I recently had the opportunity to interview three very distinct and different generations about their introduction to music. Millennials (1981-2000), Baby Boomers (1946-1964) and the Silent Generation (1927-1945) span nearly 100 years between them, leading to some contrasting life experiences and views.
I interviewed my grandfather, Bob Middlecamp, who is a member of the Silent Generation — just after the G.I. generation and before the beginning of the Baby Boomers. Growing up on farm with three other siblings, his family didn’t have a budget for music.
It was seen as a luxury that the family couldn’t afford. His parents were products of the Great Depression and as a result, anything deemed excessive was trimmed.
“I don’t ever remember buying a record growing up. It just wasn’t something in our bag.” – Bob Middlecamp
His introduction to music came via the radio, listening to cowboy radio shows when he could. He and his twin brother also scrounged enough to buy a seven inch record. To this day, he doesn’t collect music, nor does it have a large part of his life. The radio is rarely on in the house or the car.
I also interviewed my mother, Linda Middlecamp, who was on the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation. She grew up listening to show tunes that her mother played and sang along to. Her father didn’t play his own music often, instead he preferred to read.
Her real introduction to music came when her parents bought her an AM/FM radio for her room on her 10th birthday, which opened her to a new world of seemingly unlimited possibilities.
“When I got my radio, FM was still a relatively new thing. I mostly flipped through AM stations.” – Linda Middlecamp
She began collecting on her own records late in high school and throughout college. Later, it became tapes, CDs and not long after, MP3s. Her parents had collections of their own (comic books, coins, birdhouses, pins) and her brother had a music collection of his own which normalized collecting.
Millennials have experienced the least amount of change in terms of how we consume music. I interviewed 23-year-old third-year mechanical engineering student Ishmael Rangel about his musical experience growing up. His first memories were of his family members playing music off of CDs in the car, before branching out into music on his own.
“I first purchased music from iTunes using an Itunes gift card on my iPod touch,” Rangel said.
Clearly each generation has their own way of not only viewing music, but consuming it. As I have touched on in earlier posts, it will be interesting to where music goes following the rise of streaming services.