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Subject: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: belmont22 on 01/10/13 at 4:27 am

I was doing some research on the average age of the people in the Top Ten songs of the Year End Billboard charts and it turns out the mean ages are something like this:


2012: 26.44 years - Born 1985-86
2007: 29.33 years - Born 1977-78
2002: 26.35 years - Born 1975-76
1997: 26.60 years - Born 1970-71
1992: 24.30 years - Born 1967-68
1987: 32.05 years - Born 1955
1982: 30.93 years - Born 1951
1972: 32.00 years - Born 1940
1962: 25.64 years - Born 1936-37

For the past 20 years, at least based on the data from 1992, 1997, 2002, 2007, and 2012 the median age of a musician has hovered around 26-27 years. 2007 has a higher average because it was a good year for Gwen Stefani and I think Jay-Z who are older well established artists so it's a bit of an anomaly.

Do you think the reason 80s artists tended to be older than the ones of the early 90s to present is because so many of them were Baby Boomer artists, many with established music careers and mature long-term fan bases? Unless 1987 was a really 'old' year for music and 1992 unusually 'young' (and admittedly, the fact I put in the ages of Kris Kross skewed the average a bit  ;D  ), it seems like in the late 80s/early 90s there was a dramatic shift from Boomer musicians born in the 50s to Gen X musicians born from the mid 60s to early 70s, which I suspect is part of the reason why music changed a lot during this period.

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: belmont22 on 01/10/13 at 4:34 am

Interestingly though, despite the old chestnut that today's music is dominated by teen artists, the fact is that today's musicians are on average the same age they were in 1962!  :o  And in the past 20 years, have actually become slightly older on average, perhaps because some of the artists that have become well-established since the 90s/early 2000s are still popular.

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: yelimsexa on 01/10/13 at 9:06 am

Rock and R&B/Soul were still the two most dominant genres of music in the '80s as in the '60s and '70s, meaning that many older artists could simply adapt to some updated synth technology. By the early '90s, the tail-end boomers had all settled down with marriage and kids and Gen X was composed of teens, college kids, and fresh college grads that embraced the current sounds and the Boomers would wax nostalgic mostly listening to oldies/classic rock and felt that the new grunge was too "dirty" and the rap/hip-hop was "too vulgar", feeling it would be bad for their children. But remember that Generation X was a small demographic, and it took a while for the Boomers to pass through their creative phase. It was easier for a '60s artist to adapt to '80s trends than it was for a '70s (even early '80s) artist to adapt to '90s styles. This is despite the presence of MTV; perhaps it was Reagan's neoconservatism that allowed a more family-friendly image?

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: belmont22 on 01/10/13 at 12:26 pm


Rock and R&B/Soul were still the two most dominant genres of music in the '80s as in the '60s and '70s, meaning that many older artists could simply adapt to some updated synth technology. By the early '90s, the tail-end boomers had all settled down with marriage and kids and Gen X was composed of teens, college kids, and fresh college grads that embraced the current sounds and the Boomers would wax nostalgic mostly listening to oldies/classic rock and felt that the new grunge was too "dirty" and the rap/hip-hop was "too vulgar", feeling it would be bad for their children. But remember that Generation X was a small demographic, and it took a while for the Boomers to pass through their creative phase. It was easier for a '60s artist to adapt to '80s trends than it was for a '70s (even early '80s) artist to adapt to '90s styles. This is despite the presence of MTV; perhaps it was Reagan's neoconservatism that allowed a more family-friendly image?


I think you're right. It was a generation gap, and also the fact the Boomers were still fairly young in the 80s and so are great in numbers. Gen X music didn't last nearly as long, they dominated music from about 1992 to 2005 before Gen Y really usurped them. In fact even by the year 2000 you had Christina, Beyonce and Britney who are all early Gen Ys.

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: whistledog on 01/10/13 at 11:14 pm

Dominated by older musicians?

It's good to know that you were around in the 80s so you know how it really was ::)

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: belmont22 on 01/11/13 at 1:10 am


Dominated by older musicians?

It's good to know that you were around in the 80s so you know how it really was ::)


Charts don't lie son!

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: Paul on 01/11/13 at 4:11 am


Charts don't lie son!


Depends what charts you're looking at...

The world doesn't begin and end with Billboard, y'know...

