Everything You Wanted to Know About Gen Z (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Think you know Generation Z? Spotify wanted to set aside trite stereotypes about the streaming generation—yes, plenty of them have in fact seen or even own a record player—and truly get to know them on a global scale. So they commissioned their Culture Next Trends report, in partnership with research agency Culture Co-Op.

Spotify found an empowered, multinational, cross-cultural, socially aware, and informed group of 15- to 24-year-olds who speak their minds.

“I believe that the way young people are expressing today is truly powerful. However, there is no doubt that the older generations shaped society in many ways and instilled values in us which have given us the power and voice. The youth today are brave and more prone to discussing matters that would usually go unspoken.” Joyce Amil, a dancer and content creator based in Dubai

“We’re bold, fearless, careless, creative, and intriguing,” says Addy, a study participant from North Carolina.

Below are five defining traits of Gen Z uncovered in the study (which encompassed the U.S., U.K., Australia, Germany, the Philippines, Brazil, and beyond), as well as the streaming-related trends they inspire.

These provide clear on-ramps for understanding and connecting with the world’s first generation of truly global citizens—whether or not they’ve used a record player.

Trait 1: All the Feels

Members of Gen Z are in touch with their feelings, and they understand the importance of expressing and addressing them.

Every young generation has claimed some measure of melancholy. (Just watch a John Hughes film.) Gen Zers, however, actively address their feelings—often through music, and specifically via their “bag playlists” (yes, bag) of sad songs.

Not only is listening to these playlists up 45% year over year, but 49% of participants in the study said they find camaraderie in sharing their feelings of sadness and loneliness. No wonder Drake’s “In My Feelings” was such a hit.

“We are pushing each other to discuss issues such as mental health and to be more open and brave and I believe that in the next decade, there will be more talk and support around mental health and numerous other ways will be created to help individuals suffering from it.” Joyce Amil 

Trait 2: Band of Others

Gen Z believes that music allows people to connect with one another and with different cultures. They listen to more international music than any other demographic.

More than half the participants in the study said they’re friends with someone from another country online. So it’s no surprise that Gen Z is fueling the K-Pop craze. K-Pop quickly became one of the 10 most-streamed genres worldwide, forging international bonds among listeners likely because of its upbeat, heartstring-tugging style and lyrical blend of Korean and English.

“Music holds so much value, emotion, art, and influential power that can create communities, and mend broken hearts. From Beethoven, to Michael Jackson, Fairouz, Demis Roussos and thousands more, the power of music has made its mark throughout history, and has always and will always be the common language amongst all cultures and countries on this beautiful earth.” Abdulla Hindash, photographer and content creator residing in the UAE

Trait 3: Subliminal Attraction

Gen Z craves discovery. Finding new things, ideas, music, podcasts, hobbies, and experiences makes them feel good.

Gen Z believes anyone anywhere has the power to break through the social media clutter and become influencers. The more relatable a person (say, a podcast host), the more trust and influence he or she engenders—driving discovery and, therefore, happiness.

Spotify’s past research backs this up. 72% of people they surveyed in 2018 said discovery boosts happiness—so give them something new and authentic.

“I’m constantly being influenced by what I see on digital platforms otherwise I wouldn’t be on social media. The interchange of influence, ideas, beliefs and values that is available on social media is incredible.” Abdulla Hindash, UAE 

Trait 4: PolyFly

Gen Z wants to be part of the political conversation—and their seamless access to technology and all types of content empowers them engage in a way no generation previously has.

“We have the privilege of having access to social platforms and it is great to see that people are 

starting to use it for the right reasons and are becoming comfortable talking about meaningful and impactful topics.” Asma Al Aloosi , Iraqi fashion blogger residing in the UAE 

Podcasts that mix lifestyle and politics top the charts.

A solid 66% of respondents said they expect brands to be part of the debate, to promote progressive values, and to play a more meaningful role in society.

“Our eyes have been opened to the lack of leadership by those in positions of power,” says Canadian pop star Alessia Cara, “and in turn, so many of us have had to step up in their place.”

Trait 5: Surround Sound

Gen Z may appear to be obsessed with their screens, but they value audio as an escape from visual stimulation overload. 

“Audio connects me with all my senses more than anything else.  When I listen to audio, it feels like I am watching a movie.” – Syed Maaz, Art Director and Content Creator residing in Dubai

“Personally, audio is present in my day from the moment I wake up till the minute I fall asleep. In the morning, music fills me with energy. During the day, I practice playing music in my studio for hours and this is by far the most enjoyable part of my day. It allows me to connect with my instruments to create new beats and tracks. I almost disconnect and forget about everything while playing and recording music.” – Shico Emad, Musician and Illusionist based in Egypt

Scroll down to the infographic below to see more of the Culture Next Trends study’s most interesting insights. And millennials, keep your FOMO in check: we took a look at your generation, too. 

Everything You Wanted to Know About Gen Z (But Were Afraid to Ask)

You can also read the full report on Spotify for Brands here.