classic, jazz, blues, soul

The results of their work, across 10 countries, showed that Pop and Urban were the most popular, Rock and Dance less so, and Highbrow the least popular. But, it also showed that whilst young peoples’ taste for individual artists changed over time, their preferences for these broad categories was surprisingly constant. And even in their early teens, their choice of music type was fairly stable (xi).

Backward genres
Given the way teenagers love to fragment their genres to sub-genre, after sub-genres, perhaps there’s an interesting discussion to be had in class reversing the process. How would they do the same exercise that the Dutch researchers did, and put all their sub-genres into one larger group? What then would be the stylistic boundaries between these larger categories? And what might that tell them about the underlying musical structures?

Feargal Sharkey, the vocalist for The Undertones, and now CEO of UK Music,
recently wrote, “When it comes to music and young people, everything is
different, and yet everything is still the same.”(xii )And I think I will have to agree with Mr Sharkey. The question is, is that your experience?

Sources:
(i) http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2012/9/gangnam-style-now-most-liked-video-in-youtube-
history-44977/

(ii) Music Experience and Behaviour in Young People, Summer 2009, David Bahanovich and Dennis Collopy,
University of Hertfordshire

(iii) Music Experience and Behaviour in Young People, Summer 2009, David Bahanovich and Dennis Collopy,
University of Hertfordshire

(iv) Dance Is the New Metal: Adolescent Music Preferences and Substance Use Across Europe, Tom F.M. ter Bogt
et al, Substance Use & Misuse, 47:130–142, 2012

(v) http://www.officialcharts.com/chart-news/pop-overtakes-rock-to-become-the-uks-favourite-musical-
genre/

(vi) RIAA Consumer Profile, – 76.74.24.142/CA052A55-9910-2DAC-925F-27663DCFFFF3.pdf

(vii)http://www.zimbio.com/Beyond+the+Charts/articles/fGtDL0uGA7y/3+Trends+Music+Today+Work

(viii) http://www.popmatters.com/pm/column/164379-todays-new-music-is-all-folked-up/

(ix) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_Game_Orchestra

(x)Dance Is the New Metal: Adolescent Music Preferences and Substance Use Across Europe, Tom F.M. ter Bogt
et al, Substance Use & Misuse, 47:130–142, 2012

(xi) Dance Is the New Metal: Adolescent Music Preferences and Substance Use Across Europe, Tom F.M. ter Bogt
et al, Substance Use & Misuse, 47:130–142, 2012

(xii) Music Experience and Behaviour in Young People, Summer 2009, David Bahanovich and Dennis Collopy,
University of Hertfordshire

1 Comment

  • By Inga Vernoy Reply

    Mrs Chaos is exhausted and for the first time (since last year), counting down the days to the end of the school year.

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