With 11% of the UK having subscribed to Spotify which accounts for 5.7 million people (YouGov) and a third of those being aged 15-24 (TNS) it was clear that music and its various access points is something to be explored among young people.
So we spoke to our online community of 16-24s about their likes and dislikes, genres of preference based on trends, cultural movements and inspiration. We also spoke to them about how they are all currently consuming and being exposed to music. the platforms they use to listen to their music, how they listen to it and why.
Tribes have various ways of keeping up the artists. Passive listeners hear music through radio and official charts, but most of them keep up with the artists via Spotify and email subscriptions in order to be first to hear new music as fans of the artists.
“I keep up to Date with them by listening out for their music across the Radio industry (Radio 1 – KissFMUK – Other Radio Stations) I also keep up with the Official Chart as well as following them on Twitter and Spotify. This way I get their music before everyone else – If I love the song it will then be added into my Yearly playlist that i take everywhere with me and listen to at work.”
Many of the Tribes follow their favourite artists on YouTube and Facebook to keep up to date with new releases, collaborations, tour dates and music videos in order to stay in the loop with the latest music. They also use Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat to keep up with the day to day to lives of the artists they follow and reading their account bio and about me pages in order to get to know them better.
“I do follow some of them on Instagram and Twitter to get more day to day information. When Im on Twitter or something I also click on their bio and also read about them as an artist or band just to get to know them a little.”
“The best way to feel involved with my favourite artists is by following them on all their social media including Snapchat! And Twitter is the best way because they tweet about new music – collaborations and about tours! This is why I love following Mac Miller on Twitter because he has countdowns before he releases new music and tour dates which makes it easier to keep up to date with him and his music!”
“The best way to follow them would be following them on social media: Facebook – twitter etc because you know its actually coming from them and not someone who heard it from someone else”
Feeling involved with favourite artists
Tribes demonstrate that they desire a personal and unique experience with the artists different from the recorded album so that they can feel close, connected and involved with them. They look for these experiences at live concerts and festivals, watching interviews, documentaries and behind the scenes footage that give insight into the real personalities and lives of the artists. Additionally, they feel the need to support their favourite artists by buying signed albums and merchandise.
“Best way to keep up to date in regards to tours and merch is definitely mailing lists – you get the news straight away. Sign up to Bands in Town and youll always be up to date concerned upcoming shows.”
“Probably through interaction on social media – videos on YouTube of their real personalities behind the scenes.”
“Best way I feel involved with fav artists is just getting to chat with them and hear their stories.”
“I check their personal websites if I feel like I want to see them live and plan ahead.”
“I think the best way to be involved is to take part in competitions offered by them and watch any short documentaries on them or any clips they post.“
Tribes didn’t really seem to look for any specific genres for their music and enjoyed having a variety of music to listen to. There was a split amongst them with many looking for a good story or strong lyrics to listen to that relate to real life situations, while others were looking for easy listening catchy tunes mostly from the charts. Overall Tribes seek music that sounds good for the occasion to ‘fill the mood’ whether that be classical music in the background while doing work, grime in order to express emotion or cheesy pop music just to get through the day.
“I honestly find my mood depends on what I listen to. I usually listen to Radio 1 as I can get the latest pop tracks throughout the day – some indie tracks with Huw Stephens and some rock with Daniel P Carter. Im quite into my indie and rock music – but love a bit of cheesy pop to get me through my day!”
“When it comes to music – I look for quality essentially. Genre is not really an issue – there are at least a few good songs in any genre.”
“I think the main thing is do I like the way it sounds ha – which sounds silly but I will genuinely listen to any genre of music as long as I am enjoying it. I have such a varied amount of music on cds and on my iPod. I think initially my parents did. I was raised listening to a mixture of Meatloaf – Bob Dylan – Motown and Classical music. Ive always had a good mixture of music in my life.”
“I think its a lot about the artist – especially with rap or grime I like to listen and see what the type of things they write lyrics about – thats how you can tell what type of vibe they are on and what kinda mood you need to be in to listen to it. Genre used to be massive for me – but over the years Ive gone more to whatever sounds good Ill listen to.”
“When it comes to music I look for catchiness – replay-ability and how fun it is to listen/how well it evokes emotion. I try not to pay attention to genre – but I usually find myself listening to pop songs eg 80s music – rock music and soul/funk.”
Tribes’ motivations for choosing music varied from supporting the artists behind the music either because of how they make them feel or as appreciation for their work as an independent artist. Some Tribes also stated that recommendations from friends and family influenced their choices in music as they are often trusted sources of information who may know and understand their tastes.