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: Jquar on 01/13/13 at 5:04 pm

Yeah I wouldn't say the 80s were dominated by older artists, really. More so than today perhaps, but if you look at the most commercially successful artists of the 1980s you get:

Prince, born 1958
Michael Jackson, born 1958
Madonna, born 1958
Janet Jackson, born 1966
Whitney Houston, born 1963
George Michael, born 1963
Jon Bon Jovi, born 1962
Duran Duran, founders born in 1960 and 1962
Cyndi Lauper, born 1953
Phil Collins, born 1951
Huey Lewis, born 1950
Lionel Richie, born 1949
Hall and Oates, born 1946 and 1949
U2, born 1960-1961
Bruce Springsteen, born 1949

So only a few of these people were in their 30s when the decade started, and many of them were in their 20s for the vast majority of the decade. Pretty young group.

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: Howard on 01/14/13 at 6:33 am


Yeah I wouldn't say the 80s were dominated by older artists, really. More so than today perhaps, but if you look at the most commercially successful artists of the 1980s you get:

Prince, born 1958
Michael Jackson, born 1958
Madonna, born 1958
Janet Jackson, born 1966
Whitney Houston, born 1963
George Michael, born 1963
Jon Bon Jovi, born 1962
Duran Duran, founders born in 1960 and 1962
Cyndi Lauper, born 1953
Phil Collins, born 1951
Huey Lewis, born 1950
Lionel Richie, born 1949
Hall and Oates, born 1946 and 1949
U2, born 1960-1961
Bruce Springsteen, born 1949

So only a few of these people were in their 30s when the decade started, and many of them were in their 20s for the vast majority of the decade. Pretty young group.


and a lot of them are still recording music.

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: Mushroom on 01/14/13 at 5:32 pm


Rock and R&B/Soul were still the two most dominant genres of music in the '80s as in the '60s and '70s, meaning that many older artists could simply adapt to some updated synth technology.


There are a great many factors.

One thing that can't be overlooked was the "Disco Backlash".  A lot of artists that were super-big in the mid to late 1970's were unable to make the transition away from their Disco Era, and quickly faded away.  This meant that a lot of people who were big prior to disco were able to return to pop (Olivia Newton John, Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart) while the younger acts were totally stereotyped and faded away.

Then you had 2 styles more or less merge, punk rock (Blondie, Talking Heads, Ramones, B-52s) who had a following already and been performing for a decade or more suddenly make it nationally at the same time that groups from overseas (Elvis Costello, Madness, The Cure) suddenly break in over here with the New Wave, where the polished and experienced bands suddenly had legions of new fans.

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: Philip Eno on 05/12/14 at 1:18 pm

Because younger musicians could not be bothered.

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: c_keenan2001@hotmail.com on 05/12/14 at 3:54 pm

Platinum Blonde Founders: Born 1959, 1960, and 1961 and their added bass player born 1956
Tears For Fears founders born 1961
Depeche Mode singer: Born 1962
INXS singer born 1960
Duran Duran singer born 1958
Boomtown Rats Singer born 1951
Starship singer Born 1939

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: SiderealDreams on 05/13/14 at 8:36 pm

It also depends a lot on the genre. With that said, let's look at two broad genres that interest me: goth/industrial/synthpop and to a lesser extent, metal.

It seems that most of the great gothic icons were born in the second half of the 1950s or the very early 1960s (so basically, the end of the Baby Boom generation with a handful of Gen X cuspers). For example:

Siouxsie Sioux and Peter Murphy (Bauhaus) - 1957 (an honorable mention for David Vanian of the Damned, born in October of 1956)

Andrew Eldritch (Sisters of Mercy) and Robert Smith (the Cure) - 1959.

Rozz Williams of Christian Death was born a little later in 1963 (same year as Carl McCoy of Fields of the Nephilim).

The same general age range is in place for the pioneers of industrial music too: Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy (1962), Sascha Konietzko of KMFDM (1961), Al Jourgensen of Ministry (1958), Bill Leeb of FLA (1956). Etc. And of course, we have Dave Gahan and Martin Gore (1962 and 1961 respectively) of every goth's favorite synthpop group, Depeche Mode. Can you think of any 80's goth/industrial personages born before 1956 or after 1963?

One thing I found interesting is that 80's metal and glam musicians seem to have had a much greater age range than the gothic or industrial types. For example, with glam metal you have everything from Klaus Meine of the Scorpions (born in 1948) to Slash of GNR (born 1965). And if we talk about all types of metal, you have everything from Ronnie James Dio (born in 1942) to Chuck Schuldiner of Death (born in 1967). That's three generations in one (admittedly broad) genre in a single decade!

So, having looked at just two genres, why would there be such a huge difference in age ranges between genres?

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: BayAreaNostalgist1981 on 07/24/14 at 11:23 pm

I've often thought about this too, and I think a big factor were the comeback singers and bands from the 50s/60s/early 70s. Since the 80s had alot of soft rock and adult contemporary-tinged music (and almost every genre was melodic) it was fairly easy for older established musicians to come back into the charts. All they had to really do was put some synths or keyboards into their music, maybe streamline their sound a bit, and make some videos for MTV.

