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Culture Next in focus: Gen Z artists and podcasters find new ways to create

As staying home became the norm in 2020, audio became more essential to our daily lives than ever. At least, that’s what Gen Zs and millennials told us for last year’s Culture Next report — 71% said music has helped them stay sane lately, and 53% are turning to podcasts more often to stay informed or entertained.1 But what about the people behind those songs and episodes? Since our Culture Next report explored the scrappy creator mentality of Gen Z, we wanted to talk to a few influential Zs about how their work and DIY approach was impacted by the pandemic — and what they’re expecting for the year ahead.

“You have to think outside the box and get creative.”

Lil Yachty, 23

It may seem surprising that 61% of Zs we surveyed said they’ve found new creative inspiration during this pandemic,2 but beabadoobee gets it. The beloved 20-year-old artist says that, as someone already used to making music alone at home, “It’s been a chance to be really creative. Bedroom pop is great because it’s very DIY — you get people making whole albums in their bedroom and home studios. It’s become a way for artists to just get it done and exist online without relying on anyone else.” Rising pop artist Remi Wolf, 25, shares the same sentiment: “All of my music was made in my home, which I think gives it a sense of comfortability and simplicity that people have identified with.”

In that way, Zs have been prepared to meet the moment, and mxmtoon, 20, agrees. The YouTuber turned lo-fi pop star behind Spotify’s 21 Days podcast says, “With traditional courses of action completely turned on their heads due to Covid, artists have to come up with creative solutions.” Thankfully, she adds, “Younger artists are redefining success and paving new pathways for the next wave of creatives. There’s a world of tools available at our fingertips that allow us to have full control over our visions and our narratives."

All of which gives artists adaptability. Lele Pons — the 24-year-old host of the Best Kept Secrets podcast — points out that, for modern makers, those tools help every step of the way: You could learn a new skill by streaming a video tutorial or podcast, and then use the same platforms to share your new talent. “What makes our generation unique is that there are a lot of ways people can express themselves and turn their passions into careers,” she says. “I think Gen Z has really stepped up to the challenge of living in this strange world. They’ve done a great job of entertaining by finding humor in our new reality and spreading positivity when we need it most.”

"Younger artists are redefining success."

mxmtoon, 20

Touring used to be a reliable way to do just that, but many homebound Z artists haven’t been fazed by quarantine. “Everything is becoming more digital, and it’s all second nature to our generation,” says beabadoobee. “Social platforms have been really important for expressing yourself and communicating with fans. People use them to express themselves as much as the music, if not more sometimes.” Or, as Lil Yachty put it, “I’ve done a lot more virtual meetings lately, but as far as connecting with my fans I’ve been on the internet so it’s nothing new.”

Still, there have been pleasant surprises. K-Pop group SuperM threw a virtual concert where they beamed their fan’s faces onto a screen onstage via video chat. “It was great being able to turn around and see them smiling at us,” said the band in a statement. “Even though we were physically apart, we were able to feel that love and energy.” And mxmtoon had a similar experience with livestreaming: “It’s the closest we’ll have to live shows for a while, and I find it surprisingly more intimate. You can just sit in your home and connect with people all over the world.”

That connection is meaningful. “People are going through a lot right now and I understand that they’re tuning into my content to get away from it all,” says Pons. “The pandemic has driven me to work harder, and given me greater perspective and appreciation for the platform I have.”

That’s a space shared, of course, by brands too, and advertisers have the opportunity to forge connections of their own by supporting and speaking to the creator mindset. 90% of Zs across the U.S. told us they love understanding how ideas are born, and that doing so makes them feel a part of the creative process.3 Consider building ad campaigns around innovative creators and emerging artists, or sponsoring entrepreneurial podcasts like The Pitch, Without Fail, or StartUp.

And if you’re really feeling Gen Z’s DIY spirit, visit Spotify’s own addition to creators’ toolbox — our self-serve Ad Studio — to find an interesting way to share your brand’s own scrappy origin story.

Download our Culture Next 2020 report

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  1. Spotify Trends Survey among 2,000 respondents 15-40 in BR, DE, UK, US, August 2020
  2. Spotify Trends Survey among 2,000 respondents 15-40 in BR, DE, UK, US, August 2020
  3. Spotify Trends Survey among 500 US respondents 15-40, January 2020

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