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Music Listening Preferences by Age and Gender

Updated on December 27, 2014

The music technology blog Music Machinery recently had two interesting studies looking at age and gender preferences in music based on streaming. When people sign up for music streaming services they're often asked to input their date of birth and gender. This data can then be used to determine music listening preferences and demographics.

Now there is one flaw with this that Music Machinery acknowledges. Often accounts are used by more than one person. I'm the main user of my Spotify account but my husband and 8 year old daughter use it as well. So, it may look like I listen to music from Disney stars Ross Lynch and China Anne McClain when I actually don't. My husband only listens to top 40 music while I listen to pop, dance, country, alt. rock, classic rock, folk, blues and classical.

Another problem is that streaming services often have pre-made playlists. Music machinery gives these examples:

The Billboard Top 100, The Viral 50, The Top Tracks, Popular New Releases

So, people will at times be listening to songs they don't have an interest in simply because they're in these playlists.

Music Listening by Age

The ages studied were 13 and 64. I would have preferred the study look at an older group of teens, perhaps 18 or 19 year olds, because they're more likely to explore music outside the mainstream. However, I think 64 year olds are a good study group. They're less likely to be sharing accounts with children than parents are. These were some results from the study.

Popular with 64 Year Olds
Popular With 13 Year Olds
Popular With Both
Elvis Presley
One Direction
Taylor Swift
Mackemore & Ryan Lewis
Bruno Mars
Michael Buble
Imagine Dragons
Robin Thicke
Demi Lovato
The Beatles
Justin Bieber
Justin Timberlake
Luke Bryan
Miley Cyrus
Michael Jackson
Katy Perry
Elton John
Maroon 5
The Rolling Stones
David Guetta
Fleetwood Mac
Lana Del Rey
Blake Shelton

Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars have released a mix of singles that can appeal to both older and younger audiences

There was about a 35% overlap between artists liked by both age groups. Now again the question comes up whether these older listeners are listening to the younger artists in the both column or if perhaps it's younger relatives using their accounts. While some older people are dismissive of today's artists and will only listen to music from when they were younger, others do enjoy modern music. When my husband and I took our kids to see Katy Perry's movie Part of Me in the movie theater we thought we would be some of the oldest people there. It turns out we were some of the youngest. The theater was at about 20% capacity. There were only a few teens there and a few couples with kids. The rest were men and women in their 40's, 50's and 60's.

This brings up the question of why the music industry markets music so heavily to listeners in their teens and 20's when older people will listen to younger artists. I had addressed this in another article on music sales. Record labels will often send more generic and more shallow songs to radio while leaving more mature and deeper songs on albums.

Kemosabe Records won't allow Kesha to release emotional songs like Past Lives that would appeal to older people

Kesha is probably the most extreme example of this that I've found. She's marketed as someone who only makes clubby party tracks when songs on her albums or songs that don't make her albums are often much more mature and introspective. I always liked her singles but only became interested in her when I stumbled across an unreleased country rock ballad called Sunday Morning that she recorded in her teens. She records lots of beautiful and emotional songs but isn't allowed to release them as singles. Kesha is so frustrated, she's spent the last year fighting to get dropped by her record label. After Kesha's mother put the head of the label on blast for verbally and emotionally abusing her daughter (in a failed attempt to keep her in check), that will probably happen very soon.

Considering the popularity of music streaming among the age 35+ demographic, it doesn't make sense for record labels to market artists heavily to younger listeners when they can be marketed to both with a mix of upbeat and slow emotional singles. According to a 2011 study by EMI a large percentage of the 35+ demographic is streaming music:

Age Group
Streaming Penetration

The highest penetration was 49% for 16-20 year olds. Hopefully record labels will change their ways and encourage the creation of more quality music. Pop radio has become increasingly diverse over the last couple of years and there's more demand for songs with lyrical depth. Songs like Mirrors by Justin Timberlake, Just Give Me a Reason by P!nk and Nate Ruess, and Wake Me Up by Avicii are some examples.

British singer Lily Allen admits her own song isn't very good
British singer Lily Allen admits her own song isn't very good

Music Listening by Gender

Again, we get the problem of account sharing between males and females but differences were obvious. There's a 40% overlap between artists favored by males and females in the top 10. According to Music Machinery:

No matter what size chart we look at – whether it is the top 40, top 200 or the top 1000 artists – about 30% of artists on a gender-specific chart don’t appear on the corresponding chart for the opposite gender.

Top 10 Artists by Gender

Bruno Mars
Daft Punk
Katy Perry
Bruno Mars
Justin Timberlake
David Guetta
Lil Wayne
Taylor Swift
Justin Timberlake
Miley Cyrus
Katy Perry

The study also found differences with preferred genres. Females preferred:

  • Pop
  • Dance Pop
  • Contemporary Hit Radio
  • Urban Contemporary
  • R&B
  • Hot Adult Contemporary
  • Latin Pop
  • Teen Pop
  • Neo soul
  • Latin
  • Pop rock
  • Contemporary country

While males preferred:

  • Rock
  • Hip Hop
  • House
  • Album Rock
  • Rap
  • Pop Rap
  • Indie Rock
  • Funk Rock
  • Gangster Rap
  • Electro house
  • Classic rock
  • Nu metal


  • Music Machinery: Exploring age-specific preferences in listening
  • Music Machinery: Gender Specific Listening


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    • alexarain379 profile image

      Alexa Rain 3 weeks ago from egypt

      very interesting, when i see my gender list i really found them are mine and try to follow them.

      of course this depending on number and database.

      great hub.

    • JoanCA profile image

      JoanCA 2 years ago


      The breakdown really is fascinating. I wish they'd chosen multiple age ranges though.

    • frozenink profile image

      frozenink 2 years ago

      This is an interesting breakdown of music taste. I am glad that my taste fall on the "both" category - Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift etc. Great Hub!

    • JoanCA profile image

      JoanCA 3 years ago


      I don't think musical taste is necessarily formed in youth either. I think many people stop looking for new music as they get older and maybe become set in their ways but they probably would like a lot of new music if they gave it a chance.


      I'd love to see a study that looks at more age groups. It would be fascinating to see if there's a lot of difference between 40 year olds and 60 year olds in terms of taste.

    • raymondphilippe profile image

      Raymond Philippe 3 years ago from The Netherlands

      Lovely! I was happy to at least know most of the artists. Not sure that i should be happy i fall in the 64 year olds group as far as taste is concerned (still have quite some years to go before i'm 64). Voted up

    • profile image

      Jeffrey 3 years ago

      I think the belief that music taste is formed in youth is wrong but it's an assumption the music industry seems to buy into. I think older listeners don't listen to younger singers mainly because they don't know about them or they don't get enough exposure. Older listeners who get regular exposure to this music often do like it. And when you think about it, pop, rock, soul, dance, etc. haven't changed as much over the decades as people often think. There's no reason a 40, 50 or 60 year old wouldn't love the 3 songs you have linked here.