How our music preferences change over time

By lmt-editorMay 27, 2024
Est. Reading: 3 minutes

Music has always been a powerful force in shaping our identities, emotions, and experiences. 

But have you ever noticed how your taste in music can change over time?

You might have gone from being a die-hard fan of a particular genre to suddenly discovering a new favourite artist or style. 

This phenomenon is not unique to you; it's a common experience shared by many music lovers. 

Let us explore the reasons behind this transformation and what it says about our evolving tastes and preferences.

Mother and daughter and grandmother dancing to music

The psychological foundations of musical preferences

Early influences

Our journey with music often begins in childhood, shaped by the auditory environment created by family, cultural background, and media exposure. 

Children are generally exposed to the music their parents listen to, which can lay the foundation for future preferences. 

Familiarity breeds preference; songs heard repeatedly during formative years can become favourites due to the mere exposure effect—a psychological phenomenon where people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them.

Emotional connections

Music is deeply intertwined with emotions. Songs that are associated with significant life events—such as first loves, breakups, achievements, or losses—often hold a special place in our hearts. 

These emotional connections can solidify our attachment to particular genres or artists. As we experience new phases of life, the emotions we seek or resonate with may change, leading us to explore different musical landscapes.

Cognitive development

As people grow and their cognitive abilities develop, their musical tastes can also change. 

Adolescence, a period marked by the search for identity and social belonging, often brings about a more exploratory phase in musical preferences. 

Teenagers might gravitate towards genres that reflect their burgeoning independence or align with their peer group's tastes. 

This stage is crucial for the establishment of long-term musical identities.

Beautiful woman listening to music outdoor

Social and cultural dynamics

Peer influence and social identity

Social circles play a pivotal role in shaping musical tastes. The desire to fit in or be part of a group can drive individuals to adopt the musical preferences of their peers. 

Music is a powerful tool for social bonding and can be a marker of social identity. 

For instance, subcultures—such as punk, hip-hop, or indie scenes—often have distinctive musical tastes that are integral to their cultural expression.

Media and technology

The advent of new media and technology continuously reshapes the musical landscape. 

Platforms like Spotify, YouTube, and TikTok expose listeners to a vast array of genres and artists that they might not encounter through traditional media. 

Algorithm-driven recommendations can introduce listeners to new styles, subtly influencing their preferences. 

Moreover, the ability to access and share music instantly across the globe accelerates the dissemination of diverse musical influences.


Globalisation has brought about a significant blending of musical traditions and genres. 

As people are exposed to music from different cultures, their tastes can expand and diversify. 

The fusion of various musical styles has given rise to new genres, such as K-pop or reggaeton, which blend elements from different musical traditions and appeal to a global audience.

Woman listening to music

Personal growth and lifestyle changes

Life stages and transitions

Major life changes often come with shifts in musical preferences.

The transition from youth to adulthood, starting a family, career changes, or retirement can all influence the music people gravitate towards.

For example, young adults might prefer energetic, contemporary music that suits a social lifestyle, while older adults might favour more reflective or nostalgic tunes.

Broadening horizons

As people age, their openness to new experiences can also affect their musical tastes. Some may develop an appreciation for genres they previously overlooked or disliked. 

This can be driven by a desire for novelty, personal growth, or simply the broadening of one’s auditory palette over time.

Friends listening to music

Changing music tastes are influenced by a complex array of factors!

Our changing tastes in music are influenced by a complex array of factors, including life events, social connections, technology, and our evolving identities.

As we navigate different stages of life, we're constantly exposed to new sounds, genres, and artists that can shape our preferences and lead us down new musical paths.

Ultimately, embracing this evolution is essential for personal growth and self-discovery. By staying open-minded and curious about new music, we can continue to evolve as listeners and artists, fostering a deeper appreciation for the diversity and richness of musical expression.

So go ahead – explore new genres, attend concerts, and discover new artists. You never know what hidden gems you might uncover!

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