“My inspiration for music choices is to support those without labels mainly – non established artists that have broke through the charts because of the mass support they have.”
“I listen to grime on a daily basis. artists like Santan Dave – AJ Tracey – Novelist – I admire how they put their feelings – emotion and experiences into their work – i find their very expressive and relevant in politics and London today. A side from all of the grime and hiphop. I do have a soft spot for indie rock/rock/pop. The 1975 – Royal Blood – Everything Everything and the Foo Fighters. Love them!”
“Id say my music choices are very heavily influenced by the individuals I spend time with as I am incapable of finding my own style. However – once Ive discovered some artists I enjoy – finding similar artists tends to be my method of discovery- but even so if I then show my friend with pride and they do not like the music I have found I will often abandon said artist out of shame.”
“I mainly hear about music from friends and social media and I play certain music dependent on my mood or where i am.”
Whilst some Tribes are sceptical of how music ads influence them, they like songs played on adverts that inspire them to go and search for the song and artist if they do not know already. They are more engaged with music that is catchy and upbeat as it is more likely to stick in their heads and remain on their minds.
“Id like to say that adverts dont have an impact on me but if the song sounds good when its being promoted – there is a high chance I would search it up!”
“Music ads can inspire me to look further.”
“Music adverts and radio inspire me a lot – as it is a helpful way of pushing me in the direction of new music.”
Tribes are mostly prompted by mood, time of day and activity. Many of them said that listening to music allowed them to drown out the world around them in order to concentrate on a specific task, uplift their mood or fill the time between journeys. Music for the Tribes seems to hold a lot of significance in their daily lives as it has an influence on how they feel, whether it is to change that feeling or maintain a good one that they are already in. When seeking new music Tribes rarely intentionally sought after new music as many of them hear new music on the radio or suggested to them by friends or music platforms and services.
“I usually listen to music when Im travelling when Im walking to uni – or on the train. Its a relaxing way to pass the time.”
“Turning music on is normally my way of drowning out the world around me for example if im in a bad mood or bored or tired – to pass time and fill the emptiness I will often play music (though sometimes this can keep me awake for hours at night when I get too engaged)”
“Ill turn on music depending on my mood and time of day. If I feel happy and joyful – its going to be more upbeat tracks I listen to however if Im feeling low – theres a playlist on Spotify called Just Cry which has a good range of sad songs.”
“I turn on music when Im doing something that requires focus. I prefer to have background noise and struggle to work in silence – but if Im writing something for college I dont necessarily want to watch something that requires I pay attention to it like a TV show Ive been following.”
“For me to turn music on its just a part of my daily routine – I will listen to it on the way to and from work every day and then during the day at work – I will always look to turn music on where i can ( In fact while typing this I am listening to music!!) Also my mood can help – Music helps to cheer me up and its a way of relaxing and enjoying the lyrics and voices of artists.”
Tribes referred to different social media platforms for different uses. Some said that they followed Facebook pages, Twitter profiles and Instagram accounts mainly for engagement between artists and their fans. It was also the platforms where they were most likely to be introduced to new music and music videos that had been shared by friends, while Spotify and YouTube introduced new music independently based on their music preferences.
Tribes were asked to imagine they could only use ONE single social platform (twitter, Facebook, snapchat etc.) to interact with their favourite artist, as well as which one they would pick and why?
Noticeably, almost half the Tribes who answered chose Facebook as it acted as the ‘whole package’, providing a mixture of what all the other social media platforms offered. For example Facebook has a live option, the artist can share pictures and there is also an option to message the artist directly too. Most the Tribes, who picked Facebook, said that it was more informative than the other platforms because it updated you on events/concerts coming up relevant to the artists. Overall, Tribes felt that Facebook was the most versatile out of the social media platforms when speaking to their favourite artist.
“I don’t think you would miss out on much by being limited to Facebook – it offers pictures – videos – short statuses and longer-form posts. It’s the most versatile of the major social media platforms – because it doesn’t have to corner a particular market – it created the market.”
“I would choose Facebook – since there aren’t any limitations (e.g. twitter limited to 140 characters and Instagram only posting pictures and short videos) and its easier to see past posts – which twitter is terrible for”
“I would choose Facebook because it would create a more personal platform where you are able to share pictures – videos and you are able to go live which is a more interactive experience.”
Twitter offered Tribes the opportunity to reach out to their favourite artist and get to know the artist on a personal level. For those who mentioned Twitter as their favourite platform, this was because Twitter gives young people the opportunity to communicate with their favourite artist whilst also creating a community amongst fans of similar music genres.
