News & Insights

Culture Next: How millennial and Gen Z creators are shaping culture

Chapter two of Spotify's annual global trends report examines the ways creators and audiences are driving culture forward by embracing new mediums, uplifting underrepresented voices, and prioritizing curation. Download the full Culture Next report here.
Millennials and Gen Zs are blurring the lines between consumers, creators, and curators. As podcasters become the go-to source for information, entertainment, and educational content, the way listeners trust and respond to them creates an especially intimate bond. Meanwhile, both generations are serious about amplifying underrepresented viewpoints and vibes. And the rise of digital curation is changing what it means to be an artist.

With audio, there's just so much more freedom. I got a phone, I got a mic, we got a camera—let's go.


37, Compton, CA

The "It" source

Podcast creators are fast becoming the front page, the six o’clock news, the silver screen, and the classroom for a new generation of “cord nevers” — Gen Zs who already turn to their phones as their primary news source. As for millennials, they’re still tuning into their favorite shows (and hosts) for credible information about the world around them.

Unlike traditional broadcasters, who rarely go off-script, audio creators often reveal their vulnerable and raw “real” selves — which listeners are more likely to feel intimately connected with. The intimate connection forged between audio creators and listeners is a gold mine for brands. Podcasts have proven to be a uniquely effective ad environment: 41% of all global listeners say they trust ads more if they hear them during a podcast and 81% report that they’ve taken an action after hearing a podcast ad.1

New voices

The old gatekeepers of culture no longer have all the control. Millennials and Gen Zs crave (and demand) representation, and actively seek to uplift voices and viewpoints that have historically been underrepresented by mainstream media.

A wave of new audio creators has been swept into the forefront of culture by the convergence of affordable digital tools and platforms, and the conviction that their songs and stories have been left out of culture for far too long. Through audio, millennial and Gen Z creators are finding a medium ready to embrace projects that represent and empower them and their communities.

  • 64%

    of global Gen Z creators feel that digital technology makes it easier than ever to be a cultural curator.

    Source: Spotify Culture Next survey, Global, among 9,000 respondents 15- 40, April 2021

Generation curation

For millennial and Gen Z creators, cultural curation is essential to their artistic expression. It's no longer just a form of aggregation — it has real generative power. The ability to pull from different sounds, genres, cultures, and beyond enables their output to be continually fresh. Gen Zs actively use curation to carve out their own identities, and millennials know how to leverage it to keep their audiences interested.

Empowered to pick and choose from a vast, global platform of sounds, curators are presenting listeners with content from all over the world, crossing genres and encouraging a spirit of open-minded listening. It's an excellent way for creators to ensure their place in cultural conversations, showcasing their own tastes and celebrating their influences.

What it means for brands

Brands have tons of opportunities to connect with audiences by understanding the relationship between creators and audiences. Advertisers can tap into creators and fans on Spotify with ads that reach listeners as they stream the content they love. Check out even more best practices for advertising to millennials and Gen Zs on Spotify:

  • Drive awareness with voice talent ads. Our research has shown that Voice Talent ads under 30 seconds produce significant lifts across metrics.2 To scale your podcast buy, run Voice Talent ads across the Spotify Audience Network to reach engaged listeners both on and off Spotify in a highly targeted way.

  • Keep it conversational. The best podcast ads reflect how people talk in real life. Focus on what sounds natural to the listener in order to achieve the authenticity and relatability that your audience expects.

  • Amplify the conversation. Align your brand with podcast shows that promote representation in audio. Spotify partnered with Higher Ground, a production company formed by the Obamas, to produce powerful stories that entertain, inform, and inspire, and to lift up new, diverse voices in the entertainment industry. Salesforce, and Proctor & Gamble brands Dawn and Tide, served as the first season’s presenting sponsors for The Michelle Obama Podcast, a Spotify Original.

  • Pass the mic. Give underrepresented artists the stage to share your brand message in their own way. For instance, Cinnamon Toast Crunch partnered with Cuco, an emerging Latinx artist, to create custom audio and video spots that share the inspiring ways he continued to grow his music career and live life to the fullest despite challenging times in 2020.

  • Target moments curated by Gen Zs. No matter what’s happening beyond our headphones, playlists reflect it. Leverage user-generated playlist targeting to reach Gen Zs when they’re listening to playlists they’ve curated for specific contexts, moods, or activities, and match your creative messaging to the moment.
  • Ready to reach creators and fans on Spotify? Get started instantly with Ad Studio.

    1 Spotify & Crowd DNA, “We’re All Ears,” U.S., 2018.
    2 Custom Nielsen Ad Format study commissioned by Spotify. Survey conducted from November 20 - December 9, 2020. Sample of 5,999 respondents age 18+ who are podcast listeners and Spotify users.

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