Apr 012014

(Guest writer Andrew Rumbol delivered unto us this interesting discussion of psychological research that attempts to identify the effects of aging on tastes in music.   Of course, there’s a metal angle to what he has to say… and invitations for your comments at the end.)

An interesting piece of research came out near the end of last year, from the department opposite the lab I work in. You can read the official press release here (which also links you to the primary research paper, if you’re interested in nerdy things like their sample selection or standard errors):


This group of psychologists undertook two cross-sectional studies (looking at a group of people that varies in one particular aspect, but is similar in others such as ethnicity and socioeconomic status), to investigate how people’s music tastes change throughout their lives. They found a striking trend: our music tastes pass through 5 distinct ‘dimensions’ – intense in adolescence, contemporary then mellow as early adulthood progresses, sophisticated in middle age, and finally unpretentious. I’ll discuss these results in more detail later – but, being both a scientist and a cynic, I was curious to find out how (and how precisely) these categories were defined.

So, a brief history on the psychology of musical preference:

The first rigorous studies attempting to classify particular musical “dimensions” took place around 6 years ago. These tried to cluster music genres based on shared listener preference and listener personality traits, from the results of (predominantly internet-based) surveys.

Of course this approach has its flaws – it assumes that preference is determined solely by inherent properties of the music, not other factors such as social class, generation, or political affiliation. This is clearly not the case. Check this graph I made from Rentfrow et al.’s 2009 data, plotting social class against genre preference:



In greyscale, that would make a killer black metal logo.

Anyway, pop and rap listening negatively correlate with class, whereas classical listening correlates positively. Electronica and jazz listening peak in the lower-middle and upper-middle classes respectively, and ‘rock’ (including hardcore, punk, goth, ska, and “heavy metal”) falls nicely in the middle. We scientists get a bit too excited about symmetry sometimes…

So, genre preference doesn’t only depend on the musical content, but it can still be a good indicator of some things. Check this other graph I made from Desling et al.’s 2008 data, plotting personality traits against genre preference:



Certain musical styles, in this study, correlated well with particular personality traits. Metalheads as disagreeable introverts – sound familiar?

These data suffer from two serious flaws though, I think.

Firstly, the sample of people they were testing: a selection of students from a Danish school. No controls for class or socioeconomic status were made; so EITHER this could just reflect the reactions to music in one particular social class (imagine if you take a social group who essentially all listen to classical music – makes sense that the one or two who listen to metal are more introverted, right?)…

OR the social class of the students was varied, in which case the cause of these trends might be this difference in class, and not the music itself (working-class urban music fans might be extroverted not because they listen to urban music, but because extroversion – just like urban music – is particularly characteristic of their social group).

Secondly, as I’m sure NCS readers are sick of being told, genres are nasty, ill-defined things. I imagine the personality traits associated with Xasthur listeners would be different compared to those of the typical Korpiklaani fan, both classed as ‘rock’ in these studies.

This is just not very good science. A different way of classifying music – a way that takes these various factors into account – was required, before any reliable science could be conducted into how and why different people like different kinds of music.


In 2011, Rentifrow et al. conducted a study on a representative set of 1600 subjects. He played them a wide range of audio samples, and asked them to describe how much they liked each one. These had never been released (warding against any bias for familiarity), and some had vocals removed to avoid confounding factors (people might relate to the human voice – not an inherent characteristic of the music, as such – and thus, for example, rank instrumental jazz pieces very low).

He analysed these results with a statistical method called PCAVR (principal component analysis with varimax rotation), which creates a set of ‘components’ for your data: clusters of data which vary in one particular aspect. The largest factor of variance in his data was, of course, personal taste, but the analysis also indicated five other preference factors. A range of other mathematical and computational analyses all supported these data: that there are five distinct musical ‘dimensions’, and our preference for these determines our taste in music, in conjunction with external factors such as generation and social class.

These dimensions were named:

sophisticated – jazz, classical, new-age (NCS equivalents: Vali, Karl Sanders’ solo work, maybe some Isis and Tool)
contemporary – rap, dance, house, club, and pop (popular, uncontentious music for socialising and dancing to – so Kvelertak, Mastodon, Slayer?)
intense – hardcore, rock, and metal (Ulcerate, Brain Drill, or Ruined Families)
unpretentious and rootsy –blues, folk, country (Led Zeppelin, Bathory, and, of course, the latest Panopticon release)
mellow – genres of soul, RnB, indie, and soft rock (Alcest, Coldworld, Vindensång…?)


