Who says Boomers aren’t adaptable? For sure, not the defunct music cassette industry.
The adland rap on consumers outside the 18-49 demographic is that they – i.e., we of the over-fifty persuasion – are unadaptable. Apparently, our lizard brains take over and we now operate solely on ancient instincts. What nonsense!
Hey, wait a minute there’s a tasty-looking bug over there. Slurp.
Now, were where we? Oh yeah, adaptability.
Vinyl records ruled the music industry until 1980 when demand declined under pressure from cassettes; by 1990, cassette sales had peaked and music CDs were taking over – only to top out themselves in 2002 (Forrester Research).
Today, streaming and downloading dominate, reaping 82% of U.S. 2015 recorded music income (Recording Industry Association of America_HT Music Business Worldwide).
Along the way, we Boomers went with the format flow. Who doesn’t have a box or two of LPs stashed in the garage or a stack of CDs slipping and sliding in the back of a bookshelf somewhere?
New Nielsen music data: vinyl revival
The 2015 Nielsen Music U.S. Report gives Boomers hope those LPs might be worth dusting off because the Millennials are leading a resurgence in vinyl albums. Maybe those Donna Summer and Cheech And Chong collections can help Boomers make the payments on the mobility scooters we all buy to celebrate turning fifty.
Demand is so hot that aging record pressing equipment is struggling to stay operational until new facilities come into production.
And, while streaming/downloading still dominate the music industry, the vinyl LP share of physical albums is eating into CDs – rising from 3.6% in 2013 to 8.7% in 2015.
A strong woman tops the list: it’s the 1980s all over again
“The sales story of the year” according to Nielsen is Adele’s 25. She set an all-time high for first week album sales on her way to becoming the top album artist of 2015, with total sales of 7.441 million – almost a million more than the next five artists combined.
And, oh yes, her vinyl album was #1 as well.
Adele’s strong, smoky-clear vocals are influenced, she says, by Annie (The Eurythmics) Lennox – one of many female pop-rock genre singers of the 1980s born between the mid-1940s and mid-1950s. Defined by social trend expert Brent Green as leading-edge Boomers, these were independent and self-assured adult women in their late twenties/early thirties, not ingenues.
And their music often reflected failed relationships with – let’s be frank – flaky 1970s man-boys less interested commitment than “finding themselves” … out in the desert on A Horse With No Name, at the Hotel California or in MacArthur Park. When they did find themselves a decade later, it was usually with a Hey Nineteen chick half their age.
No wonder the direct, worldly-wise Lennox et al owed more to Edith Piaf, the incomparable Billie Holiday and Nina Simone than the smooth elegance of Ella Fitzgerald.
- Debbie Harry / Blondie (b. 1945) … Call Me (1980)
- Stevie Nicks (b. 1948) … Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (1981)
- Bonnie Tyler (b. 1951) … Total Eclipse of the Heart (1983)
- Chrissie Hynde / The Pretenders (b. 1951) … I’m Special (1979)
- Pat Benatar (b. 1953) … Love Is a Battlefield (1983)
- Annie Lennox (b. 1954) … Here Comes the Rain Again (1983)
Balancing the worldly intensity of Lennox et al, with the arrival of MTV, glamour and effervescence took off. Cyndi Lauper’s 1983 hit, Girls Just Want to Have Fun set the optimistic mood for the 1980s. Big hair, flamboyant styles and indulgence were in vogue; America was on the yuppie-enabled, materialistic track to the digital era (HT Brent Green).
The all-girl band The Bangles took the eighties goofy fun prize with Walk Like An Egyptian (1986). It sold a million copies as a single, hit #1 in the U.S., #3 in the UK and went on to become Billboard’s top song of 1987.
Who would have guessed that in a few short years, independent leading edge Boomer women would begin to drop off the advertising radar due to The Fiftieth Birthday Rule created by – you’ve guessed it – youth-obsessed men. And in 2016 millions of older Gen X women are being dumped as well. Happy birthday and bye bye, Janet Jackson.
Boomer girls still want to have fun
Sadly, clinging to the traditions of the distant past, today’s Madison Avenue Bangles remix is Think Like An Ancient Egyptian.
Outside the 18-49 demo, women disappear from mainstream advertising faster than an aging rocker chasing a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.
Boomer-Plus women, born 1940-1966, control a huge share of U.S. spending power and are the go-to advice source for their Millennial kids’ early brand choices as well.
And we’re not talking grocery store and cosmetics stereotypes; the almost 60 million American women over fifty are sole or joint purchase decision-makers for home improvements, financial services, sports/outdoors clothing and equipment, wine, autos, travel, luxury goods and – suspend your disbelief – smartphones and iPads/tablets.
Yep, when it comes to spending power, Boomer girls still want to have fun. Come and join the party.