‘Sound of the Next Generation’ report finds two-thirds of young people are active musicians

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The Sound of the Next Generation, a new research report by Youth Music, shows that music is young people’s favourite hobby – equal to gaming and ahead of sport, drama and dance.

The report found that 97% of young people had listened to music in the last week and 67% of young people reported engaging in some form of music-making activity.

Levels of music-making have increased significantly since 2006 when a similar survey conducted by Youth Music, Our Music, found that just 39% of young people reported making music on a regular basis.

About The Sound of the Next Generation

The Sound of the Next Generation offers insights into the diverse ways young people engage with and value music and music-making, bringing to light the positive and meaningful impact music has for them.

Youth Music worked with Ipsos MORI to conduct online surveys with a representative sample of 1,001 young people aged 7 to 17 across England as well as in-depth interviews with participants involved in Youth Music projects.


‘Music is pretty much everything.’
– Chi, 21, Oxford

‘I wanted to do music in school but it wasn’t this type of music [grime] so I never did music in school.’ 
– Kallum, 24, Cambridge


Most common music-making activities

The research found that the most common music-making activities were singing (44%) and playing an instrument (30%) – of which 25% said that they are teaching themselves and 23% have been taught by a friend or family member. The most commonly played instrument – for all ages – was the piano/keyboard, played by 44% of young musicians. Guitar (both acoustic and electric) came a close second. The next most popular activities were karaoke (14%) and making music on a computer (11%).

Patterns of engagement with music

The Sound of the Next Generation also shows that those from lower income backgrounds have different patterns of engagement with music than those from higher income backgrounds. Many young people with limited financial means are experiencing a rich musical childhood – it just looks different from that of their more affluent peers. It’s more likely to emanate from their home, have a DIY feel to it and less likely to be taught in a formal way.

When comparing survey results for those who were entitled to free school meals to those who were not, 76% of those in receipt of free school meals described themselves as musical, significantly higher than those who weren’t (60%). They were just as likely as other young people to sing and play an instrument, were significantly less likely to have seen music at a concert or gig (50% vs 27%) but twice as likely to have reported seeing live music played at home in the last week (45% vs 21%).

They were also significantly more likely to be involved in certain types of musical activity – in particular, karaoke, making music on a computer, writing music, DJing and rapping – many of which have not traditionally been part of formal music education.

Matt Griffiths, CEO of Youth Music, said:

‘This is a missed opportunity to engage young people and support them in their musical development. If young people don’t have access to professional guidance, they’re less likely to have support to progress to more advanced levels of technical competence, to learn from expert role models, to understand the career paths available to them.’

Young people’s musical tastes

When it comes to musical tastes, young people named Ed Sheeran, Little Mix and Stormzy as their favourite acts yet, overall, the 1,001 respondents named 633 different artists spanning more than 300 different genres.

Interests tracked trends from across the decades and included classical music, bebop, jazz, rock and roll, psychedelic rock, punk, new-wave, synth-pop, heavy metal, grunge, hip-hop, R&B, rave, hardcore, jungle, garage, dubstep and grime. More contemporary styles covered everything from nightcore to K-pop, trap to Afrobeats and tropical house to moombahton.

Rebecca Allen, President of Decca Records UK, said:

‘If you look at hip-hop right now, it is inspiring a whole new generation of jazz artists in the UK. A lot of young 18-24-year-olds are going down to these jazz clubs in South London and these artists are combining all sorts of sounds. If you look at Kendrick Lamar, you can see the influences of jazz in his music.’

Matt Griffiths said:

‘We are starting to see the clear impact that the digital age is having on young people’s musical consumption and preferences. Greater autonomy and choice is resulting in a move away from genre-based tastes and, instead, moving towards a more all-embracing fusion of styles with a focus on creating the right mood.’

To read more about The Sound of the Next Generation and download the report, please click here.


Header photo: A young performer at the Roundhouse Rising Festival of Emerging Music run by the Roundhouse Trust

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