However, other Tribes did mention that Twitter was very limiting to them. Twitter’s 140 character restriction proved to be an issue for some of the Tribes; they felt it restricted artists saying what they want to say.
“Twitter – I feel like it’s the easiest way to have a conversation with an artist! At least they have a slight chance of seeing it and replying! You can’t imagine Rita Ora replying to your Snapchat!”
– Rachel, 24
“I would pick twitter because it feels the closest to the actual person and tends to get responses from them or others the most.”
“I would choose Twitter as I find it is a great place to talk and discover likeminded music people.”
When it came to Instagram, the Tribes who picked this platform said Instagram allowed the artist to be more expressive than the other social media platforms. A few Tribes mentioned that, Instagram came across as a more positive platform as there were little opportunities for people/artists to get into feuds which are more common on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
Only one of the Tribes said that Snapchat would be their first choice if they had to pick one social media platform. Similar to twitter, this was because Snapchat offers personal insight into the artists’ life. However, some Tribes mentioned that they preferred to be informed on just the music rather than the artist’s lifestyle as this can sometimes ruin how they view the artist.
“I would probably just Instagram – I like to see all the behind the scenes going ons! However not everyone uses Instagram – so it may be a bit limiting as to who you could follow.”
“I would choose Instagram! I much prefer looking at photo content – and I don’t think I would miss interacting with artists on any other social media platforms as I currently don’t really follow them on any other platforms.”
“On social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook – people will just rant about their lives or will use them to indirectly bitch about people they know. I absolutely hate that… No time for bad vibes!! I purposely don’t have Twitter for that reason… To be honest – with Instagram I don’t feel as though I could miss out on much. Everything I like about a social media platform – Instagram has. I just love how people use pictures to express themselves.”
Music seems to serve a greater purpose to Tribes than just using it to pass the time but it clearly has a great impact on their mood. In many cases it’s used to uplift the Tribes or as background to bring focus to a task. Some Tribes also mentioned they would match music to their music almost to have someone there who understands how they feel in that moment.
Most important to Tribes is the opportunity to have a personal yet shareable experience with music and the artists that make them. This allows them to feel closer to the art form, hence why they feel such a need to support up and coming breakthrough genres, independent artists and music that is transparent and in many ways raw.
Overall Tribes use social media platforms in various ways in order to stay connected to their artists of choice. Although this is not how they consume music they feel most platforms add a personal touch for fans outside of the music itself. It was also said to be the easiest way to find out about events and gigs featuring their favourite artist(s).
Young people have more access to music than ever with online products and streaming services adding to how we now consume music.
Despite these technological changes traditional methods of listening to music such as via radio are still very prominent among Tribes especially when it comes to music discovery.
Source: 4Youth online community
Spotify proved particularly popular among students who receive a 50% discount on their subscription. Tribes seemed to value the choice in the songs, the ease of movement between their desktop and mobile devices and the ability to share music with friends.
“Spotify, you can easily download tracks to listen to at later times. Plus recommendations are quite good, they tend to be stuff I like”
“I use Spotify the most, because there isn’t a limit on the number of songs you download (unless your phone storage is rubbish). It’s also got a good discount for students, so it’s very good value for money”
“The app and desktop application is easy to navigate and find all the music you could ever want. The Selection of playlists and music based on moods and what you have been listening to is also an amazing feature.
“I get to listen to loads of songs I like by selecting pre-made playlists or by actually making my own. It has all the latest music, the ability to share playlists and see others shared playlists and it has great sound quality too”
Apple Music proved itself to be a top choice with existing Apple product users. Although some said the £9.99 price tag was a bit much, the student discount along with unlimited offline downloads to listen to music on the go made it a great place for music.
“I use apple music for when I’m out and about and don’t want to use data – as you pay £5 a month and can download unlimited albums and tracks to your phone – perfect for commutes to uni.”
“Apple Music! With student discount it makes it a lot cheaper. Without that discount probabaly wouldn’t use the service. Great choice of music
“Since I’ve started paying for it, I use apple music a lot, because it adds music to my phone and it has a lot of music.”
“iTunes music, just because I own all apple devices and it makes it easier to have my music synced across my devices by using the same platforms
“I use Apple Music. It’s pricey in my opinion hah but with not a lot of space on my phone and a broken iPod it allows me to listen to music on the go which is perfect.
“Apple Music because it is updated daily and is accessible immediately from my phone”
Tribes expressed a variety of music platforms that they use to engage in their favourite tunes whether on the move, in the car or within the comfort of their bedrooms.
Some Tribes expressed the desire to still purchase physical copies of music as it seemed to hold some sentimental value and feel a part of the music itself.
