How Young People Shaped Music in 2021—Spotify Culture Next

Halfway through this year, Spotify released the third volume of their Culture Next report. The report shows results from the music streaming giant’s surveys and in-depth conversations with Millennials and Gen Zs from across the globe, including the Philippines. Find out how the world listened and where you fit in!

A year in audio: music listening, knowledge, and meditation

From a year of “cultural wake-up call” to the year of “cultural rebirth,” music and audio, in general, continue to serve a greater cultural purpose. Now, audio streaming is more than listening to your favorite artists, podcasts, or meditation music. Spotify has become a platform to create communities and amplify voices.

How unique is your music experience this year? While we may have individual differences, listeners all over the world shared the same habits in the past year. Spotify found these trends that are shaping the youth culture recently:

A year of escapism

Have you ever found yourself listening to your old favorites recently? You may have found comfort in your Time Capsule playlist with classics from your teenage years and have put it on repeat every day. But that is not a bad thing. There is no shame in getting lost in your favorites. 

  • Nostalgia Overload

While we are still burdened by the effects of the pandemic, nostalgia in music was an audio balm to our senses. We all craved familiarity and comfort and found them in music. Here in the Philippines, ’70s and ’80s love songs doubled in streams from the previous year.

  • Music for Wellness

If you found yourself feeling better after listening to your favorite audio, you would be relieved to hear that 87% of millennials and 85% of Gen Zs felt the same. For the majority of these age groups, music therapy is an essential factor to their well-being during the pandemic.

Millennials are in search of ways to insert entertainment, literature, and education into their busy everyday life, so they turn to podcasts. Gen Zs, on the other hand, see audio streaming as a healthier option than bingeing and scrolling through social media.

Both the Millennial and Gen Z groups agree that music helped them combat negative emotions, especially during this pandemic. What makes audio appealing for these generations is that it can be consumed even in background use. Millennials can work and listen to music at the same time. Gen Zs can play and put their favorite song on their stream.

The rise of virtual stages

With live concerts canceled and tickets refunded, artists moved to digital platforms to connect with their fans. This also resulted in a shift in how fans would like to consume music. Most millennials now prefer attending digital concerts to attending live ones in the near future. Not only are these digital platforms safer, but they are also cheaper and more accessible than physical, social events.

A more collaborative approach to creation

What used to be a one-way communication between artists and fans has now become a conversation. Now, listeners can be part of artists’ creation process. They now have more voice as to what music gets produced. Music creation is now essentially social, with music fans having a direct influence on the content they consume.

Half of Gen Zs found songs from other social media platforms like TikTok and searched for them on Spotify. In fact, 39% of the new music Filipino Gen Zs discovered is from social media. These young people now have the power to amplify an unknown artist into the spotlight if you appeal to them.

The golden age of curation

With music becoming more accessible and music platforms more user-friendly, listeners can now curate their music experience better. Young people are putting the same effort into creating playlists as much as they do in deciding on their clothes and diet. Or maybe even more.

For some, musical preferences have psychological effects and are essential to their wellness. For minorities, music is key to their cultural identity.

In recent years, there has been a rise in highly specific playlists targeting niche audiences. If you search enough, you may even find a playlist for each personality traits.

This attention to curation shows how audio serves an emotional use to a large number of the younger generation. For them, music is a source of comfort that can improve their mood and overall everyday life.

The rise of communities

Though the younger generation crave individuality, they also find comfort belonging in communities. Psychologists believe that fan communities help teens find belongingness and identity through these social groups.

In some instances, these fan communities could also rally political clout and forward a movement online (See: Stop Asian Hate, Black Lives Matter)—another uniquely Millennial and Gen Z characteristic.

Away from traditional news sources

Millennials and Gen Zs are less receptive to traditional media institutions that their parents trusted. For them, there is more authenticity and closer to truth in mediums like podcasts. Not to mention that these formats feel more personal to the listeners. Gen Zs are more likely to get their news from social media platforms than the TV. Millennials, on the other hand, turn to familiar personalities for credible information.


Though the pandemic has severed our physical ties, it did not stop us from socializing. Audio is only one of the many ways people connected during these trying times. There are many more platforms out there just waiting for you to discover and dive into.

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