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On Spotify, Millennials Listen to Nostalgia to Beat Pandemic Blues

We have proof.
by Ara Eugenio
Sep 15, 2021
Photo/s: Illustration: War Espejo

During the pandemic, when grief and loss were everywhere, Filipino millennials turned to old music for much needed recourse, a Spotify study revealed. 

Compared to Filipino Gen Z, aged 15 to 25 who spent the past year listening more to fresh music, 26 to 40-year-olds who make up the millennial demographic especially leaned on nostalgic playlists for relief, the streaming giant said. 

Compared to the year prior, Filipinos millennials who have more years behind them streamed '70s love songs 59% more and '80s hits 40% more in March 2021, it said.

According to Spotify, unhealthy tech habits like excessive phone scrolling and bingeing internet content are the norm for both millennials and Gen Z during the pandemic. "But with so much bad news and so few ways to escape", audio content like music and podcasts helped the two hyperconnected generations to feel less alone.

With over 9 in 10 respondents agreeing, Spotify said Filipinos millennials and Gen Zs turn to audio content to reduce their stress levels as it "encourages them to tune in to themselves, to each other, and to the outside world", filtering all external noise. 

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What about millennials and nostalgia?

Different generations face different challenges during the pandemic.

Older generations like Boomers and Gen X are perhaps the most isolated as they are most vulnerable to the virus. For Gen Z, their traditional markers of adulthood such as hanging out with friends unsupervised, attending college in person, or starting their first post-grad jobs, have been put on hold.

But while all demographics are all fond of thinking wistfully about the past to make them feel good during a health crisis, millennials in particular are more drawn to it, having had more years behind them (compared to Gen Z) and more exposed to technology (than older generations).

"Millennials are more likely to favor nostalgic content (think playlists devoted to the sounds of decades past, country music, and more)," Spotify noted. 

As a generation advancing in their careers and starting families of their own, the pandemic has shaken up expectations of work-life balance for millennials. Audio has emerged as the go-to source for them to connect with family, stay informed, and indulge in “me time", Spotify said. 

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For one, they turn to smart speakers, which emerged as a a household must-have for millennial parents to entertain their kid, giving them a break from screens. On a personal level, they're more likely than Gen Z to have strong emotional connections with their favorite podcast hosts, sometimes treating them almost like a friend.

“We use memories, just as we use imagination, to make us feel better now. Nostalgia is a very good way to take a little mental vacation without leaving your home,” said Dr. Felipe De Brigard, who teaches philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience at Duke University, in an episode of podcast The Happiness Lab. 

“It looks as though when you’re in a negative situation, the more likely you are to generate this sense of nostalgia,” De Brigard said, explaining how nostalgic content is thriving in quarantine.

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