LisN Magazine - Content Overload: How streaming sites are changing the way we consume music - and why older listeners feel left behind

Written on 02/19/2024
LisN Magazine Contributor

Content Overload: How streaming sites are changing the way we consume music - and why older listeners feel left behind

The 20th-century model of buying records, hearing about new songs on the radio, or learning about artists through weekly music mags, was all largely upended with the advent of streaming. But listeners over the age of 50 - who grew up with this model - still appear to be reluctant when it comes to tackling the sheer amount of content on sites like Spotify and Apple Music

As of 2024, music aggregators have estimated that around 60,000 new tracks are uploaded by music artists onto Spotify each and every day This means that, every day, more content than you could ever hope to listen to in your lifetime is uploaded onto a site that can be accessed on your phone or tablet for free. 

The music industry has been so utterly changed by the Swedish streaming site in the last 18 years that, in today’s world, we barely blink an eye at facts like these. 

Spotify is by far the most used streaming site in the world, with around 400 million+ active listeners. Almost every artist in the industry, whether they’re emerging acts or major names like Taylor Swift, is compelled to play Spotify’s sometimes perplexing streaming-algorithm game in order to reach their fans and sustain their careers.

By and large, younger music fans and artists now accept this as the norm. If you’re under the age of, say, 40 years old, you likely consume music almost exclusively through streaming sites. You’re likely to listen to all your favorite artists on the site, and you’re likely to let streaming algorithms and curated playlists help you find new artists. 

But statistics show that older people are still hesitant about embracing streaming. And while it’s hard to gauge exactly why this might be, there are several theories. 

The Price Isn’t Right

One suggestion is that consumers over the age of 55 truly don’t see the benefit of paying the subscription price, when compared with buying physical music. Sure, streaming is highly cost-effective for consumers (unlimited streams every single month for the average price of one single album), but what good is that when it’s not what you want from your music experience? 

For many older people, the very act of seeking out a record and buying it is as intertwined with the music experience as listening to the record itself. Streaming might be cheap and accessible - but it’s not the consumer experience that most older people are familiar with, and it’s certainly not the one that many of them desire. 

Content Overload

Another suggestion is that older people don’t enjoy navigating the sheer amount of content on streaming sites. This is a problem which Spotify’s CEO has even raised himself (although he was more specifically addressing the issue of how artists are paid on the site). It’s not just Spotify, of course - all streaming sites share a similar problem; they’re too big, too bloated, too unwieldy, and too hard to navigate. 

Again, younger people have tended to accept this as the norm, often letting the relentless barrage of new music wash over them; scrolling and searching until they find something they like. 

But for most older users, the idea of doing that is uninteresting - pure and simple. And so, the suggestion goes, if you can’t find new artists on an over-saturated streaming site, you cut your losses and revert to listening to your old favorite artists; and, if they’re old favorites, the chances are that you already have their music in some physical form anyway.

Will Boomers Embrace Streaming? 

It’s worth saying that all of the points above should come a ‘not all older people’ disclaimer. 

There are, of course, plenty of Over-50s who use streaming sites religiously (just as there are young people and young artists who don’t use them at all). But statistics show that boomers and older generations are still not streaming their music to anywhere near the same level as the younger generations. The industry site Music Watch has even points out that many streaming services consider boomers to be a massive market that they desperately need to crack in the future if they want to grow.