SoStereo’s Salo Sterental digs into research including a groundbreaking report from Spotify, and discovers that authenticity will define the music landscape of the future
You don’t need gigabytes of data or hours of top-level research to tell you that music is incredibly powerful. Whether you’re an experienced CEO or a newborn baby, your instinctive humanity tells you – without caveat or filter – that music is one of life’s most essential and nourishing joys.
Nonetheless, it’s an interesting time for the future of music – particularly in the context of how and why we choose to listen to it. That’s why the Culture Next Report, published recently by Spotify, does make for fascinating reading. The research, which focused primarily on Gen Z’s attitudes, shines a fresh light on just how important music is to the next generation.
For example, four out of every five Gen Z listeners said that they “learned something about themselves” by looking back over their listening habits. On top of that, the same number (80%) said that “audio allowed them to explore different sides of their personalities”. What we’re seeing is a generation for whom music is vitally important. Not just as a throwaway gimmick for entertainment or ‘content’, but as an intrinsic part of their identity. For anyone working in marketing and communications, this is essential knowledge.
But, crucially, the insights run far deeper than that. Adding the Culture Next Report on top of what we already know shows just how much importance is placed on quality music by the consumers who will decide our industry’s future. We know, for example, that 66% of Gen Z listeners said that audio “helped them feel less alone” during the pandemic. According to the same study, 69% of Gen Z respondents felt “more centered and generally happier” when they listened to their favorite music “on a daily basis”. For a direct insight into how that might impact purchasing decisions, consider Dolby Labs’ finding in 2021 that 86% of Gen Z music listeners expressed a desire to purchase a new audio device “in the next six months” in order to experience “better audio sound quality for music”.
Individually, these statistics offer interesting snapshots into the minds and motivations of the consumers of the future. But, placed together, a bigger and more important picture becomes visible. What we’re looking at is a rapidly-growing, diverse generation who expect and demand something precious from their media: Perhaps above all else, Gen Z needs their music to be authentic.
The Real Deal
Taken together, these insights point to potentially great news for brands and marketers. The desire from Gen Z for genuine and meaningful connections to music and artists couldn’t be more stark – but it has to be real. If it isn’t, it won’t work.
Another stand-out stat from the Culture Next Report is the fact that almost half (47%) of Gen Zers have “followed an artist on Reddit or Discord” having heard and enjoyed their work. Brands can be the conduit and the meeting point for these connections to happen. But, again, only if the music is authentic. In order to make a meaningful connection with an artist, the music needs to come from an artist.
An example which springs to mind is our work with Miller Lite. We were tasked with providing a soundtrack for six different US cities – something which would have been virtually impossible without working with real artists. We were able to find local musicians from each location we were trying to capture, and the result was a Satisfyingly authentic campaign.
It’s a generation crying out for authenticity. You can’t use audio to “explore different sides of your personality”, as 80% of Gen Z do, with inauthentic music. You can’t follow the discord or subreddit of a stock library. It’s only real artists who can provide these genuine connections. It needs to come from the heart. But how can brands or content creators claim to be catering to that desire for authenticity with a straight face, if they’re using plug-in-and-play audio tracks for the lowest possible price?
Ultimately, what all of these reports and research show is that we’ve arrived at a moment of change for music. Like all revolutions it’s come from the bottom up, with listeners asking us as clearly as they possibly can for real music from real artists. And the brands who make that happen will stand to be rewarded.
Salo Sterental is the co-founder of SoStereo.