Music Was Better Back Then

Spotify engineer Ajay Kalia did an analysis of individual listening data from U.S. Spotify users and combined it with artist popularity data from audio analytics company The Echo Nest (also owned by Spotify) to determine when people stop listening to contemporary mainstream music. What he found was:

…while teens’ music taste is dominated by incredibly popular music, this proportion drops steadily through peoples’ 20s, before their tastes ‘mature’ in their early 30s.

…men and women listen similarly in their teens, but after that, men’s mainstream music listening decreases much faster than it does for women.

…at any age, people with children (inferred from listening habits) listen to a smaller amounts of currently-popular music than the average listener of that age.

Kalia visualizes the data with this slightly obscure but nevertheless very interesting graphic, which shows that by the time a user has entered his or her thirties, their musical tastes have drifted pretty far from the mainstream.

Music Listening Habits Over Spotify Users’ Ages

The point about how listening habits change when people become parents is particularly interesting to me for a couple of reasons. First, I initially thought that I was exempt from this pattern because even as a father I still invest a significant amount of energy into finding and listening to new bands and new music. However, it’s clear to me that the pattern Kalia articulates fits me to a T; the last time I was really conversant in the Billboard Top 40 was in my teens; nowadays I haven’t the slightest interest, in part because with three kids and so little free time, I can only justify listening to the things that truly interest me: my favorite albums from the 1980s and 1990s and new, contemporary acts that carry forward some of those bands’ same ideas and approaches.

Moreover, it’s worth noting how Kalia is able to determine whether and when a Spotify user becomes a parent. There’s certainly nowhere on your Spotify profile where you’d indicate that you have children, but that matters little because you effectively signal your parenthood through your music selections. When you start listening to large amounts of children’s music, it’s a reliable indicator that a child has entered your life. I bet it never occurred to most people that that kind of insight could be derived just from their Spotify usage. That’s the power of big data, for better or worse.

Read the full article at