In the virgin light of this discovery, Rentifrow partnered with American researcher and musician Arielle Bonneville-Roussy to conduct the two cross-sectional studies I mentioned above. The first was an investigation into how engagement with music changes with age, the results of which indicated that, in general:

• the importance we attribute to music and the time we spend listening to music both decrease with age
• the contexts in which we listen to music wane with age, often limited to solely private situations


I find the first result particularly interesting. Having not two weeks past lain in passing my palm-sized offering atop a weathered hilltop cairn to milestone my twenty-first year (and vowing solemnly to avoid circumlocution, verb-ing nouns, regurgitating clichés, and skipping oxford commas in what must pass artistically for dotage), I’m hardly the most venerable of the subjects tested here. I’d argue, though, that my love and appreciation for music has only strengthened with age.

A career in research and moving in with my partner have both inevitably cut down on the amount of time I spend just listening to music, but if anything I appreciate that time more now than I did three years ago. Similarly, whilst there are things that mean a lot more to me now than a first-pressing Eld LP (namely my family, cancer epigenetics, and finding a house to live in next year!), in non-relativist terms I’d appreciate the record more today than I would have when I was 17. How about you guys?

The second study was the one I mentioned at the start: by assessing the musical preferences of a cohort of 250,000 subjects of differing age, they discovered that on average, our tastes segue from intense in adolescence to contemporary in early twenties, mellow in early adulthood, sophisticated in middle age, and finally unpretetentious in old age.

Of course, this is an average of what happens to the average person – and average people aren’t music fanatics. When I first saw this study, the cynic in me postulated a profusion (to sidestep those authorial pitfalls plethora and myriad) of reasons for this vicissitude, which had nothing to do with inherent enjoyment of the music – social habits, professional acceptance, image, I’m sure you understand.


When procrastinating by setting up a Discogs wish list recently, though, I was reflecting on how my tastes have changed over the last few years, as a self-professed music lover, and these changes actually seem to draw a reasonable parallel with the findings of the study. From the angry progressive/melodic/technical death metal that dominated my teens, my tastes veered towards the immersive and atmospheric. I discovered black metal, and became particularly interested in the Cascadian/folk scene for ideological reasons. Through these I discovered the world of neo-folk, psych folk, and wyrd folk, and thanks to these softer styles of music I also started to appreciate electronic, post-rock, ambient, and modern classical. Recently I’ve been exploring classic rock, as well as upbeat styles of hard rock and folk/Viking metal which I’d eschewed before for being too light-hearted and juvenile – but hey, it’s fun, who cares what people make of my taste?

There could be a whole number of reasons for these changes. I think the key factor was moving in with my partner, who does enjoy some metal but doesn’t share the ideology that if Meshuggah haven’t cured your 8am hangover already then you’re not playing them loudly enough. This encouraged me to explore softer styles of music that we both might enjoy, and I can’t thank her enough for introducing me to Atom Heart Mother and Homogenic!


So, I suppose the whole purpose of me writing this was because I’m interested: how have your tastes changed, and why, do you think? Could it just be that the older we get, the more likely we are to enter situations that will encourage us to expand our denoted preferences? Are there artists you like now at whom your younger, more pretentious self would have turned up their nose?

The average metalhead, from my experience, adores music with a genuinely singular passionate fervour – so I’m curious to see if the average trend discovered in this study holds up amongst NCS readers, for whom I’m sure music is a lot more than just a social tool. So, over to you – how have your tastes in music and metal changed?


  1. Hmmm, I’m only 22 but my musical history seems to have a reverse correlation. High school and earlier was mostly pop-punk and ska and it wasn’t until I started getting older that my tastes started getting heavier. If anything I’m listening to more abrasive music the older I get.

    However, the older I got the larger the variety of music I listened to as well. While I may be listening to more venomous vitriol, I also enjoy jazz, blues and reggae much more than I did in previous years. I would also agree with you that music means more to me now than it did earlier. Lastly, I still have all my music from my younger years in my regular rotation and have never really “grown out” of anything.

    Although I feel like the “intense in adolescence to contemporary in early twenties, mellow in early adulthood, sophisticated in middle age, and finally unpretetentious in old age” correlation is pretty accurate for anything cultural, such as fashion or ideologies.

