Researchers Discover Relationship Between Musical Taste, Age and Life Goals

When an old song from the 1960s used to play on the car radio, my parents would sing along, they were in their youth in this time period and the newest sounds of that time were The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin. They were different people at that time, with different goals, daily lives and no kids!

Think about the music you used to listen to growing up, maybe you had a Walkman, the first iPod or you’ve always had a smartphone; regardless I know there are some bands you no longer listen to, but why? We have old bands, and songs that we cherished for months, purchased tickets, got their albums; but they are of no interest to us now. What has changed?

Scientists wanted to understand if musical preferences change as we age because of our current age in life and the goals associated with that age; or perhaps both.

First some background information, we know that older individuals (aged 55-75) are more likely to enjoy classical, religious and country music. Whereas people aged 19-24 prefer new music that emerges at the time period. Think about the last concert or festival you went to, what was the average age of the spectators?

Also, intense music (i.e., Trance, Death Metal, Punk) is preferred by those under 30 years of age, whereas mellow and sophisticated music (i.e., Jazz, Classical) is preferred by older individuals, 40 years of age and up.

Ever notice the average age of most people at concerts, whether it is Drake, Adele, or Martin Garrix; their music is the new music with ‘new listeners’. There of course, are outliers, but you won’t find too many parents attending these late night events.


Next, how life goals change influence our behaviors. As people we evolve, as do our goals and our needs to fulfill our human minds at different stages. Generally, people aged 19-24 are most concerned with friends, education, and marriage. At 25-34 your mindset changes to being preoccupied with attaining a stable career and starting a family. At age 35-65; health, world issues and eventual retirement are top of mind.

Attending a 3-day Ultra Music Festival with friends is potentially ideal for someone who is 22 years of age and desires to be with others for the social enjoyment, traveling and the experience of novel activities. A common goal of many 20 year olds, myself included.

Whereas someone who is 45, watching this same festival at home, with their significant other and young children may be having an equally beneficial experience as they attain nostalgia as well as an enjoyable experience.

Same festival, different experience, but different needs satisfied. Again life goals and specific age of the individual are the factors here. Remember, people can use the same music for different functional uses (i.e., escape, motivation, nostalgia).

800 participants aged 18-81 completed questions about musical preferences, their current life goals (education, love, health, wealth) and their typical uses of music (i.e., source of energy/motivation, to reduce boredom, to be entertained).

This is what they found:

There is a correlation for using music for social purposes and liking the genre of dance music; a nightclub experience comes to mind for these individuals as it fulfills their needs on this.

Using music for mood regulation is associated with classical music, rap music, and dance music. To elaborate as to why; various studies have shown that classical music is used to relax, whereas rap and dance music are used to address anger and high energy. Ravers can be just as intense as punk rockers or hip-hop heads in their own right.

Those who used music to manage arousal/energy level, like at the gym; indicates a stronger liking for dance and rap music. Again, this music is typically highly emotional, intensive rhythm, a faster beat per minute.

Now for how one’s goals affected musical choice.

They found a relationship between the life goal of social stimulation and using music for both social and activities. This is a logical correlation, as these behaviors and goals are both emphasizing a social factor. An example is a nightclub to achieve the music and social goal.

Next, music that is used for mood regulation is associated with the life goal of love and holding prestigious career positions.

Additionally, the life goal of love was associated with people who engage with music to reflect, and ruminate.

These findings indicate that there are not only age factors at hand regarding musical interaction, but rather it is what one has their sights set on as important in their lives.

Overall, the study concluded that having different life goals, in addition to being at a different chronological age in life, are associated with different uses of music and your liking for different genres too.

Are you a social butterfly and thus love to host parties and go to intense and loud concerts? Or are you a solo adventurer who uses music to achieve pleasure and would never go to a crowded venue and prefers low key jazz performances?

There’s no right way to interact with music, as long as you use music to fulfill yourself in whichever way you need it to benefit your life; that is the right way.

Explore the entire report.

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