Radio and podcast also gave Tribes the opportunity to listen to their favourite DJs and discover new music.
Other platforms such as Tidal and Amazon music offer youth perks and exclusives that they can’t get elsewhere such as first listens to their favourite artists and premium features on other services.
“Purchasing music physically because it makes me feel part of the music community and I’m able to keep each album as a memory.”
“Tidal- they have my favorite artist they have exclusives from nicki bey jay rihanna kanye plus it has 30 60 and 90 day trails depending on whats out its really easy and simple to use too”
“The one I use most is actually an American app called Pandora.. you can create your own radio stations. For example, ‘Justin Bieber Radio’, ’90s Love Songs Radio’, ‘Trap Radio’, etc… It’s free so you get ads but you can pay for the ad-free one if you want. I use this the most because I can quickly switch between genres or artists.”
“Mostly amazon prime music. It’s convenient, I have prime for streaming TV and free next day deliver. It’s not the best, I’ve use iTunes music before but it was to costly and was a waste considering I already had access to prime music.”
“Mostly Deezer because it has a wide range of music but since the free version only lets you listen with an internet connection now I’ve started downloading music to listen offline”
“Podcasts & Radio because it is still the best way to discover new things and enjoy the best DJs.”
The music and podcast streaming platform SoundCloud allows people to listen to user generated content mainly from grassroots musicians and personalities. Among the Tribes, it seems to be an alternative platform for them to listen to music that that can’t get anywhere else.
However recent changes to the platform’s subscription services meant that offline and ad-free listening was no longer free which young people aren’t as receptive to on music platforms.
“I use YouTube and Soundcloud for songs that aren’t available on Spotify, or for artists who upload exclusively to those sites.”
“I used to use soundcloud the most, but then they introduced adverts and started charging so I got the hump and moved over to spotify for a 30 day free trial, then ended it and also got annoyed at the shuffle play”
“When i have wifi i tend to listen to music on youtube as there is a wider range of music such as covers and underground artists as anyone can upload to youtube – this is the same for soundcloud.”
“Soundcloud is useful however I find that some of the newest or oldest material from musicians aren’t published, whereas it’s likely Spotify would have most.”
“when I can’t find what I want on apple music (or want to watch the music video) or am looking for something a bit different I use other services, such as soundcloud, youtube, bandcamp etc.”
YouTube was a popular in-home music platform among Tribes as it is free and offers a variety of content and flexibility to switch between videos and music.
Some youth also mentioned not minding the ads when listening to music on YouTube as they consume content differently to video content as music is usually played in the background.
However, YouTube has its disadvantages on mobile devices as they can’t access uninterrupted music with YouTube Red which is not yet available in the UK and also uses a lot of battery power to play video and music.
“Since I listen to music from different cultures and around the world, unfortunately Spotify doesn’t have specific songs I listen to. For that reason I use YouTube more. However on the go I use Spotify where I’ve downloaded Mainstream and Western songs.”
“I use YouTube mostly as its free and I always have access to the internet so don’t feel like I need to purchase platforms. Youtube also offers all the artists that I want to listen to.”
“Then I use YouTube but that’s annoying because if you close the app it stops without paying for YouTube Red.”
“Spotify’s auto-shuffle (free version, because I’m cheap) is active in playlists and is a disadvantage when you simply want to listen to one desired song. This will draw me to Youtube, where I can play that tune on repeat. Youtube playlists are never 100% on point and usually gets a bit dodgy 2 or 3 songs in…the dark side of Youtube is inevitable lol.”
musical.ly is a video social network that allows users to create videos, send messages and broadcast live.
The music app is popular with teens and pre-teens, made clear with the default birth year for sign-up being 2000, some have described it as karaoke for a new generation.
“My favourite feature is the face filter. I know it’s on snapchat as well but it’s so much more fun when you’re lip syncing to a song with the filter on.
I don’t use it enough to get a better idea of what could be improved”
“I used it for about a week. I love the variety of people and videos on it: you have serious dance videos, fun dance vidos, comedy sketches, singers and so much more. I think to improve it, it would be helpful to have filters when exploring through random videos”
Despite vast movement towards streaming and owning music digitally some Tribes see value in owning physical copies of music on CD or even vinyl as they feel a part of the music community and have a memory of the album which aligns with youth trends showing young people valuing experiences.
On their limited budgets Tribes desire to get the most out their purchases and subscriptions and therefore look for student discounts, perks, exclusive offers and variety when it comes to music consumption.
One of the biggest reasons for choice with Tribes was price and although many of them went for the free option to being with the option to have access to their music offline and be in control of their playlist was important to young people and enough for them to pay up to £10 a month to do so.