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Gen Z is transforming culture by blurring the lines between consumption & creation: Spotify Culture Next report

The annual report highlights how Gen Zs around the world, including India, are engaging with digital audio

More than 50% of those belonging to Gen Z in India said they’ve joined a digital community, such as a subreddit or Discord, as fans of a particular creator, as per a report by audio streaming platform. The report also highlights the deepening relationship between creators and listeners and more.

Spotify has announced the fourth volume of Culture Next, its annual global culture and trends report. This year, the focus is on the role of Gen Z as tastemakers, fans, and most of all, individuals navigating and defining their place in the world of audio.

This is the third year that India featured in the report, amongst a total of 17 Spotify markets.

In India, the report highlights the deep relationship between creators and listeners, the role of audio in exploring all parts of the listener’s personality, the growing importance of podcasts as a trustworthy ‘friend’, and the integration of nostalgia into contemporary culture.

Shared below are the key takeaways:

Gen Z is revolutionising the relationship between audio creators and their fans.

The creator-fan relationship is moving to a two-way exchange from a one-way broadcast with creators using the digital worlds built by them or their fans to foster tight-knit communities with deeper, more meaningful connections.

  • As creators, their approach to music and podcasts is forging entirely new aesthetics, genres, and fandoms, and as listeners, their tastes and habits are fluid and say a lot about who they are.
  • Conversations happening between artists and fans via social media and social audio are adding even more access and intimacy to the creator-fan relationship.  
  • Gen Zs audio immersions even veer into fantasy with nearly 90% of them in India having listened to music from a movie or show they like in order to feel like they’re a character in the story.
  • More than 50% of Zs in India said they’ve joined a digital community, such as a subreddit or Discord, as fans of a particular creator.

What does this mean for brands?

Brands can bridge the gap between audio creators and their biggest fans by passing the mic to creators. Create a podcast, or turn a podcast ad campaign into an audio series that features bonus content from the hosts, like unaired bloopers, and candid conversations. This builds a connection between the listener, their favourite podcaster or artist, and the brand.

Gen Z is finding new ways to express their individuality through digital audio.

Gen Zs grew up not only with the freedom and inspiration to be different, but the need to stand out. Nothing enables them to explore and share their unique taste more than audio. 

  • 80% of Zs in India said audio allows them to explore the outer edges of culture that they wouldn’t otherwise experience. But more than that, audio takes them to the outer edges of themselves - 85% said audio allows them to explore different sides of their personalities.
  • A little over 80% of Zs in India believe that their listening habits tell a story about who they are, and feel that they’ve learned something about themselves by looking back over their listening habits.
  • Globally, this generation’s creators are also using audio to bring alter egos into the mainstream. The same sentiment is echoed in India, with 71% of Zs appreciating when audio creators take on different personas or characters.

What does this mean for brands?

Zs are looking for opportunities to embrace the unique, multifaceted aspects of who they are. With fluid personalities that can change by the day (or the hour), try using a playlist generator that analyses their listening habits to reveal something new about themselves. Brands can also sponsor playlists that put quality first and genres last, and target micro-genres. And finally, they can make discovery part of Z’s daily routine with Spotify’s real-time audience and contextual targeting to reach the right Zs at the right time with fresh, unexpected messages. 

Gen Z is turning to podcasts to process life’s most complex issues. 

Podcasts have seen a significant increase, especially amongst 18–24-year-olds as they have evolved from a source of entertainment to a tool for education and learning.

  • With Zs feeling more stressed out than millennials, the former have a heightened need to process their raw emotions and audio, especially podcasts, is providing critical support.
  • Over the last year alone, the average podcast listenership among Zs in India saw a whopping 141% increase on Spotify between Q1 2022 and the year prior. Now, almost two-thirds of 18-24 year-olds in India are listening to podcasts at least weekly.
  • Just over 75% of Zs in India said they turn to podcasts to get answers to hard or personal questions before talking to their families about it, and 74% of the same group said they listen to podcasts to inform the conversations they have with their friends.
  • Mental health, the top podcast genre among Zs globally, witnessed impressive growth with a 56% increase in the number of streams among Zs in India in Q1 2022, compared to the year before.

What does this mean for brands?

There’s an opportunity to use ‘Host Reads’ to build trust. With podcasts being such an intimate audio format, Gen Z feels especially close to their favourite hosts. Use Host Talent ads, created and voiced by the show's host in the style of the show, within podcasts where personal anecdotes can complement clear brand messaging.

Gen Z is innovating by filtering throwbacks through a contemporary lens.

While all generations look back fondly to earlier eras, the Zs are reinventing nostalgia. With the instability in the last few years, nostalgia has been shown to provide a sense of comfort amid uncertainty, for this generation.

  • When asked to rank the emotion they feel most when listening to music from the past, Zs globally were just as likely to say "energised" as they were to say "comfort”.
  • On social media, Zs are mixing old hits with new visual trends such as lip-syncs, dances, makeup tutorials, fit checks, among others - to go viral.
  • Just above 75% of Zs in India like it when brands bring back old aesthetic styles.
  • 74% of Zs in India said they like listening to and watching media from earlier decades because it reminds them of when things were simpler.

What does this mean for brands?

Zs are nostalgic, but they’re also forward-looking. Brands can use contextual targeting to reach them when they’re listening to nostalgic, sentimental, and other moody playlists, or even invite an artist to discuss how they take musical cues from the past. They can also bring the sound of your brand to life with curated Branded Playlists, throwing it back to the decades and genres that align with your brand’s personality. 

According to Arjun Kolady, Head of Sales - India, Spotify, “Self-expression and creativity are core components of how Gen Zs navigate the world. Now, not only are they leaning into music artists, podcasts, and playlists to shape the stories they tell about themselves — they’re inviting brands to reflect and broadcast their personal narratives as well. Brands have the opportunity to not only support their journeys, but learn about the lives they live and how they view the world — especially through Spotify’s diverse slate of audio content combined with its ad offerings.”

For more insights, readers can access the full report here.

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