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Exploring why country music fans have got younger

A woman with long hair wearing a hat and holding a guitar on a green-tinged background to represent country music fans.

Country music is experiencing a renaissance. Rather than the streaming era crowding out the genre with a diet of pop and hip hop, country music fans and the number of people streaming country songs is growing.

It’s not stereotypical fans who are driving this resurgence. According to entertainment analysts Luminate, gen Z and millennials are driving country’s rise. How has country become part of gen Z’s music taste? Relative Insight performed a demographic audience analysis using text analytics to find out.

We used a social listening tool to gather online conversations referencing country music from gen Z and gen X. This enabled us to utilize our comparative text analytics software to identify the differences between the new wave of country music fans and a generation more stereotypically associated with the genre.

The Relative Insight platform analyzes, quantifies and visualizes the differences between text data sets. In this demographic audience analysis, the tool highlighted the topics, words and phrases that are more prevalent in each group’s country conversations.

What did our research uncover? An open-mindedness in gen Z against a stereotype-tinted view from gen X.

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Gen X believe country conforms to stereotypes

Relative Insight’s demographic audience analysis found that gen X’s conversations about country music brought up well-worn stereotypes.

This group is 1.4x more likely to reference ‘politics’ when they talk about the genre. They also mention political ‘rallies’ 12.3x more and ‘Donald Trump’ 5.4x more when discussing country artists and songs.

I guess my anxiety lies in what someone mentioned about this music appealing to the Trump crowd.

These stereotypes extended to locations. Gen X conversations are 1.4x more likely to reference ‘geographical locations’. They highlight ‘Nashville’ and ‘Tennessee’, the home city and state of country music, 1.7x more. However, gen X also talk about ‘Texas’, ‘Oklahoma’ and ‘Louisiana’ when discussing the genre.

Lol!!! Everyone I know who lives in Texas likes country music!!!!!

From their conversations, it’s clear gen X buy into the stereotype that country music fans are white conservatives based in southern and midwestern states. This in turn impacts whether they believe that country music is for them.

When this generation discussed the music itself, rather than its perception, they had a clear preference for when they listened to it. Gen X use the words ‘clean’ and ‘cleaning’ 2.3x more, stating that they enjoy listening to country music while cleaning their houses.

It’s 59 degrees and my windows are open, candles burning, 90’s country music on, and cleaning. My favorite days off.

Gen Z music taste based on young artists and obsession

As opposed to viewing country through a stereotypical lens, gen Z takes the genre as they hear it. However, they’re also unsure as to what aspect of listening to country music hits the mark.

They are 4.9x more likely to use the phrase ‘I don’t know’ and the abbreviation ‘IDK’ when talking about the genre. Gen Z can’t pinpoint what they like about the country songs, they simply listen to them and enjoy them.

Yt country music just feel wicked idk.”

Once they listen to it, gen Z is hooked. They use the word ‘obsessed’ infinitely more, talking about how they’ve become hardcore country music fans and can’t stop listening to country songs.

Got blasted the other night and started vibing so hard to the country music I grew up on and went to a whole different world and now I’m obsessed with listening to country 😭. Send help.

Two artists emerged as key influences to start this addiction: Taylor Swift and Morgan Wallen. They talk about these singers 4.8x and 6.3x more respectively. It’s clear that Swift’s pivot to re-recording her earlier, more country-focused albums and Mullen’s One Thing At A Time resonate with gen Z music tastes.

I don’t know why I went through a phase where I hated country music. Country just hits different now. I blare Morgan Wallen and Luke Combs everyday. It speaks to my soul.

However, despite a surge in gen Z country music fans, the genre polarizes conversations. Gen Z use the word ‘hate’ 2.2x more and the phrase ‘like country music’ 1.5x more. This encompasses people who dislike country music, and country music fans who can’t understand why others don’t like the genre.

If you don’t like country music pls grow up.

I got the stupid song about a red solo cup stuck in my head. I don’t even like that song and I hate country music with passion lmao.

While gen Z’s music tastes differ, they all appear to be judging the genre from listening to the music itself, rather than how it’s stereotyped.

Demographic audience analysis lifts lid country music fans

Analyzing online country music conversations involving gen X and gen Z reveals a sharp contrast in perceptions within each group.

Gen X tends to judge country music on its reputation. This generation taps into stereotypes, accurate or not, to decide whether they should be a country music fan or not. For those who are, you’ll find them tapping away to tunes while cleaning.

In contrast, gen Z has an open mind. They’ll decide whether they like the genre by listening to country music. Those that don’t enjoy it will passionately express their opinion about their dislike. Those that do will become obsessed with it, and they won’t even be sure why. There’s also evidence that Taylor Swift, Morgan Wallen and other younger artists are a gateway into country for gen Z.

Need to make sense of social conversations and don’t know where to start? Struggling to differentiate how you communicate with a variety of audiences? Try Relative Insight’s text analysis software for free to understand your consumers’ harmonies.

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