Musical Mid-Life Crisis

No. Not me. Not specifically, anyway. Given the way that the data below are interpreted, I’ve been having a MMLC for possibly forever already. Nothing will change if I ever make it as far as 42.


But this is very interesting for a number of different reasons. And before we go any further, the first of those reasons is that we can even look at this data. People have been buying and listening to popular music for decades, but while we’ve known what they’ve been buying (through the charts), we don’t actually know who’s  been buying it. Now, although these data are for a single music streaming service – just one of the many ways of accessing music these days – the ease and simplicity of correlating musical tastes with age, gender etc are still things that we never had before.

Secondly, I love the way that study author Ajay Kalia has devised a benchmark “Artist Popularity Rank” to measure stuff against. Any data analysis is utterly pointless unless you have a means of comparison. In this case, he used “artist hotttnesss” [sic] to see what was currently popular (Taylor Swift) and what was not (Natasha Bedingfield) which could then be cross-matched with who was listening to it.

To give you an idea of how popularity rank scales, as of January 2015:

  • Taylor Swift had a popularity rank of #1

  • Eminem had a popularity rank of about #50

  • Muse had a popularity rank of about #250

  • Alan Jackson had a popularity rank of about #500

  • Norah Jones had a popularity rank of about #1000

  • Natasha Bedingfield had a current-popularity rank of about #3000

Admission: I have no idea who Alan Jackson is. But, you know, #500. So, whatevs.

Next up, I’m suspicious of data that looks this good. I mean, I’m not really suspicious, (but I am a bit). How perfect are those curves? (careful now). Look at it through the thirties: gorgeous. And then, yes, that dip – a definite kink – at 42:

Around age 42, music taste briefly curves back to the popular charts — a musical midlife crisis and attempt to harken back to our youth, perhaps?

I’m not on Spotify, nor am I in the US, so I won’t be skewing their pretty data when I look at the last five songs I’ve shared on here – those being from 2015, 1987, 2013, 1949 (oops) and 2015 again. As I suggested earlier, I’m continually right in the middle of a MMLC.

Fortunately, looking at their spiralling graph, we’re all back onto the straight, narrow and distinctly uncool by the time we’re 45. Definitely something to look forward to.

There is that other point on there which I’m conveniently ignoring :

Sorry, fellow parents. We may be word-perfect on dozens of nursery rhymes and pre-school TV themes, but our pop savviness is in question. “Becoming a parent has an equivalent impact on your ‘music relevancy’ as ageing about four years,” writes Kalia.

That’s fine by me. I never claimed to be relevant anyway.

If you want more detail, here’s the full blog post on the study.

4 thoughts on “Musical Mid-Life Crisis

  1. Interesting article that. Looking back I was also about 42 when I stopped being interested in the charts. These days discovering all the great 70’s music I missed. Checkout for like minded souls. Also BBC 6 music are having a Sheffield weekend this Saturday & Sunday.

  2. Bloubergman > There was no good music in the 70s. OK, there was Kraftwerk. But other than that – better left forgotten.
    Yes – heard about the Sheffield weekend thanks – Leadmill night on Friday sounds Ace!

  3. Bloubergman > If those are the starters, I think I’ll skip the main course and head down to the pub for some 80s dessert, thank you very much.

    Leave a Reply