Teenage kicks: we asked what music you listen to, and the results are in
Our insight team conducts an in-depth poll of Saga customers to find out what you’re thinking. This time: the tunes you listen to.
People often say music is the soundtrack of our lives, but for most of us it’s actually the soundtrack of our teenage lives. According to research, the music we listen to aged 14 (for men) and 13 (for women) is the music we’re still listening to many decades later.
That seems to be true of Saga customers, too. When we asked 3,000 members of our Experienced Voices Panel which decade produced your favourite music, your answers closely matched your teenage years.
So those in their 50s preferred Eighties music, those in their 60s liked Seventies hits, and those in their 70s enjoyed the sounds of the Sixties.
Pop at the top
Classic pop was the favourite genre of all our age groups (62%-65% listened to it), except for those in their 80s and over, who put classical music top.
What came next in your ‘charts’ depended a bit on age. For those in their 50s, it was rock (54%), then R&B/soul (33%).
For people in their 60s, it was rock (54%), then classical (37%), while for respondents in their 70s, classical came first with 53%, then rock (43%).
Country music crept into third place for those aged 80+ (42%) and in second, it was classic pop (48%).
What seems clear is that people of all ages are sticking to their favourite genres; only 24% are interested in seeking out new music. This, too, is backed up by the research: one survey suggested that people stopped discovering new music at the age of 30-and-a-half.
Paul Gambaccini, who hosts Pick of the Pops on BBC Radio 2, isn’t surprised. “We listen to the music we associate with pleasure and happy memories – the records we danced to, fell in love to, at the time we were forming our identity.
“When I was growing up, I couldn’t understand why my parents were not interested in this new phenomenon of rock’n’roll, but they were children of the big band era and they were happy with that.”
However, that’s not to say our music taste doesn’t evolve gently over time, according to Professor Arielle Bonneville-Roussy, whose research at Cambridge University found there was a kind of ‘arc’ of music preferences reflecting life stages: angst-ridden, intense music in the teen years when you’re asserting independence, contemporary in the early adult years when you want acceptance/love from others, then ‘emotionally positive’ music from the middle years, followed by increased appetite for classical music and jazz in later years.
That’s reflected in our survey results: the older our respondents were, the more likely they were to listen to classical music. And 64% of all ages prefer their music mellow/relaxing, 61% happy and only 36% emotional/sad or intense/thrilling (34%).
The classical creep
Gambaccini thinks classical music creeps up on us in later years because it’s timeless, and emotionally deeper and more satisfying than most pop music.
“As you get older you want to have a happy life – drama and trauma lose their appeal,” he says. “You want to hear beauty, and that is why classical music has survived so long.”
In some good news for Gambaccini’s profession, 72% of our respondents still listen to their music via live radio; 67% of 50-59s are also streaming their music, falling to 33% of those in their 70s. But it would seem it’s those in their 80s and 90s who are truly at the cutting edge.
As HMV announced it would be selling cassettes at its newly reopened flagship store in London’s Oxford Street, our survey showed 6% of those in their 80s and over still listen to most of their music via good old tapes. Who was it who sang Coming Around Again…?
What do you think?
Join the conversation by emailing your thoughts to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article first appeared in the June 2023 issue of Saga Magazine. Like what you’ve read? Subscribe to Saga Magazine for just £5 today.
Written by Rachel Carlyle