The top 5 trends driving Gen Z and millennial culture right now

Memes, stans and DMs, oh my.

If your knowledge of the digital generation ends there — or if none of those words meant anything to you — this article is for you.

Advertisers are trying to understand them, thought leaders are desperate to reach them, and brands are bending over backward to appeal to them. Whether you realize it or not, Gen Z — or the global cohort of teenagers and young adults ages 15-25 — is next in line to inherit the complex world that is 2020.

Beyond the viral dance videos and the social media slang, however, lies a much deeper cultural tide to be uncovered. And as we look to the future, we’re all interested in getting to know the generation that will lead us there.

According to a Spotify survey, Gen Z is informed, progress-oriented and driven

In the year that shook the world, it seems that the youngest generations are getting ready to lead the charge for change.

New research from Spotify takes a closer look at the cultural force that is Gen Z, revealing them to be a passionate crew of young people taking the reins for their future — plugged-in, podcast-listening individuals who are streaming news podcasts The Daily, NPR News and The Journal. A progress-driven group more interested in moving forward than they are in political parties. A dynamic unit made up of independent thinkers, who intend to be their own bosses one day (if they aren’t already).

This study, part of the annual “Culture Next” report compiled by Spotify and others, looked into the issues, topics and trends driving culture for Gen Z and Millennials around the world.

The survey used a combination of qualitative and quantitative analyses to compare the attitudes and opinions of Gen Zs (15-25) and millennials (26-40) in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Spain, United Kingdom and the United States during two distinct time periods — fall/winter 2019-2020 and July/August 2020.

Top trends defining Gen Z culture in 2020

Here are the top 5 insights Spotify uncovered — from politics and partisanship, to entrepreneurship, to the ways in which the youngest generations are engaging with and consuming audio content.

  1. Progress Over Partisanship
  • 65% of Gen Zs in the U.S. aged 18-25 said they are planning to vote in the upcoming U.S. election in January 2020. In August 2020, this increased to 72%.
  • 71% of U.S. Zs and millennials are less interested in political parties than they are in moving forward.
  • When we asked U.S. Zs and millennials what they want to see out of brands, 93% chose “purpose” over “politics.”
  1. Gen Zs Globally Mean Business
  • Globally, 1 in 3 Zs age 17 and under said they may not go to college and prefer to start a business instead.
  • 89% of U.S. Zs considered an education plan other than a four-year degree immediately following high school.
  • 65% of those Zs we spoke to globally said they plan to be, or already are, their own boss.
  • And in July, more than 50% globally said they’re more inspired to start a business than they were before the pandemic.
  1. Gen Zs and millennials in the U.S. Credit Sound as Therapeutic and a Force for Community Building
  • Emotional, therapeutic, personal — when we asked Zs and millennials in the U.S. which qualities make sound powerful to them, those words rose to the top.
  • 72% of American Zs and millennials surveyed said voice makes us more sentimental toward our devices, and 58% said sound is at the forefront of humanizing technology.
  • 73% of U.S. Zs and millennials said they use audio to cope with stress and anxiety.
  • Among Zs and millennials, audio was consistently identified as a powerful force for community-building: 80% said music streaming services offer a gateway to other cultures, and we’ve seen this — in one month last year, over 60% of Spotify users discovered an artist from a country outside their own. Plus, 69% believe music is a great way to find community.
  1. Getting to Know (and Like) Mom & Dad Through Music & Podcasts
  • More than ever, audio has been helping families connect — in July, 77% of U.S. parents told us music does exactly that, and the kids seem to agree.
  • 64% of young people globally said listening to their parents’ music gives them a better sense of who their parents are, and 78% of parents globally said music is a way they bond with their kids.
  • 86% of parents globally said technology has fueled their family’s discovery exponentially.
  • 72% of parents globally said today’s kids are “light years” ahead of where they were at their age as a result.
  1. Gen Z Listening Trends on Spotify in the U.S. This Year
  • This year, the top 5 podcasts among Gen Z listeners are Call Her Daddy, The Daily, NPR News Now, Crime Junkie and The Journal.
  • On the music front, Gen Z’s top playlists are Today’s Top Hits, followed by RapCaviar, and our Sleep playlist.

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