Music: The Outburst of Generation Z and a Tool for Brands to Reach Them

Girl listening to music

In the life of today’s teens, music is simply inescapable.

By Leah Jarrell, Guest Blogger

In a Spring 2018 survey of 699 U.S. teens, 71% of respondents described themselves as enthusiastic or music super fans. In 2017 38% attended a live concert and 54% say they would definitely consider attending a sports event if a popular music artist was part of the entertainment.  Brands take note, GenZ isn’t just amused or soothed by music, it has become a lifestyle thing.  Do you hear that? To us, music is like oxygen. It’s in our ears and in our heads morning, noon and night.  So if you want our attention, make music a constant with your brand and a tool to engage us.  If you’re not there yet, at least don’t let it drive us away.

Don’t get me wrong, I can’t speak for my entire generation. We all have different interactions with music, taste in genres, or ways to listen. However, if brands or businesses want to draw in a young crowd, they should consider embracing music as part of their brand experience.

My Story

Music is as much a part of my life as my heartbeat.  My parents met while working at the Symphony in my hometown of Charlotte, NC and have worked there since before I was born. Therefore, my brother, sister and I by law have to play an instrument.

My mom is Assistant Principal Second Violin in the Charlotte Symphony and teaches violin lessons too. When Mom’s not teaching, she’s practicing, so needless to say I can usually hear a violin in my house at all times. And it doesn’t stop there, my dad is the Stage Manager for the Symphony.

My sister is in college now but when she’s home she’s either playing the piano, trumpet or banjo. Dad found a banjo leaning against a wall at the dump one day, put new strings on it and before you knew it, Anne Frances (my sister) was president of the Bluegrass club at our high school! We share a bedroom, and when she lived at home, I had to find a way to fall asleep while she was up late practicing her trumpet in our room. As you can probably imagine, I’m a professional deep sleeper. My brother plays percussion and will be attending the Hugh Hodgson School of Music at the University of Georgia. As for me? I’ve played the flute for five years.  In 6th grade my parents made me take band and I don’t have an ounce of regret. I’ve made my best friends and hilarious memories through band.

band called Recharged playing music at Visulite Theater in Charlotte NC

The Rhythm of Our Lives

Rhythm in our house is one thing, but we’re far from alone.  For other teens, the rhythm may change but music often crafts the most memorable stories of their lives. I asked some other teens about how music affects them:

“Music has given me a whole new template for the expression of my inner feelings and a voice for my thoughts. Using music as a tool for these two things has changed the way I communicate anything that has an effect on me or the world that encompasses me. The significance of music giving me a new template to express my feelings and voice my thoughts is its inability to lie or voice opinions allows the truth to only be told. In other words, music cannot lie.” -DQ Gooden, 19.

“Music has affected my entire life. I learn in patterns, and rhythms, much like songs. Rhythm not only makes for good music, but helps you remember things that you may have otherwise had trouble with. Music not only has an influence on school life, but also every relationship that you make with people. There’s always a song or a sound that you can associate with different types of people, and sometimes that idea can affect your relationship with them.” -Grace Clark, 17.

“It takes up a whole bunch of my time, but I love it – playing and writing music are some of my favorite things to do.” -Noah Farnsworth, 17.

“Music has an indescribably positive impact on my life, music can make me feel better when a lot of other stuff can’t but not only that, it also has the capability of making people feel all different ranges of emotion which I think is really beautiful.  It also lets people connect with others through music and with their favorite artists.” -Mary Alice Collins, 16.

2 teen music band members and a roadie

“Music has pretty much shaped who I am today; every day I do something music related. It’s helped me make some of my best friends and it has also helped me find a good support system. I’ve come to notice that anytime a song is on, I will always end up humming along without thinking about it.” – Miles Caraballo, 18.

“If I had to summarize how music affects my life, I’d say that music gives me an outlet by which I can express myself and provides me a vehicle by which I can more directly perceive the emotional thoughts of others.” -Duncan Pickett, 17.

So yes, basically, life without music would be pretty mundane.

Music Influences Our Opinion of Brands and Whether or Not We Buy from Them

According to my friend, Grace Clark, when she sees a television commercial, she listens for the music.  She says her brain even wanders to the production of every film, tv show, or commercial, leading her to consider the makeup of the music and why they chose specific sounds. Music can have a major effect on what message the commercial is trying to convey, and how interested the audience may be in it.

In a store, the music being played definitely can influence Gen Z purchases. But how depends on the type of business. For example, background music in a grocery store probably has no effect on our experience. Why? People go to grocery stores for one reason only, to buy necessities like food. If you’re in a clothing store though or at a mall, the music being played can determine your whole shopping experience. Music being played inside individual stores can draw you in or repel you based on the genres. Specific songs or sounds may persuade you to buy different clothes based on the feelings conveyed through the music. Music being played in stores that sell items of interest, rather than need, matters.

Noah’s complaint about music in advertising is that it’s almost always too generic to be recognizable. But when a commercial DOES have a good song he claims to always remember it. For other teens, the music played in commercials and stores helps them recognize a brand and often impacts what they buy.

Mary Alice Collins thinks commercial jingles have a huge impact on a person’s mental associations with products.

The Music Teacher Gets Us

My high school band teacher, Mr. Whit Blount, says it best:

“I’m an artist” or “I’m a musician” has always been something you could say and your peers would nod, “Ooh yeah, that’s cool.”

In class he explains that all art is created for a reason. There might be personal intention for a composer or artist, or it might be something external like a political reason driving the music. No art is created in a vacuum. It’s created for a reason, and that resonates with teens regardless of the art form.  He tries to get us to understand a musical language that we wouldn’t have on our own.

I’m not making assumptions. I asked.

Music apps are huge with teens. No matter where we’re from, how old we are, what kind of music we enjoy or what we’ve been exposed to, apps help us personalize music to our unique lives. Like me, 33 out of the 45 teens I recently polled primarily use Spotify to listen to music. Spotify is perfect for the personalization our generation craves. When creating an account, the app arranges the music we want into unique playlists or “Daily Mixes,” based on what we want to hear and the frequency that we listen to different songs or albums.

Teen using GarageBand on a computer to record music

Almost every teen has a unique connection to music. He or she might be a GarageBand artist online, or in a real-life garage band.  Like me, they might be in their school band, love listening to music (Broadway show tunes for me), love to sing, or might just have earbuds as part of their wardrobe and want to hang out with friends listening to music. As a composer once said, “Music is an outburst of the soul.” Well for teens, music is the outburst of our generation! So if a brand is serious about getting our attention, music turns out to be a pretty good tool.

This blog was contributed by one of our GenZ interns: Leah Jarrell, age 15, of Charlotte NC.

Spotify music streaming app_logoHere’s our first Spotify Playlist to celebrate school being out and Summer starting. Jump in and share your playlists and we’ll add them to ours. Tell us your name, age, and hometown too.


Like this blog post? Try iSummer for GenZ

Top photo: iStockphoto

2nd photo: Musicians Mary Alice Collins and Aubry Cox, and their biggest fan Charlie Sellers holding the guitar. (not pictured: Hailey Powers) Photo credit: Dan Collins

3rd photo: The band “Recharged” performing at the Visulite Theater in Charlotte NC. Musicians: Mollie Zuyus, Everette Oxrider, Amanda Pinkney, and Ruthie Wood

Bottom photo: Ross Jarrell using GarageBand.  Photo credit: Leah Jarrell



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