    • “Although I feel like the “intense in adolescence to contemporary in early twenties, mellow in early adulthood, sophisticated in middle age, and finally unpretetentious in old age” correlation is pretty accurate for anything cultural, such as fashion or ideologies.”

      – exactly Ben! Which is why I wondered if the trends still stuck for metalheads/fanatics, for whom music is a lot more than just fashion, professional image etc.

      and maybe I was a bit unclear with the taste-timeline-thing – Ulver, Darkthrone, Forest, Mutiilation, Enslaved, Rahu, Agalloch, Woman is the Earth, Witch In Her Tomb etc still make up the majority of my listening! I wouldn’t say I;ve grown out of metal, just that my tastes have broadened. Most of my new finds are non-metal, but maybe that’s because I’m pretty familiar with the BM scene…

      It’s interesting what you say about not growing out of anything though! So the stuff you listened to in your early teens is still in pretty regular rotation? I’d still smile if Children of Bodom or Necrophagist or The Haunted came on shuffle, but wouldn’t cite them as one of my favourite bands any more… not because I don’t like them, I jsut don’t often feel the need to seek that kind of musical ‘vibe’ any more.

  2. I’m 43, and I’m just as obsessed with music as I was when I was 15. Probably more, to be honest. I do, however, think that stands in contrast to “most people my age.” My folks my age musical taste pretty much stopped evolving around age 25, and their favorite music is the stuff they were first getting laid to, getting high to, discovering as awesome, etc, from about age 12 or so when they stopped liking embarassing tween music until about 25 when they started to “grow up.”

    Myself? Music is still a huge, huge part of my life — all sorts, from Hank3 to John Coltrane to the Cure to Rush to Amon Amarth. Maybe that makes me wierd.

    • That makes us both weird then. I’m the same age, and feel exactly the same way. Only the people my age around me had their musical tastes stop evolving somewhere around 1989.

  3. When I think about how my musical taste has developed, it all comes down to being able to reflect more (about what I like and what not) while growing older.

    In my teens, when I started discovering music on my own by listening to the radio, it was all about what’s mainstream and in the charts (which equals being played on the radio). At that time it was enough and I ignored other influences (like friends and siblings), since I was able to decide on my own (in this limited quantity that the radio offered).
    At some point I was introduced to Metal and I liked it, because it was different and fit perfectly to my own development. Basically that was when I started to realize that there’s much more music to discover and build your own taste. A part of the music I listend to in my teens, I left behind, but some still accompanies me to this day.
    And the good thing is that there are no limits. Everybody can listen to everything and build their own taste. I can imagine that from every phase some music will stay with each individual. Maybe the main focus will vary over time, but not necessarily (we’d have to talk about that in 30 years or so, then I should be able to tell more).

    It definitely is an interesting field that should be discovered more in depths.
    Thanks for the article! 🙂

  4. I am 44 and have been listening to hard rock and metal since 1983. As a teenager I shied away from the more extreme forms of metal in favor of the more mainstream bands like W.A.S.P. or Twisted sister or Judas Priest. As time went on I started listening to heavier and more aggressive stuff like the death metal era of Testament, Pantera, Sepultura etc. Currently I listen to a lot of death metal in it’s various forms, blackened, symphonic etc. Much of it deals with blasphemous themes which I only briefly touched on as a kid by being exposed to early Slayer and Mercyful Fate. Hell I even had my own blog dealing with all of these eras of metal I listened to for awhile. I would say I’m even more invested in metal now then I was as a kid for various reasons.

    In between all of this I gravitated to listening to other genres like blues, new age, and trance for example. But I always go back to the aggressive stuff. I have recently noticed though that I may have hit a wall on investigating any new music but I’m not sure if that is because of an age thing or just being fatigued by the whole thing now due to the ease of discovering new music these days.

    The subject matter in this article is intriguing though so if you want more data from an old coot like myself fire away with questions you may have 🙂

  5. Interesting. When I was your age (I sound so old . . .) I observed that my tastes just kept getting heavier and more abrasive, contrary to the usual prediction that people believe you’ll “outgrow” metal. (I don’t think that myth still exists, but at the time it did.) That trend continued until about age 28 or 29.

