some statistics

Now, here’s something interesting: musical preferences (on last.fm) graphed by both age and sex: Now in the playground: Gender Plots

Have a look, and then let’s think about who the “average” first-time church-shopping visitor is. My (unscientific) “typical visitor” is who I was when I first stepped into a UU service: married, early 30s, young child, steady job, looking for something more out of life. I was told that we were so typical that everyone just smiled and nodded knowingly when we showed up. (Anyone know of a source for current demographic data on the “typical church shopper”?)

Using the last.fm demographic as typical for a moment, what are today’s mid-30s (last.fm users) listening to? Annie Lennox, Tangerine Dream, Diana Krall, Ani DiFranco. Nothing but surprises there for me. And the 20-somethings? The Beatles?!! REM?!Radiohead? Again, surprises! What happened to Matchbox 20, or Sarah McLaughlin, or all those hit-makers from 10-15 years ago?

Obviously, this isn’t a statistically controlled and representative survey. The user profile at grooveshark.com or pandora.com may be different, but I’d bet not radically different. (Ignoring the obvious fact that most last.fm listeners over 50 are Germans.) So I’m going to go out on a limb and try to draw some conclusions from this.

First: There are lots of names on that chart that I don’t recognize, or that I recognize but don’t really know any music from. This is a hill with gold buried in it; listening to those artists will certainly turn up a lot of dirt, and also some nuggets that will work in some fashion for worship (prelude, meditation, group singing, offering). Time to get to work.

Second: If 20-somethings of both sexes are listening to the Beatles in huge numbers, then my partner’s warning against Boomer Beatle Bias may be misplaced. If they like “Can’t Buy Me Love” or “The Word” on the ‘net radio, why not singing with them in worship? That raises another question, though: what about other, lesser-known, acts from the ’60s? Will they be equally accepted, or do the Beatles so massively overshadow all their peers that they transcend style, period and hippie fatigue?

Third: Data often contradicts your intuitions, or opens up views you didn’t know existed. I keep my eyes open for this kind of thing, but it doesn’t come along often. It’s nice to have this in the toolbox! I hope I’ll be able to find something about church shoppers to compare with it.

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About liberalreligiongetsloud

Contemporary Music and Worship Director (retired), First Unitarian, Albuquerque NM
This entry was posted in contemporary worship. Bookmark the permalink.

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