Do you believe music was better back when you were younger? That seems to be a popular opinion among parents, and a new online study sheds some light on exactly why.

Headphones on stack of CDs
Dmitry Naumov, ThinkStock

Using listener data from Spotify, along with a ranking of the most popular music artists, the study determined people stop liking, or "discovering," new music at age 33.

Up until that age, the study finds, mainstream music is an integral part of one's musical spectrum. But at that point, one's "tastes have matured, and they are who they're going to be."

According to the study's author, two factors drive the transition away from popular music:

"First, listeners discover less-familiar music genres that they didn't hear on FM radio as early teens, from artists with a lower popularity rank. Second, listeners are returning to the music that was popular when they were coming of age - but which has since phased out of popularity."

Reacting to the study, music and performing arts librarian Jonathan Sauceda at Rutgers said nostalgia is a big piece of the puzzle.

"People are nostalgic for the good old days when they were in high school or a young adult and they had their whole life ahead of them," he said. "Listening to that music really brings that back."

Noting the current study has not gone through the proper peer-review process, Sauceda said it somewhat mirrors the findings of a similar study conducted in the late 1980s. Essentially, it determined that the music one listens to in their teen and early adult years will determine their tastes for the rest of their life.

Marketing may be a key. Sauceda insisted companies intensely try to connect to the younger crowd, knowing that once they're hooked, they could be a customer for decades. Older consumers are not as impressionable, and they go back to the very tunes they were sold on earlier in life.

"Kids don't really want to be listening to the same thing that their parents are listening to," Sauceda added. "So when you're marketing to kids, you want to kind of getting under parents' skin. You want to kind of differentiate what you're selling to the kids from what the parents are listening to."

The study also found males move away from mainstream music sooner than females.

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