    After that point, I can’t say the trend actually stopped, it’s just that they can’t make music more heavy and abrasive than Ulcerate, for instance. Instead, my tastes have simply gotten broader, and I’ve extended my listening to lots of folk and rock music but still listen to plenty of metal. I’ve noticed every trend mentioned at once, from going to more sophisticated music (Wagner, Enslaved) and to more unpretentious music (Shitfucker, Nekrofilth).

    I don’t think you can really consider me representative of any kind of sample, because in 2009 I began listening for close to eight hours every day, and writing a music blog. I would suspect this kind of overexposure and overanalysis of music would speed up my musical aging. (Can Islander or others echo that?)

    • I don’t think it accelerated the aging by having a blog but it partly led to burn out in my coverage of the industry. I still listen to a ton of music but being inundated with new material on a daily basis became too much for me and my regular life. I started getting real picky about bands and how they set themselves apart from their peers and I think my expectations became unrealistic after awhile.

      We really should probably have more non blog people chime in more though because I do see us being a curve ball in the overall analysis posed by this article 😉

  6. I’m even older than Rob and Aaron, but like other people in this comment thread, I’ve found that my tastes in music have gotten more extreme, not less so, as I’ve gotten older. In almost all phases of my life I’ve always gravitated to “counter-cultural” music (for want of a better term), though to varying degrees a lot of it eventually got co-opted by popular culture — e.g., psychedelic rock, punk, New Wave, grunge. I’ve gone through phases when I’ve delved into non-electrified genres (eg, cajun music and Scottish bagpipes), but even then the music hasn’t been “mainstream”.

    I didn’t get into metal until late in my life, but for the last 7 or 8 years I’ve listened to almost nothing but metal, both trying to get better educated about a lot of what I missed in the preceding decades and keeping on top of new music that’s coming out. And I do echo what Full Metal Attorney wrote above — since starting this blog I’ve listened to so much more music every day than I used to do that I suspect it has accelerated my “musical aging”. But the trajectory has been toward more and more extreme music. Not to say that I no longer enjoy more “accessible” forms of metal, but I’ve developed a stronger and stronger taste for abrasive sounds.

    At the same time, I think I’ve developed a better appreciation for metal that’s innovative, complex, and multi-textured and for music that crosses genre boundaries, even if it’s not as vicious, bleak, or disturbing as what I’ve gotten into in recent years.

    • I am totally on the same trajectory. Finding music I like that is even more “extreme” (without becoming simply noise) is a joyous experience.

      That being said, appreciation and enjoyment of more “vicious” and “disturbing” music is usually (and understandably) attributed to kids. So I believe there is some credence to the notion that one can outgrow it. That makes me wonder what it is about those of us in our forties that is different. I’m certainly not trying to piss off my parents anymore, so why has my tolerance of the abrasive nature of this stuff not waned?

      • I think that question probably has a unique answer for each of us who are in this camp. It must be wrapped up in a whole complex of other personality traits and ways of seeing the world. Maybe for some people (maybe for me), it’s in part a reaction to the fact that as you get older daily life tends to become more burdened with obligations, maybe more routine, maybe more stultifying, and more abrasive music brings a kind of energy and freedom that helps make the rest of everything more bearable?

  7. In a little more than a month I will turn 50 (do I win?). I have been into metal since the mid-70s. Zeppelin, Aerosmith, BOC, Sabbath, Scorpions, Priest, NWOBHM. I bought every Neat Records single that came out. I went to virtually every thrash metal concert in the DC area from 1986 through 1991.

    But I got bored with metal in the early 90s. On the other hand, grunge, “alternative,” shoegaze, and avant-garde electronic music were very exciting, so I got deeply into all that. (To this day, no album of any genre has surpassed the beauty and sheer genius of MBV’s Loveless.)

    I started listening to metal again in the mid-aughts. These days, for better or worse, I listen almost exclusively to metal. The quality and diversity (not to mention availability), in my opinion, has never been better than it is right now. We live in a glorious age.

    • We do indeed live in a glorious age. There is so much more music to be discovered and it is now so much more easily available. On the one hand, it creates a risk of saturation and difficulty in searching for what really strikes a chord (because searching is easier and because there is so much more to wade through). On the other hand, it seems to me there is still a greater chance of finding music that hits your sweet spot in just the right way.

      • God. I can sit at my desk at work during lunch bored and somehow I have spent $50 at iTunes or Bandcamp or Amazon.

