Does music taste change with age? (3 insights)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Does music taste change with age?” and explores the various concepts related to music and the relationship between musical preferences and age with the help of several studies to help understand the answer. 

Does music taste change with age?

Yes, music taste can change with age. The following are 3 insights into how music taste can change with age –

  • Music taste changes with age in response to major life experiences.
  • Music taste will evolve to match social and psychological demands. 
  • Music and age are correlated. 

What are these 3 insights into how music taste can change with age?

Music taste changes with age in response to major life experiences.

According to research, our musical choices change as we get older in response to major “life experiences.” 

“Intense” music characterised adolescence, then “current” and “mellow” music defined early adulthood as the quest for intimate connections intensified, with “sophisticated” and “unpretentious” music allowing us to project status and family values later in life. 

Over a ten-year span, this study used data from more than a quarter of a million people. 

Because of the explosion in music consumption over the last century, ‘what you listen to’ has become an important personality trait — as well as the foundation of many social and cultural tribes — and many people’s self-perception is closely linked to musical preferences. 

We may be hesitant to confess that as we get older, our musical tastes change, even soften.

Now, a new study reveals that music remains essential to us as we age, even if our participation with it declines, and that the music we prefer adjusts to the specific ‘life difficulties’ we confront at different phases of our lives.

Music taste will evolve to match social and psychological demands. 

Unless you die before you become old, it appears that your musical tastes will evolve to match social and psychological demands. 

According to the findings, we first turn to music to experiment with identification and identify ourselves, then utilise it as a social vehicle to form a group and find a spouse, and last as a more lonely representation of our intelligence, status, and higher emotional understanding.

The study is the first to “comprehensively detail” how people interact with music “from youth through middle age,” according to the researchers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published the research.

Researchers divided musical genres into five broad, “empirically derived” categories they call the MUSIC model — mellow, unpretentious, sophisticated, intense, contemporary — and plotted preference patterns across age groups using data collected from more than a quarter of a million people over a ten-year period.

These five categories include a variety of musical and psychological characteristics, such as loudness and intricacy. “The idea began with the assumption that musical taste does not change beyond adolescence. 

“Although most academic research so far supported this assumption, we were not sure that this was the case, based on other areas of psychological research and our personal experiences,” said the study’s lead author, Arielle Bonneville-Roussy of Cambridge’s Department of Psychology.

Adolescence, predictably, is the first big musical age, marked by a short, quick burst of ‘intense’ and the beginning of a continuous ascent of ‘current.’ 

‘Intense’ music, such as punk and metal, reaches a peak in adolescence and then begins to drop in early adulthood, whereas ‘current’ music, such as pop and rap, begins to grow in adolescence and then plateaus until early middle age.

The rebellious implications of ‘intense’ music, which is perceived as violent, tense, and characterised by loud, distorted sounds, allow teenagers to stake a claim for the autonomy that is one of this period’s primary ‘life difficulties.’

The next musical age arises when ‘intense’ gives way to the growing tide of ‘modern’ and the entrance of ‘mellow’ — such as electronic and R & B — in early adulthood. The researchers describe these two “preference aspects” as “romantic, emotionally pleasant, and danceable.”

“Once people have mastered their desire for autonomy, the next ‘life challenge’ is to discover love and be loved by those who respect this new ‘you,'” Rentfrow explained.

“What we learned from the findings is that these types of music increase the need for closeness and complement contexts where people gather with the intention of forming intimate connections — such as parties, pubs, and clubs.” 

The first musical age appears to be about expressing independence, whereas the second appears to be more about winning approval from others.”

The last musical age, as determined by the experts, is dominated by ‘sophisticated’ — such as jazz and classical — and ‘unpretentious’ — such as country, folk, and blues — as we settle down and middle age approaches.

Both of these dimensions are viewed as “positive and relaxing,” according to the researchers, with ‘sophisticated’ indicating a complex aesthetic of a high culture that could be linked to social status and perceived intelligence, and ‘unpretentious’ evoking sentiments of family, love, and loss — emotionally direct music that speaks to the experiences most people will have had by this life stage.

“As we settle into ourselves and acquire more resources to express ourselves — career, home, family, car — music remains an extension of this,” Rentfrow explained, “and at this stage, there are aspects of wanting to promote the social status, intellect, and wealth that play into the increased gravitation towards ‘sophisticated’ music, as social standing is seen as a key ‘life challenge’ to be achieved by this point.”

“At the same time, many people in this stage of life are frequently exhausted by work and family, and there is a need for relaxing, emotive music for those rare moments of respite, which reflects the other major ‘life challenge’ of this stage: nurturing a family and maintaining long-term relationships, perhaps the most difficult of all.”

Music and age are correlated. 

Three important surprises were discovered in a more recent investigation. To begin with, adolescents, on average, listen to what is popular at the moment. They gradually lose interest in popular music in their twenties, and by their thirties, they have no or little affinity for it.

The second finding was that, while both men and women listen to comparable popular music in their teens, males often cease listening to this style of music sooner than women do.

The study’s final key finding was that persons with children, regardless of age, listen to less mainstream music than people their age who do not have children.

In the same study, it was shown that having a kid is equivalent to having the same musical tastes as someone four years older.

Finally, it is obvious that there is a link between age and musical taste—as you get older, your taste in music changes. 

Despite the fact that this is a correlational link, we cannot conclude it is causative because this was observational rather than experimental research. To put it another way, no factors were changed in this study.

Adult musical preferences were associated with unique likings for musical qualities, according to another study, with considerable impacts. 

It was also revealed that auditory qualities such as timbre, dynamics, and tonal clarity were progressively influencing the tastes of emerging, young, and middle-aged people. 

These findings show that age-related changes in musical tastes might be explained in part by alterations in how people interpret music’s inherent qualities as they become older.

Conclusion – 

This blog post attempted to answer the question, “Does music taste change with age?” and reviewed the various concepts related to music and the relationship between musical preferences and age with the help of several studies to help determine if music taste changes with age. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

Musical ages: How our taste in music changes over a lifetime. University of Cambridge. ScienceDaily. (2013, October 15). Retrieved from,to%20project%20status%20and%20family

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Bonneville-Roussy, Arielle & Eerola, Tuomas. (2017). Age trends in musical preferences in adulthood: 3. Perceived musical attributes as intrinsic determinants of preferences. Musicae Scientiae. 22. 10.1177/1029864917718606. Retrieved from

Taste in music changes with age. Times of India. (2013, October 17). 

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Griffiths, S. Rock of Ages: Taste in music DOES change over a lifetime – and even punk-loving teens will listen to classical music in middle age. (2013, October 15). Retrieved from

Gil, N. How Turning 30 Affects Your Music Taste. (2018, June 20). Retrieved from