Taking that into account, tons of 80s singers were in their 40s even early 50s.

Just off the top of my head...Peter Cetera (1944), Tina Turner (1938), Daryl Hall (1946), Grace Slick of Starship (1939), John Fogerty (1945), Rod Stewart (1945), Sammy Hagar (1947), Paul McCartney (1942), Roy Orbison (1936!!! He must've been the oldest)

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: 80sfan on 07/25/14 at 12:03 am

Maybe that's why music was better back then. I mean, music today is aimed at thirteen, maybe fourteen year olds at the oldest.

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: BayAreaNostalgist1981 on 07/25/14 at 12:58 am


Maybe that's why music was better back then. I mean, music today is aimed at thirteen, maybe fourteen year olds at the oldest.


Yeah, I think the catchy melodic nature of the music made it easy for almost anyone to get into it. I agree, with a few exceptions, I don't like how rhythmic and hip hop oriented most 2010s music is, and even the clean cut pop is boyband little girl stuff like 1D.

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: 80sfan on 07/25/14 at 3:19 am


Yeah, I think the catchy melodic nature of the music made it easy for almost anyone to get into it. I agree, with a few exceptions, I don't like how rhythmic and hip hop oriented most 2010s music is, and even the clean cut pop is boyband little girl stuff like 1D.


Ew, One direction. 8-P

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: Howard on 07/25/14 at 6:48 am


Maybe that's why music was better back then. I mean, music today is aimed at thirteen, maybe fourteen year olds at the oldest.


or it could be why we hate today's music because it's aimed at kids.

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: 80sfan on 07/25/14 at 6:49 am


or it could be why we hate today's music because it's aimed at kids.


Back then it was aimed at 15 year olds and older.

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: Howard on 07/25/14 at 7:29 am


Back then it was aimed at 15 year olds and older.


I guess we're getting older.

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: BayAreaNostalgist1981 on 07/25/14 at 1:13 pm


Back then it was aimed at 15 year olds and older.


For a real answer and someone who knows what he's saying  ;) ....I think 80s music was probably aimed at 15-30 year olds (perhaps with some casual fans as young as 6 or 7, and some as old as their 40s or 50s). Especially the retro tinged stuff like Bruce Springsteen or Hall and Oates.

Of course, the teenpop from the late 80s like NKOTB or Debbie Gibson wasn't that different from Bieber or 1D in that it was also targeted at 11 year old girls...but at least the crap was a small percentage of the entire music scene, unlike today.

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: Howard on 07/25/14 at 2:49 pm

Of course, the teenpop from the late 80s like NKOTB or Debbie Gibson wasn't that different from Bieber or 1D in that it was also targeted at 11 year old girls...but at least the crap was a small percentage of the entire music scene, unlike today.

and also guys enjoyed listening to Tiffany which was also targeted by small teen girls.

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: c_keenan2001@hotmail.com on 07/25/14 at 4:29 pm


and also guys enjoyed listening to Tiffany which was also targeted by small teen girls.


She wasn't the only one who was targeted by small teen girls.  So was Debbie Gibson and New Kids On The Block.  The Jets and every one of those teen pop acts.

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: Howard on 07/26/14 at 6:33 am


She wasn't the only one who was targeted by small teen girls.  So was Debbie Gibson and New Kids On The Block.  The Jets and every one of those teen pop acts.


all those artists back in those days such as Madonna and Michael Jackson, they both started a fad where fans started dressing like them, remember those days?

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: BayAreaNostalgist1981 on 07/26/14 at 12:26 pm


She wasn't the only one who was targeted by small teen girls.  So was Debbie Gibson and New Kids On The Block.  The Jets and every one of those teen pop acts.


Yeah, that crap is a blight on the otherwise amazing 80s music. :) It doesn't really happen much these days (since its all a long time ago now), but years ago I'd really hate when you'd say "80s music" and someone brought the garbage pop from 1989 up. It didn't deserve to get lumped in with classic 80s music like Huey Lewis, MJ's Thriller, or Hall and Oates.

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: 80sfan on 07/27/14 at 3:23 am


and also guys enjoyed listening to Tiffany which was also targeted by small teen girls.


Every mainstream artist pretty much targets teenagers their two or three albums, after that their sounds start to mature.

Subject: Re: Why was the eighties dominated by older musicians?

Written By: Howard on 07/27/14 at 2:09 pm


Every mainstream artist pretty much targets teenagers their two or three albums, after that their sounds start to mature.


Just like Michael Jackson in the 80's and after the 90's and early 2000's, his sounds changed.

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