        I live in a metropolitan area with “good” metal record stores, but no brick and mortar store can come close to the web. Which may be a problem because music is so easily obtainable with a click of the mouse that one does become saturated and there is less time to really absorb individual albums or bands because there is always more more more to find and experience.

        I am also a geezer…who has always been into strange music. Gothy stuff at first…but then, 15 years ago or so I heard for the first time My Dying Bride Turn Loose the Swans and I was hooked. Throw in a strong thread of Misotheism…and metal is the obvious left hand path for me. (Although my favorite single band right now is the strongly Calvinist Wovenhand….kudos to Full Metal Attorney for his explorations of Dark Americana)!

        • Thank you. Also, I’m shitting myself in anticipation of the new record. Haven’t been able to get hold of a promo, unfortunately, but the record is pre-ordered.

          • It’s clear from this comment thread that we have a lot of geezers in the audience, and that reference to shitting yourself hits pretty close to home in geezer-dom. I’m thinking its time to roll out an NCS-branded line of adult diapers. There would clearly be a demand for them.

  8. with exception of some experimentation in my twenties (no, not that kind of experimentation) my musical tastes have been fairly consistent since my teen years, although i have started to lean towards heavier and more aggressive bands in the last few years. although i still cling to a handful of bands from my youth i find myself infatuated with new artists. i’ve found sites like Bandcamp horribly addictive

  9. I’m 35 and my tastes have definitely got heavier and more extreme as I’ve got older.

    I think in part it’s through exposure – like David J’s comment above about living in a glorious age – when I was in high school and even university through to probably mid-20s, the only way I’d hear about music is through a mate I ‘tape-swapped’ with (old school, I know) or possibly through magazines. So it was a pretty limited palette. Also I was generally cash-strapped so it would be pretty rare I’d rock into a music store and buy something on a whim without knowing anything about it. But especially over the last 6 or so years I’ve been exposed to so much more via sites like this, bandcamp and streaming albums online, etc. So I think part of that change in my tastes has been a reflection of the changing distribution of music and not something I can ‘take credit for’.

    I think the other aspect is just becoming accustomed to it – the gateway band effect. That’s probably been a slow trajectory for me in all honesty. In high school I think the heaviest I got was Sepultura’s ‘Arise’. I remember a mate giving me a copy of Demanufacture in university and I didn’t get it; it was too heavy for me. But the way he’d taped it, Pisschrist and A Therapy For Pain were on side B, and A Therapy For Pain really intrigued me, so I’d listen through Pisschrist to get to it, and gradually came to listen to the rest on side A (cassette tapes, showing my age!). By my 3rd year in uni I was living and breathing Demanufacture and Obsolete, trying to figure out and play the drum and guitar lines. Hooked like a heroin junkie. Another example would be for ages I didn’t ‘get’ black metal vocals, and it’s really only in the last 5 years or so I’ve expanded some small amount into black metal territory. The funny thing is looking back I can’t understand now why Ff was too much for me, or why I didn’t like any black metal vocals at all; now it’s just normal.

    The other thing that deserves mention is that I think we can all agree metal has undergone a shift towards greater and greater extremity and heaviness (and I think a veritable Cambrian explosion in diversity lately). So if we say our tastes have got heavier, it could just be the change in music composition to some extent. When I listened to Master Of Puppets as a teenager for example, it was heavy, but now it’s pretty mellow in the scheme of things. So have my tastes got heavier relative to the underlying scope of available metal? We need to think about metal relativity when answering this question 😉

    • Gateway band effect is huge. The first time I heard about Cannibal Corpse was during a family Christmas, when my Irish uncle and my cousin’s then-boyfriend mentioned it offhand whilst I was eavesdropping. I looked them up on iTunes (then a newfangled concept) and proceeded to have the shite scared out of me by “Hammer Smashed Face”. Thus, my first introduction to death metal (I was still in the Metallica/Nirvana phase back then). I can specifically remember gateway bands still, and they tend to be the ones that stick in my rotation when I move on into the great extreme unknown (A7X for hard rock, Metallica/Nirvana, AILD (pre-attempted murder) for metalcore, etc.

  10. Well, Im in my late 30″s and Ive found my tolerance for abrasive music has only increased…in fact it was only over the last several years that I really developed an ear for wargoatfago style bestial black metal. That being said, because of the people I was hanging out with, I came into heavy metal through the more extreme styles of metal. That meant I skipped a lot of the lighter styles and its only been recently that my tastes have wrapped back around and Im starting to get into and enjoy the more traditional styles..even exploring things like power and gothic metal.

