Why do old people hate new music?

Birdjaguar

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This article is about why we often lock out musical tastes in at a young age.

Why do old people hate new music? – Holly, age 14, Belmont, Massachusetts

When I was a teenager, my dad wasn’t terribly interested in the music I liked. To him, it just sounded like “a lot of noise,” while he regularly referred to the music he listened to as “beautiful.”

This attitude persisted throughout his life. Even when he was in his 80s, he once turned to me during a TV commercial featuring a 50-year-old Beatles tune and said, “You know, I just don’t like today’s music.”

It turns out that my father isn’t alone. As I’ve grown older, I’ll often hear people my age say things like “they just don’t make good music like they used to.”

Why does this happen?

Luckily, my background as a psychologist has given me some insights into this puzzle.

We know that musical tastes begin to crystallize as early as age 13 or 14. By the time we’re in our early 20s, these tastes get locked into place pretty firmly.

In fact, studies have found that by the time we turn 33, most of us have stopped listening to new music. Meanwhile, popular songs released when you’re in your early teens are likely to remain quite popular among your age group for the rest of your life.

There could be a biological explanation for this. There’s evidence that the brain’s ability to make subtle distinctions between different chords, rhythms and melodies gets worse with age. So to older people, newer, less familiar songs might all “sound the same.”

But I believe there are some simpler reasons for older people’s aversion to newer music. One of the most researched laws of social psychology is something called the “mere exposure effect.” In a nutshell, it means that the more we’re exposed to something, the more we tend to like it.

This happens with people we know, the advertisements we see and, yes, the songs we listen to.

When you’re in your early teens, you probably spend a fair amount of time listening to music or watching music videos. Your favorite songs and artists become familiar, comforting parts of your routine.

For many people over 30, job and family obligations increase, so there’s less time to spend discovering new music. Instead, many will simply listen to old, familiar favorites from that period of their lives when they had more free time.

Of course, those teen years weren’t necessarily carefree. They’re famously confusing, which is why so many TV shows and movies – from “Glee” to “Love, Simon” to “Eighth Grade” – revolve around the high school turmoil.

Psychology research has shown that the emotions that we experience as teens seem more intense than those that come later. We also know that intense emotions are associated with stronger memories and preferences. All of this might explain why the songs we listen to during this period become so memorable and beloved.

So there’s nothing wrong with your parents because they don’t like your music. In a way, it’s all part of the natural order of things.

At the same time, I can say from personal experience that I developed a fondness for the music I heard my own children play when they were teenagers. So it’s certainly not impossible to get your parents on board with Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X.

We have a music thread where one can post one's favorite songs of the moment. But if the article holds some truth, then we are likely bound to our pasts in what we like today. I know I am. For all practical purposes music began in Feb 1964 when the Beatles took over radio play and everything else faded into insignificance. The music of the next decade still dominates my musical enjoyment. I still have warms spots for pre-Brit invasion songs by Bobby Vinton, Dion, Gene Pitney, etc. but it is not the same.

Revolution was in the air and in the music; times were changing, music was changing, and Rolling Stone was our guide!

So tell us about your defining music.

https://theconversation.com/why-do-old-people-hate-new-music-123834
 

Rashiminos

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They have ingrained habits from previous eras and new music doesn't speak to those past modes. My tastes skew towards background music that accompanies video games, movies, etc. They don't tend to have lyrics because songs would interfere with the activity in the foreground, usually.
 

Kyriakos

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When you are in your teens, the music which is popular at the time inevitably will make a bigger impression on you than later on in life when you typically don't look for idols or sense of structure in pop music.
So a lot of elements which arguably have next to nothing to do with the pop music itself, get fused with it or projected onto it, giving it a more lasting importance.
I still can recall impressions about grunge-style music (typical mid 90s), as well as a number of people from school who treated it as nothing short of a power-trip, listening to each track of their favorite record almost in a religious trance.
Ultimately, Cobain or the other stars of the era were not great musicians - any knowledge of music will show that they don't really measure up to a great musician, say Bach - but they weren't just musicians for the teens of the time; they were idols.
 
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EgonSpengler

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I'm constantly listening to new music - I find new stuff I like on a weekly, if not daily, basis - but I also return to the stuff I listened to at various stages of my life. I've always been a little surprised by people who either aren't interested in new music or say that they can't find any, so it's interesting to see that there's some science behind it.
 

stinkubus

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You can still find new stuff that's good but the music industry doesn't make anywhere near as much of an effort to promote anything that isn't cheap and easy to churn out. Sooner or later I imagine audiences will start getting bored and they'll start taking some risks again.

It really doesn't help that one of pop music's biggest genres, rock/metal, has already probably done everything that large audiences would actually enjoy listening to. I don't know if you could churn out anything new that could both catch on commercially and sound sufficiently novel from what's come before to not sound like a complete and total rip off. Also doesn't help that tons of geriatric rock acts who can't even properly play their own songs in concert any longer refuse to retire and make way for anyone new.
 

