Music is at the vortex of youth culture lifestyle and remains one of the most influential factors in determining one’s identity, opinions, fashion trends and purchasing patterns among the youth culture marketplace. That’s why it’s the most essential culture to track in terms of understand and reaching 13-25-year-olds globally. More than sports fashion, or technology, Music is the thread that links the youth culture marketplace across all economic levels, regions, ethnicities, age groups, and genders. Ironically, many brands have no idea what’s going on with various subcultures in music, or the niche directions of certain types of styles and do not see the correlation or reason why, and therefore, the importance of knowing such patterns. Increasingly, it’s these brands that miss the mark and become more obsolete to the very target market they are trying to reach (see also Label Networks’ Sponsorship and Advertising Profile Reports 2007 and 2008).

Much can be learned about the changes taking place in business in general by looking at what’s re-shaping the music industry as a whole such as downloading influences on entertainment, iPods and iTunes and the Zune wars and crossover with cell phone industries, and the influences in fashion from break-out bands thanks to MySpace and YouTube. Ironically, while the music industry is suffering in terms of business revenue of labels and distributors, the lifestyle of music is thriving: Music is the driving force of the majority of trends and provides a sense of identity and discovery -which is a motivating factor in youth culture. There are many thought-leaders who have recognized the importance of music on youth culture and have taken their brands to popularity through the lifestyle of music associations, i.e., Volcom with fashion, Freestyle Rolling and the DipSet Team with sports, Vans and Hurley and the Vans Warped Tour, Rockstar Energy drink and the Taste of Chaos Tour, and obviously the increased cred-factor of Apple Computer with iPod and their corresponding music-listening campaigns. Other markets where music association programs could also be an opportunity are in electronics where most people buy specific electronics, music equipment, iPods, iPhones, cell phones, and Laptop computers. As electronics become key style accessories, the “lifestyle” potential via sales of corresponding apparel products could also enhance the experience.

Instead of using and tapping into music, brands and agencies often make the mistake of turning to TV and movie celebrity endorsements through actors/actresses or the advertising models they’re familiar with such as advertising; nor do they track the latest subcultures and trends. This is often because there’s a lack of understanding about top trends in music and the connection, as well as the unfamiliarity of traditional advertising when it comes to marketing via music -which usually includes event sponsorship, grassroots campaigns, new media campaigns, websites, podcasts, blogs, social networks, plus sponsorship of musicians, and promotion of growth opportunities such as DJ culture, dance various competitions, and so on.

In this story, we take a look specifically at the top music genres among 13-25-year-olds across North America. By obtaining greater insight on the various subcultures that are most attractive to specific demographics, brands can use this information towards creating grassroots campaigns, sponsorship and advertising effectiveness, and partnering with key players within specific genres towards creating more targeted campaigns.

“What are your favorite types of Music?”
In our Fall Youth Culture Study 2008, we asked a series of questions about music preferences and music and lifestyle patterns. One of the most insightful questions is about favorite types of music. The percentages in these results add up to more than 100% because respondents could select more than one choice. Overall, among 13-25-year-olds in North America, Rock is the number choice at 66% followed by Punk at 56.5%, Indie Rock at 55.9%, Hardcore at 40.5%, Screamo at 38.3%, Emo at 34.2%, Techno at 30.3%, and Rap/Hip-hop at 25.7% (see charts and graphs for additional top preferences). What’s interesting about this is that while Rap/Hip-Hop continues to get a great deal of mainstream media hype has been on the decline within today’s youth culture market for several years as indicated by our Studies. Indie, Hardcore, Screamo, and Emo continue to be strong, relatively new genres and dictating many new trends today in fashion including T-shirts (see also Fashion section).

By gender, Rock is still #1 but among 71.9% of females compared with 60.2% of males. Other differences to note by gender are that Punk is relatively the same, indicating that this genre has the greatest crossover potential. Indie Rock is higher among females at 64.8% compared with 47.2% of males, whereas Hardcore is higher among males at 44.8% compared with 35.9% of females. Other differences to note by gender are the higher percentages among females for Emo, Rap/Hip-Hop, Power Pop, and ’80’s New Wave, whereas males have higher percentages for Ska and Metal. By understanding the different preferences in music types by gender provides an advantage of how to target specific demographics more effectively, for example using Emo or Indie for reaching young women and using Metal and Hardcore to reach young males.

By age groups, Rock and Punk are high across the board but there are some specific differences to point out. First, 13-14-year-olds have the highest percentages that prefer Rock at 70.1% compared with 58.2% of 21-25-year-olds. Among 21-25-year-olds, Punk is #1 at 61.5%, followed by Rock then Indie Rock. Screamo and Emo tend to be higher among younger demographics as we indicated last Fall, whereas Rap/Hip-Hop tends to peak among 18-20-year-olds. Similar to the gender differences, preferences by age groups also provide insight in terms of effective marketing and advertising campaigns through music -either by incorporating specific genres, or working with artists within specific music subcultures to best attract a target demographic.