    I will say, generally speaking, my music tastes have always been all over the map…I enjoy a bit of everything from folk to jazz to bluegrass and even pop, but metal is the only genre Ive ever felt a real passion for, where Ive gone out of my way to dig, explore, and learn as much as I can about it

    • Power metal?! Gothic metal?! I think it’s time for an intervention before your brain turns to porridge..

      • Hahaha..Im ready to burn in my Conqueror t-shirts just yet 🙂

        I think its that, when youve found a taste for bands like Proclamation and Revenge youve kind of reached the peak with abrasive metal bands..at which point theres really nowhere else to go but full circle back into really melodic stuff.

        ..besides, you cant tell me this dosnt get your toe tapping almost instantly…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXOA7WTdUBc

        • err…that should be *not* ready…

        • You forget that you’re talking to someone who likes anything with a bagpipe in it. But this was a huge disappointment — ruining perfectly good bagpipe metal with those nasty vocals. They should be horsewhipped.

          • Nasty vocals?…GAH!

            That, you heathen, is a singer who worships mightily at the altar of the one and only Ronnie James Dio. Its Dio vocals and bagpipe metal. Im surprised the world didnt explode from a concept that awesome

  11. My listening career was much like David J’s. In the early 80s in HS I listened to hard rock, NWOBHM and new wave. In college I was into late 80s “college rock” like REM, The Replacements, Screaming Blue Messiahs. In the 90s I rode the grunge and indie rock wave, with some harder stuff thrown in (Unsane, God and Texas, various AmRep bands). As the 90s went on I gravitated towards stoner rock, and added in some metal (early Metallica, Slayer, late Sepultura). By the early 00s I was kind of at a loss; nothing felt compelling, and most of the new music I bought left me flat after a few listens. For a while I was listening to a lot of north Indian classical music.

    Around 2009 I picked up some post metal and that woke up something in me. In July of 2010 I bought Cobalt’s “Gin”, and then it was all over but the tortured screaming. Now I’m 47 and 80% of my listening is metal, mostly black metal. I’m excited about music in way I haven’t been since the early 90s. I buy at least one album a week, often more. I spend an unwholesome amount of time trolling blogs and Bandcamp. My wife winces whenever I turn on the stereo. I don’t know how or why it happened, but I’m really enjoying being a middle aged metalhead.

    Though I do wonder what I’ll be listening to in another 20 years…

  12. 40 years old and I don’t know if my tastes have gotten more or less extreme, but are certainly more diverse. My first taste of metal came in the early 80’s and my first album was Motley Crue’s “Shout At The Devil.” As the 80’s wore on, my taste came from where I could find metal, which was mostly Headbanger’s Ball. I tended to give everything a chance, but eventually any fondness for glam and hair metal melted away and I got heavily into Thrash and Speed metal, with small forays into early hardcore/crossover like DRI.

    As I made my way to college my tastes grew a little, reflective of my new environment, but metal was easily still king. I graduated college in late 95/ early 96, just as many of my favorite bands were breaking up or releasing increasingly crappier albums. I didn’t know to look underground, so my tastes somewhat moved towards punk, ska, and hardcore, mostly because I was poor and compilations for that kind of music were dirt cheap. I still listened to a lot of metal, but my choices were slim. I think of this period as my musical dark ages.

    In 2001, I started a new job and made a friend who was really into metal. He started introducing me to black and death metal. I was hooked instantly and my tastes grew darker and more extreme. Then a funny thing happened: I stumbled upon First Aid Kit’s “The Lion’s Roar” album. I loved it. I began to poke around to find more music that sounded like that and found all kinds of non-metal music that I liked.

    Cut to today and metal probably compromises 80% of my collection. Black metal is an overwhelming favorite, with blackthrash, progressive/melodic black, and blackened folk doing the most to win me over. The other 20% is a hodgepodge of different sounds, from electonica to ambient drone, but with a strong leaning towards acoustic music: neofolk, american folk, singer/songwriter kind of stuff. Even with non-metal I tend to look towards the underground and bedroom artists. I have little interest in treading well worn paths. I’m also a voracious consumer of music. My 160GB iPod is completely full, and I probably have another 160GB on CD and various digital files.

