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Surprising Ways People Are Finding New Music

24 May 2023 | 10:15 am | Monica Rouvellas

The shift away from physical media is well and truly established, and the industry must continue to embrace new technology to remain relevant to young consumers.

Photo of social media platforms

Photo of social media platforms (Alexander Shatov on Unsplash)

Like many industries, the music industry is riding a wave of technological innovation that is transforming the face of the music business today. Thanks to the phenomenon of mass digitalisation, the habits of music lovers are changing faster than ever before, especially amongst the billions of young music fans worldwide.

Though music discovery remains centred around social ties like friends and family, young people are using technology in unprecedented ways to form communities and discover new music.

In one survey conducted in 2021, it was found that the under-30s cohort are the ones driving a new wave of music consumption with TikTok and Snapchat users among the most frequent listeners of music (90% of users of each platform listen to music at least once a day).

Of those surveyed, 80% of those under 30 listened to music using their mobile phone compared to 68% of all music listeners, 53% listened to music using a computer compared to 43% of all music listeners, and 45% listened to music using a radio compared to 69% of all music listeners.

Music is now widely played on mobile devices as the device of choice for listening to songs, radio is officially in decline, and Spotify is competing with YouTube and TikTok for the biggest market share of the lucrative Gen Z and Millennial segment. 

Unsurprisingly, social media plays a critical role in music discovery for Gen Z and Young Millennials. Spotify’s recent redesign of its platform attempts to capitalise on this by positioning itself as the one-stop shop for entertainment with a swathe of amped-up discovery and recommendation features ready to go. 

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Not only will the redesign - which has been described as being similar to YouTube’s and TikTok’s video feed - continue to deliver a steady stream of old favourites and new music, but it also encourages the sharing of playlists and the discovery of content through an ecosystem of swipeable feeds.

This is in line with data that shows that 58% of music listeners aged 13-17 and 62% of listeners aged 18-24 learn about new music through the social platforms that they use. 

The convergence of social media also amplifies the effect of passive discovery through movies and TV. Thanks to TV moments going viral on social media, songs that were released years ago are re-emerging as chart toppers and bringing a new generation of fans to established artists. 

Polling shows 48% of young listeners learn about new music this way. Kate Bush and her hit Running Up That Hill which was featured in the Netflix series Stranger Things and Fleetwood Mac’s heavy airplay in American Horror Story are but two examples of this trend. 

The increasing use of music as the means to define cultural moments has sometimes even led to music being the centrepiece of entire movies and TV series. Motion picture Baby Driver straddles the line between film and music video while the Guardians Of The Galaxy franchise brings back a sense of nostalgia with its catchy pop-rock tunes from the ‘70s. 

Finally, video games are hands down the most surprising source of music discovery for a young generation that is especially open to cross-platform music discovery. For the 95% of Millennials and Gen Z that play games in some capacity, video games are a rich repository of musical inspiration.

Described in one global study as a “hobby that has captured the cultural zeitgeist”, video game music is a genre in and of itself. From the peppy tubes of Mario Kart to the soaring symphonies of Zelda, music from video games is instantly recognisable to many Millennials and Gen Zs.

The link between gaming, social exploration and establishing an identity is not to be underestimated when it comes to gaming and music. Gaming sets the mood, and when combined with music, is a popular avenue for youth to wind down, relax, and explore their feelings and emotions.

As it stands, YouGov stats show one in five music lovers around the world are discovering new music via video games, a figure expected to rise considerably in the next 12 months.

Music always has been and always will be a major part of youth culture, but as we progress into the digital age, personalised recommendations, AI-driven algorithms and other forms of media from podcasts to video games will play a major role in promoting the discovery of new music.

The shift away from physical media is well and truly established, and the industry must continue to embrace new technology to remain relevant to young consumers. In such a rapidly changing environment, the one constant is that artists should never take any platform for granted as this extremely creative generation of music lovers may find inspiration in the most unexpected places. 

Monica Rouvellas is the founder of MuzikBoxx as well as a musician, teacher, lawyer, property investor and entrepreneur. Muzikboxx is a revolutionary music education platform that is specifically designed for music teachers. The platform offers a suite of features that make it easy for music teachers to find and manage students, as well as provide more effective feedback.