Lexicus

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I'm constantly listening to new music - I find new stuff I like on a weekly, if not daily, basis - but I also return to the stuff I listened to at various stages of my life. I've always been a little surprised by people who either aren't interested in new music or say that they can't find any, so it's interesting to see that there's some science behind it.

So I think the stuff in that article is flawed to some extent. I suspect that it is true the brain becomes less adept at processing music for "normal" music consumers who just listen to whatever's on the radio. For people who's jobs involve music in some way, I doubt it.

I also think socialization comes into it to some degree- one big source of new music is friends and social settings, and as people tend to make new friends and socialize less as they age it's no surprise that the supply of new music can get cut off.

Now we have the internet though so anyone who actually wants to listen to new music can easily do so. But I think most people aren't deliberate music consumers- they'll put on the radio and listen to whatever's on, that sort of thing. I actually listen to new music in a deliberate way, not as much as I used to, but I still do it now and again.
 

AriaLyric

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So tell us about your defining music.
Being someone who's just approaching 23, my music tastes are just about locked in now if that article's right, and started developing back in 2010. Guess I'll be in my 50s talking about early Vocaloid and OSTs from Undertale/Friday Night Funkin'/Pokemon the same way my mother used to talk about the Beatles. I do have every intention of keeping up with new music as I get older but I doubt I'll like it if it's not some combination of electronic, fast, and energetic.
 

Birdjaguar

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Beginning in 1999, Napster and Limewire enabled me to transition from dvds to downloads and add a lot of music I like from the 90s that I had missed because of RL taking place.
 

Lexicus

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Also my music taste is pretty broad ranging from classic rock, pop, funk and jazz to super-white indie alt-rock to Golden Age hip-hop to vaporwave and synthwave and other kinds of electronic music.

And also I think the gen 2 pokemon game soundtrack has some bangers
 

Birdjaguar

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As I get older I'm trying really hard to continue to appreciate contemporary music.
But it's just noise! Try a white noise machine instead.... ;)
 

Lexicus

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But it's just noise! Try a white noise machine instead.... ;)

It really rubs me the wrong way when older white people say that hip-hop is just noise. No the rappers I listen to are more cultured than you are Karen
 

EgonSpengler

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So I think the stuff in that article is flawed to some extent. I suspect that it is true the brain becomes less adept at processing music for "normal" music consumers who just listen to whatever's on the radio. For people who's jobs involve music in some way, I doubt it.

I also think socialization comes into it to some degree- one big source of new music is friends and social settings, and as people tend to make new friends and socialize less as they age it's no surprise that the supply of new music can get cut off.

Now we have the internet though so anyone who actually wants to listen to new music can easily do so. But I think most people aren't deliberate music consumers- they'll put on the radio and listen to whatever's on, that sort of thing. I actually listen to new music in a deliberate way, not as much as I used to, but I still do it now and again.
Indeed, anyone who says they can't find new music to listen to clearly just isn't availing themselves of it. To me, it's like drinking from a firehose now. Not only are the tools for making music so accessible that it's enabled a whole host of people to create new music, basically everything ever recorded is available at the literal push of a button. If, for example, you wanted to artificially limit yourself to music made before 1960, you'd never run out of 'new' things to listen to. I myself discovered Anita O'Day just a couple of years ago.
 

Lexicus

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Indeed, anyone who says they can't find new music to listen to clearly just isn't availing themselves of it. To me, it's like drinking from a firehose now. Not only are the tools for making music so accessible that it's enabled a whole host of people to create new music, basically everything ever recorded is available at the literal push of a button. If, for example, you wanted to artificially limit yourself to music made before 1960, you'd never run out of 'new' things to listen to. I myself discovered Anita O'Day just a couple of years ago.

Yeah I'm still discovering "new" (new to me) hip-hop made from like 1988 to 1999.

I really want @Hygro's thoughts on this thread
 

Birdjaguar

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It really rubs me the wrong way when older white people say that hip-hop is just noise. No the rappers I listen to are more cultured than you are Karen
:lol: Hmmm... I never mentioned hip hop, or rap. but, I can see how you might consider them as just noise. :p
 

EgonSpengler

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But it's just noise! Try a white noise machine instead.... ;)
It really rubs me the wrong way when older white people say that hip-hop is just noise. No the rappers I listen to are more cultured than you are Karen
A year or two ago I was listening to an interview with a jazz musician. I forget his name. But he recalled when some of the old heads were complaining about this new cat whose music was just atonal noise with no sense of rhythm. The musician being interviewed was in his 80s, and was hearkening back to his days in the East Village in the 1950s. The guy he was referring to, who the older musicians were complaining was "ruining" jazz, was John Coltrane.
 

Birdjaguar

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I stopped trying to stay current when Disco appeared and as that fad faded, I was already into serious RL work and raising a family. Music just drifted to the periphery of my life, until we started buying kids music! Sharon Lois and Brame, Raffi, John McCutcheon, etc.
 
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