    • I’ve had to delete things multiple times off my 160GB. And I’ve only been an intense music fan for maybe three years.

      • I get made fun of for my 160GB iPod. People call it a “brick.”
        I’d get the nano or touch if the HDD weren’t so tiny. What am I supposed to do with 32GB?

        • People start to make fun of it, but then I tell them it holds 160GB and costs the price of a 8GB Touch, and then they go “Damn, that’s cool”.

        • I do use a Touch (32 gig), but I’ve got some workarounds in place. I use smart playlists to automatically cycle in things that I haven’t heard in a while. It manages itself once I did the up-front work.

  13. As a mere 18-year-old, I probably have very little to contribute to the taste evolution over time discussion. I do think I’ve probably hit as hard/extreme as I’ll likely ever go (’cause as Full Metal Attorney said, Ulcerate’s kinda the peak of that). I can say with moderate certainty that without Guitar Hero III and its introduction of classic rock to my ears, I’d probably be a classic high school jock that only listened to top 40 rap. From there, the drive for the more intense music continued steadily until around the time I had my fill of straight-up heavy death metal and tech death. From there, I’ve expanded into some black metal, plenty of prog/post-metal, and now a decent amount of doom. This week, I’m hoping to expand beyond metal as well for the first time in a while (outside of momentary digressions). I put a lot of this more eloquently in my college essay for The University Of Chicago. Time permitting (now that the fear of legal retribution has been assuaged), I will get that up here soon.

  14. I largely still enjoy things I listened to when I was 11 and what I enjoy now ( 24 ). Then again my exposure to Metal was via my older sister so I went straight into Maiden, Priest, Sabbath, Metallica and Death Metal was only a few years off. I still very much retain those early exposures, I mean – Maiden is my favorite band, Metallica, Priest, and Sabbath get regular play like Cannibal Corpse, Bolt Thrower, or Ayreon. I seem to just add on top of what I already like and enjoy.

    However, it has led me to appreciate other forms of music outside of Metal. I like to see it as growth rather than phases.

  15. While I’m still in the younger camp, being 22 years of age, I can definitely say my test in music has changed or evolved over the years. I still remember hearing Metallica, Van Halen, and others along with punk/ska bands like Rancid, Operation Ivy as young as 5 or 6 years old. By the time I was 7 or 8, my best friend was a 15 year old who was discovering extreme metal and he introduced me to Opeth. I was hooked instantaneously and actually took more to the extremities of Death & Black Metal than he did, and it wasn’t until about age 15 or so that I began to branch out again. While I haven’t scaled down the listening to “extreme music” metal or otherwise, I definitely have a much broader scope as my favorite genres aside from Metal are Classical and R&B.

  16. I might as well throw in my two cents worth,I am 58 and I would say my musical tastes have just gotten more varied over the years ,with metal a lot of bands I started out with I found thru Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles ,Opeth,Nevermore,Voivod,devin townsend ,etc…I seem to like more abrasive and tech bands like Artificial Brain,Gorguts,Spawn of Possesion,Wormed,etc. when I was young er like 18 or so bands like Captian Beyond, Wishbone Ash .Mahavishnu,Allan Holdsworth ,Zappa,were my main listening style ,prog rock and fusion, but at the same time straight up jazz,classical were also on my radar ! I would say my musical tastes have grown alot in the last 15 or so years from bluegrass, reggae,electronic chill,but mostly 75% or more tech metal and I would say that most people my age do seem to have stayed with music they grew up with ,for me it is all about new music ,its always fun going to a show [just saw Gorguts and Black Dahlia] and being the oldest one at the show ,I just love the power and musicianship of metal ,….peace

  17. “Metalheads as disagreeable introverts – sound familiar?”

    I have no idea what you are talking about…

  18. I’ve downrgraded to a Nano in simple recognition that fitting everything at full size onto the 160 was not happening anyway. (the compressed version just does not sound very good. Even on shitty headphones). So…since my Classic was dying (shorting jack and bad spot on the drive), I bought a Nano instead. I listen to music the most at the gym, so it is most convenient. Just requires more active “curating” of my collection.

