Who says Boomers aren’t adaptable? For sure, not the defunct music cassette industry.
The adland rap on consumers beyond the 18-49 demographic is that they – i.e., we of the over-fifty persuasion – are unadaptable. Apparently, our lizard brains take over and we now rely solely on ancient instincts. What nonsense!
Hey, wait a minute, there’s a tasty-looking bug over there. Slurp.
Now, were where we? Oh yeah, adaptability.
Vinyl records ruled the music industry until 1980 when demand declined under pressure from cassettes; but by 1990, cassette sales peaked and music CDs were taking over – only to top out themselves in 2002 (Forrester Research).
Today, streaming and downloading dominate, reaping 82% of U.S. 2015 recorded music income (Recording Industry Association of America_HT Music Business Worldwide).
Along the way, we Boomers went with the format flow. Who doesn’t have a box of LPs stashed in the garage or a stack of CDs stuck in the back of a bookshelf somewhere?
New Nielsen music data: vinyl revival
The 2015 Nielsen Music U.S. Report gives Boomers hope those LPs might be worth dusting off. Apparently because their Millennial kids are leading a vinyl album resurgence. Maybe those Donna Summer and Cheech And Chong collections can help Boomers make the payments on the mobility scooters adland thinks we all buy to celebrate turning fifty.
Demand is so hot that aging record pressing equipment is struggling to stay operational until new facilities come into production.
And, while streaming/downloading still dominate the music industry, the vinyl LP share of physical albums is eating into CDs – rising from 3.6% in 2013 to 8.7% in 2015.
A strong woman tops the list: it’s the 1980s all over again
“The sales story of the year” according to Nielsen is Adele’s 25. She set an all-time high for first week album sales on her way to becoming the top album artist of 2015, with total sales of 7.441 million – almost a million more than the next five artists combined.
And, oh yes, her vinyl album was #1 as well.
Adele says her strong, smoky-clear vocals are influenced by Annie (The Eurythmics) Lennox – one of many female pop-rock genre singers of the 1980s born between the mid-1940s and mid-1950s. Defined by social trend expert Brent Green as leading-edge Boomers, these were independent and self-assured adult women in their late twenties/early thirties, not ingenues.
And their music often reflected failed relationships with – let’s be frank – flaky 1970s man-boys less interested commitment than “finding themselves” out in the desert on A Horse With No Name, at the Hotel California or in MacArthur Park.
When they did find themselves in the 80s, it was usually with a Hey Nineteen chick half their age.
No wonder the worldly-wise Lennox et al owed more to Edith Piaf, Mina Simone and the incomparable Billie Holiday than the smooth elegance of Ella Fitzgerald.
Relive the moment. They’re all on YouTube, and sound just as good today as they did back then.
- Debbie Harry / Blondie (b. 1945) … Call Me (1980)
- Stevie Nicks (b. 1948) … Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (1981)
- Bonnie Tyler (b. 1951) … Total Eclipse of the Heart (1983)
- Chrissie Hynde / The Pretenders (b. 1951) … I’m Special (1979)
- Pat Benatar (b. 1953) … Love Is a Battlefield (1983)
- Annie Lennox (b. 1954) … Here Comes the Rain Again (1983)
Balancing the frank intensity of Lennox et al, with the arrival of MTV, glamour and effervescence took off. Cyndi Lauper’s 1983 hit, Girls Just Want to Have Fun set the optimistic mood for the 1980s. Big hair, flamboyant style and indulgence were in vogue; America was on the yuppie-enabled, materialistic track to the digital era (HT Brent Green).
The all-girl band The Bangles took the Goofy 80s prize with Walk Like An Egyptian (1986). It sold a million copies as a single, hit #1 in the U.S., #3 in the UK and went on to become Billboard’s top song of 1987.
Who would have guessed that in a few short years, independent leading edge Boomer women would begin to drop off the advertising radar due to The Fiftieth Birthday Rule created by youth-obsessed men. And in 2016 millions of older Gen X women are being dumped as well. Happy birthday and so long Janet Jackson.
Boomer girls still want to have fun
Sadly, clinging to the traditions of the distant past, today’s Madison Avenue Bangles remix is Think Like An Ancient Egyptian.
Outside the 18-49 demo, women disappear from mainstream advertising faster than aging rockers chasing Sports Illustrated swimsuit models.
Boomer-Plus Generation women – Baby Boomers, those born 1940-1945 and Gen Xers over 50 – control a huge share of U.S. spending power. Not only that, they are the go-to advice source for their Millennial kids’ early brand choices as well.
And we’re not talking grocery store and cosmetics stereotypes; the almost 60 million American women over fifty are sole or joint purchase decision-makers for home improvements, financial services, sports/outdoors clothing and equipment, wine, autos, travel, luxury goods and – suspend your disbelief – smartphones and iPads/tablets.
Yep, when it comes to spending power, Boomer girls still want to have fun. Come and join the party.