• Research by O2 and Westminster University reveals that the music children hear as they grow up is linked to their openness to new activities and experiences in later life
  • Children who grow up listening to music genres such as reggae and classical music are the most likely to explore new experiences as adults

Listening to a wide variety of music as a child, with an emphasis on reggae and classical music, is linked to being more open to experiencing new things later in life.

The research, conducted by O2 in conjunction with Catherine Loveday, Neuropsychologist at Westminster University, showed that children exposed to a variety of music when younger are more likely to be more adventurous as adults.

What’s more, the research revealed that the extent to which people were willing to try new things varied depending on the different types of music genres that they listened to whilst growing up.   Over a quarter (27%) of people whose parents listened to reggae would be open to trying new things, with a fifth (20%) of those who listened to classical music at an early age also open to new experiences, such as sporting activities, different clothes and even hairstyles.

But those who heard music genres such as heavy metal and soul around the house as a child seem to be far less adventurous as adults. Only 4% of people who heard these genres while growing up said they are open to trying new things and experiences now.

However, the impact that music can have on shaping our outlook extends beyond music genres with the research highlighting how the age at which we experience our first live gig also has an influence on how adventurous we are as we get older. Over half (57%) of the millennial age-group went to their first gig or live music experience by the age of 13 – with a third (33%) doing so in the care of their parents. This is compared with just 15% of those aged 55 and over who went to a gig by the time they were 13, with almost half (46%) waiting until they were over 18.

The ages of four to six are significant, with a third (33%) of those who went to their first live music experience in this age bracket saying they often try new things, compared to just 9% of those who waited until they were over the age of 22.

They are also more likely to want to attend regular gigs as they get older, with four in five (81%) of those that experienced live music at a younger age wishing they could attend gigs at least once a month now. Conversely only a third (34%) of those who waited until they were over the age of 22 to experience their first gig are keen to regularly attend live music events now.

Catherine Loveday, Professor at the University of Westminster, said: “Music is a very fundamental way for parents to connect with their children so it is not surprising that musical tastes get passed on, but it is interesting to think that listening habits might also nurture open-mindedness and flexibility, as well as a yearning for live music.  We have known for a while that exposing children to lots of new foods will help them to develop a more adventurous palate and it looks like the same thing might be true of music”. 

Reinforcing the concept that the earlier we listen to music, the more adventurous our music palette is likely to remain as we get older, the research showed people are at their most “open eared” between the ages of 24 and 35, with nearly half (45%) of that age group saying they are now very likely to listen to a wide range of music.

The range of music you listen to when you’re younger also has an impact on the music you’re most likely to listen to in later life. For those who say they heard a diverse range of music growing up, their top 5 genres today, across all ages, are:

  1. Hip Hop (82%)
  2. Drum and Bass (81%)
  3. Reggae (80%)
  4. Punk Rock (79%)
  5. Dance Music (77%)

Whilst for those who said they had only a limited range of music played growing up, their top 5 genres today are:

  1. Folk (27%)
  2. Classical Music (26%)
  3. Rock (25%)
  4. Pop Music (25%)
  5. Soul (23%)

Nina Bibby, Chief Marketing Officer, O2 said:

“Music connects us on an emotional level so it’s perhaps no surprise to see that the music we listen to growing up shapes our approach and attitude to other aspects of our life.  There’s nothing quite like live music to make you feel alive and we want to encourage people to seize the moment and breathe it all in. Through Priority Tickets our customers have access to over 5,000 live shows in more than 350 venues across the UK so there’s no better time to explore exciting new live experiences.”

The research was carried out as part of O2’s Live Experiences campaign, which encourages consumers’ to ‘Breathe It All In’ by seizing the moment to watch their favourite music, artist or band.  For more information on live experiences go to http://www.o2.co.uk/live-music.


*research of 2,000 adults carried out by One Poll in February 2019.

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