News & Insights

Backstage Pass: Inside Culture Next 2022 with Marion Boeri

Our annual Culture Next report exploring Gen Z streaming trends is here, and full of fresh insights about how Zs are streaming, creating, and redefining culture. In this edition of Backstage Pass, we get a behind-the-scenes look at this year’s report with Marion Boeri, Spotify’s Global Lead of Thought Leadership Research.

Let’s start with you, Marion. What’s your role at Spotify, and your background with Culture Next?

I lead our global thought leadership research efforts under Spotify Advertising. In short, our main mission with thought leadership research is to inspire, educate, and provide guidance to brand marketers and industry leaders as they develop audio strategies to engage with Spotify listeners.

Culture Next is now in its fourth year, and a lot has changed since the first edition. How is volume four different from previous Culture Next reports?

A lot has changed since we first launched in 2019. Our research now includes more countries and markets—this year, we spoke with dozens of respondents from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Arab Emirates. So the trends we’re observing in digital audio are truly global.

Also, the trends we’ve uncovered over the last few years have evolved more rapidly than ever. When we launched our first issue, the biggest focus for marketers and advertisers were millennials. And we certainly couldn’t have predicted a global pandemic and racial justice movement, both of which have driven sharp shifts in cultural trends and what’s important right now. We soon realized that Gen Zs (A18-24) have become a massive driving force behind these global cultural trends, which is why this generation has become a central focus for Spotify as a brand deeply rooted in culture.

Give us the TL;DR on this year’s report. What was the focus, and what were the top trends?

We’ve given millennials plenty of love over the years, but this year, Gen Z was our main focus. In previous issues of Culture Next, we explored how both generations were driving shifts in art, culture, and society at large. But as Gen Z enters their high school, college, and early career years, their cultural influence has massively increased. We’ve seen them really getting their hands dirty when it comes to redefining what the next era of culture will look (and sound) like.

As a researcher, what’s very interesting is to see the evolution of trends that have been around for decades—and how Gen Zs are making it their own. Take ‘fandom’ for example: We’re seeing that the relationship between a creator and a fan has been completely revolutionized by Gen Z, with the development of technology and constant access to content accelerating this movement. So we’re seeing a shift in culture where Gen Zs are really blurring the lines between consumption and creation—which affects the way these young consumers engage with brands as well. They are not your “average consumers,” that’s for sure. They’re looking for meaningful connections, an authentic backstory and point of view, and they want to be included in the creative process.

Culture Next explores how Gen Zs are streaming on Spotify, but it also goes beyond that. What else can people expect from the report?

It’s always fascinating to see how these broad global cultural trends manifest on our platform. Spotify is really on the pulse of culture, and our listeners’ streaming behaviors can reflect what is happening in the world (and in their lives). Culture Next is really about the human truth behind these streaming behaviors. And because we’re talking about Gen Zs, looking at what they stream and what they’re engaging with on our platform is one of the best ways to understand their story.

Which insights and stats surprised you the most?

What surprised me the most from our global survey was the fact that Gen Z is a very stressed out generation (67% of the Zs we surveyed reported feeling stressed, compared to 48% of millennials).1 You would assume that they don’t have much to be stressed about: They’re young and going through a lot of exciting ‘firsts.’ At the same time, they’re very tapped into the world around them (the good and the bad), and this constant flow of information is really tough to filter and process. So what we’ve seen is how audio has really become a great source of relief—helping them cope with stress and anxiety.2</sup

What gives me hope is that, despite everything, there’s a sense of optimism among Gen Z. They want to make the world a better place: 69% of Zs characterize their generations as change-makers rather than status quo.3 And they’ve officially surpassed millennials when it comes to time spent streaming music on Spotify.

  • +578B

    Total minutes of music streamed by Gen Zs (A18-24) in Q1 2022

    Source: Spotify Culture Next vol. 4, 2022, Global
  • +562B

    Total minutes of music streamed by millennials (A25-34) in Q1 2022

    Source: Spotify Culture Next vol. 4, 2022, Global

Gen Z remains a hot topic for advertisers, and this year’s report finds them at the very center of the current cultural shift. Why is it important for advertisers to understand how they’re listening and creating digital audio?

Today, you can’t ignore the impact culture has on our world. Decades ago, everything was pretty much siloed, and culture was mainly synonymous with mainstream entertainment. The current cultural trends are rooted in society, and they’re shaping our world. They’re about how we connect with each other, how we approach life decisions, and how we engage with brands. Understanding these big cultural shifts is about understanding what matters most in these young consumers’ lives. And as we’ve seen through our research, Gen Z’s digital audio consumption says a lot about them. They use digital audio to understand themselves better, and then tell their personal stories.

If you could tell advertisers one thing about Gen Z, what would it be?

Bring them into the creative process, and engage with them in a very meaningful way. Don’t be afraid to ask for their opinion and feedback. They are very savvy consumers (and creators and entrepreneurs). They know when brands are not being truthful or authentic. They expect to create mutually beneficial relationships with the brands they love, and they want to have the reassurance that it aligns with their beliefs and values.

Let’s end on the fun stuff. Who are some of your favorite Gen Z artists and podcasters?

Oh boy, you’re asking a millennial who swears by David Bowie (who encompassed pretty much everything Gen Zs are all about, by the way!). Thanks to the research, I had the pleasure of interviewing a few Gen Z creators. I was very impressed by their professionalism and how in tune they are all with who they are, what they want, and how to navigate the world around them. One young artist I discovered and now listened to is Dreamer Isioma. Their song “Sunset Drive” is all I need to start the day right! And I have to mention the hosts of Teenager Therapy, because as a mom this makes me feel so happy to know that these kids are really taking matters into their own hands. They genuinely want to help each other as they go through some of life's most complex issues. I kinda wish I had this podcast when I was a teenager, tbh.

Explore the full Culture Next 2022 report to learn more about how Gen Zs are shaping audio streaming and culture at large.

  1. Source: Spotify Culture Next vol. 4, 2022, Global
  2. Source: Spotify Culture Next vol. 4, 2022, Global
  3. Source: Spotify Culture Next vol. 4, 2022, Global

Looking for something a little more custom? Let's talk.