Tuning into tween music tastes

We all know that tweens define themselves and each other by their pop culture choices, and music is one of their favorite categorization tools. Since it plays such a huge role in shaping their identities, we thought we'd turn to our Reactorz panelists to take a closer look at what's going on in the world of kids and tunes.
September 1, 2003

What we found:

Friends are kids’ biggest influence when it comes to finding out about new bands, with radio coming in a close second and music video channels lagging pretty far behind. But surprisingly, kids say radio isn’t a huge part of their music lives: 61% listen to it less than an hour each day, and 12% don’t listen at all. Apparently, it’s all about the ability to play what they want when they want, with 75% of kids reporting that they listen to their own CDs between half an hour and an hour each day.

Music is usually a background element that kids work into their multi-tasking lifestyles. They most often listen to tunes in the car or while playing on the computer. But a significant number of our panelists make time to do nothing else but listen to music.

CDs are still the delivery method of choice, since more than half of our panelists have never downloaded an MP3. But web tunes are gaining new converts every day, especially as kids age up into the teen bracket. A third of our tween respondents are now burning their own CDs, and customization is the main motivation for this switch. But most kids still get the bulk of their CDs from parents and family members, so the financial incentive to download isn’t as strong for them as it is for teens, many of whom have been cut off from the parental purse strings when it comes to tune expenditures. Some kids are already buying their own CDs, averaging one a month and frequenting big-box music chains for the most part.

As to where parents fit into the equation, they still have some say in what music their kids listen to, and many of them have put their foot down about rap music because of the frequent swearing. Eminem, in particular, gets a thumbs-down from parents, though a few tweens will listen to him anyway in the privacy of their rooms. The generation gap between parents and offspring isn’t quite as vast for tweens as it is for teens. A full two-thirds of our respondents say their parents listen to and enjoy some of their music picks.

Kid Insight!

The majority of tweens are still into CDs, but there is a growing interest in downloading MP3s to make custom compilations, so there’s a market opportunity for services like Apple’s iTunes with this demo. Kids enjoy a wide variety of music, so anyone looking to use music as a kid connection hook in entertainment and marketing efforts should think beyond the obvious artists – who might no longer be so hot by launch.

What kids said:

‘When I listen to music I focus on it, because if you don’t, how will you learn the words and know what the song is about?’ (girl, 11)

‘I love music. It’s one of my favourite things. Plus if I’m mad or sad, I’ll listen to music and it’ll help me calm down.’ (girl, 12)

‘I don’t buy CDs anymore. I think burning them is better. You can have 21 of your favorite songs (all by different people) on one CD, or you can buy 21 CDs.’ (girl, 12)

‘My parents influence my music taste – most of what they listen to is cool.’ (boy, 8)

‘My parents won’t listen to rock artists because they don’t like some of the words in the songs.’ (boy, 11)

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