  19. Ah I love music + science + some nice figures. A journalist actually called me today to ask if I knew anything about similar studies as the Cambridge done in Sweden, and I had no idea what he was talking about. And now I surf in to NCS and find the same damn study cited by Andrew! Is this one doing the rounds on social medias or something? I think the Elder gods are saying I should read the paper in question…

    As for my listening preferences I think my tastes have gotten broader with age, drilling further into the chaotic, abrasive underground while simultanously finding great enjoyment in Swedish folk music, hiphop (no, really!) and old-people pop like Sting. In other words, I’ve stopped giving a fuck what others might think of my musical tastes. That being said, I think the greatest difference in my listening habits now compared to 10 years ago (I’m 35) is having a wife, kid and full-time job. There just isn’t enough time to actively listen to music while still being a good father, husband and Top 5 awesome person. Do I regret these new priorities? Hell no. Do I wish I had more hours in the day? Hell yeah.

  20. I want another chart for how condescending people are about their tastes as they age. “Oh, you listen to [insert name of current ‘fake mall metal’ band here]. Try listening to some REAL music, like [insert name of ‘fake mall metal’ band from 10 years ago here].

    Seriously though, my own tastes don’t really seem to line up with this study. When I was a kid, my brother got me into jazz, classic rock, metal, and classical. I’m 28 now, and I still listen to all of those, just with some pop, rap, and more extreme metal thrown in. I thought most people kind of had all of those dimensions going on throughout their lives.

    • No. Most people only listen to whatever’s on the radio. It also seems that most metalheads either (a) just listen to metal, or (b) just listen to punk and then later grow into metal, up until some time in their 20’s. At 31, I still have some pretty narrow areas of musical interest: metal, folk/Americana/country, and very little punk or goth (Beastmilk and Killing Joke, mostly). I listen to a few other genres (opera, classical, post-rock, dreampop) but not to enough of any one of them to make a claim that I listen to that genre. It’s more that I listen to Wagner, The Gathering, and LowCityRain, not that I listen to the genres to which they belong.

      I think jazz should choke on a flute; I can’t stand it. Rap is barely recognizable as a form of music to me. The more my horizons expand, the more opinionated I get on the things I really hate.

  21. 25 here. grew up on nu metal 2000- 2004. As that was the thing i first grabbed on to via the few western channels that played on TV. Grew out of it when the internet came around. From the article and more so from the comments, i get a feeling how important it was for people in the pre-internet age (myself included in spite of the age, as a result of poor internet penetration during the first half of the 00’s/third world problems/ stable internet connection only in 2007) . How crucial was it be around a city that had a good amount of people listening to rock/metal, which meant more people likely to introduce you into it. I would say i was very disadvantaged in that case until the internet came along.

    Cool article btw and equally cool comments. Throws a lot of light on one’s listening experience. I bet you guys are revisiting most of the older stuff after reading this.

  22. as somebody in their late thirties I’m not certain my listening habits have changes so much, i still have my audio device shuffling songs during most drives and at work. however what has changed is how much time I spend hunting down new music (or rather how much time I don’t spend on it anymore); now-a-days something really has to be special (or a known entity) to grab my attention because I just don’t have the time to invest in finding new bands to enjoy. this is a bit sad but I think comes with increasing work loads as you progress in your career. if I’m now spending on average twelve hours a day working (and then a few commuting) I have a limited amount of time left to hunt down new bands on bandcamp.

    Perhaps partially because of this, I don’t think my tastes have changed that much at least not in the last 15 or 20 years, perhaps DsO or BaN could be considered sophisticated, but Anaal Nathrakh or Inquisition would probably not considered so. I’ve listened to (and enjoyed) classical music as long as I can remember (but then perhaps I’ve always been in that nexus between middle and upper middle class where rock and classical intersect…hehe)

    What I think would be really interesting is an actual survey where you collect this information from people like those responding here to see how it actually differs from the study of the population as a whole. Of course what you’d almost need to do is keep doing it over many years to see how (if) people’s tastes and attitudes evolve.

    • I think Anal Nathrakh is more sophisticated than you give it credit for.

      It’s been observed by many people that your average person’s musical tastes crystallize right around age 25. That could be happening to you. Maybe?

      • You might be correct on both counts. AN might be more sophisticated than I give them credit for, I was thinking mostly lyrically (which of course I can mostly only guess at), re-reading the article I realized they’d removed vocals so I guess the sophistication should be judged only on the musical, not lyrical merits. This does make me wonder, what does constitute sophistication within metal (which by the scale above is only intense)?

    • If said survey were to ever take place, I would be a happy volunteer, as someone still (probably) very early in that taste evolution process.

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