Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Music Listening Behavior is Changing

A new survey finds that music listening behavior in the U.S. is changing among adults, particularly Gen Z

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in Mix, but we’re sharing it because of the interest among radio people in the topic.

(Photo credit Rawpixelimages |

A new survey commissioned by Dolby Labs finds that music listening behavior in the U.S. is changing among adults, particularly Gen Z. The study looked at how important audio quality is for the general public, the effect of the pandemic on listening habits, and the impact of Hollywood and social media on music discovery.

The U.S.-based survey, conducted by OnePoll in November 2021, polled 2,000 general population adults who regularly listen to music for at least one hour per day. The survey examined their listening behavior, purchase decisions, and habits formed from the COVID-19 pandemic.

A number of respondents noted that their music tastes weren’t necessarily typical for their age group. Six in 10 listeners feel like they were born in the wrong era because of their taste in music; this was highest among Gen Z (nearly 80 percent). For most, the era that most closely matches their taste in music was the 2000s.

[See Our Who’s Buying What Page]

Almost half of those polled have recently discovered a song released over a decade ago, which was highest among Gen Z respondents (nearly 70 percent). Similarly, almost half stated they had rediscovered an iconic song or album within the past two years, particularly Gen Z (over two-thirds).

Most respondents — close to 70 percent — are embarrassed to share their music playlists with others, particularly their boss.

Unsurprisingly, social media and Hollywood entertainment heavily influence the discovery of new music; social media is the most significant influence shaping how people discover new music, while movies and TV shows play an equally important role.

A full 57 percent said social media is the top way they discover music; while YouTube is the most popular platform for discovering music, according to 79 percent surveyed, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok significantly influence how people find new songs. Almost a fourth of people who recently discovered a song released over a decade ago attributed this discovery to a viral video on social media. As for Hollywood’s impact, six in 10 have also discovered a new artist or song after watching a TV show or movie.

With the pandemic continuing to alter how people interact and entertain themselves, people in the U.S. are spending more time and money on music. In full, over two-thirds spend more time listening to music each day than before the start of 2020, with over half listening to music four hours per day or more. Meanwhile, 55 percent indicated that they spend more money on music purchases each month, such as streaming subscriptions, than at the start of 2020.

Many are prioritizing audio quality when enjoying music. When choosing a music streaming plan, music fans prioritize quality above all – especially Gen Z. This insight coincides with broader industry trends around the uptick among streaming services that offer subscribers enhanced audio through spatial audio experiences like Dolby Atmos or high resolution (HD) audio.

Among those who pay for a music streaming plan, nearly 90 percent agreed that enhanced audio quality is a “must-have” feature of their subscription, of which more than half strongly agreed. Of this group, 82 percent have upgraded, changed subscriptions, or explicitly paid for a service because it offered better audio quality. Nearly two-thirds who pay for a music streaming subscription indicated that better sound quality was more important than other features such as ad-free listening, exclusive content, or the ability to add multiple users to their account.

More than 70 percent of those surveyed were likely or very likely to purchase a new audio device within the next six months specifically to enhance their experience when listening to music; this stat was 86 percent among Gen Z.

What artists are in high rotation for you these days? Write to [email protected].