I get it. The young demographic is a big prize: get listeners hooked in their teens and twenties and you could have them coming back for a half century. That’s just not the case with a 60-year-old listener. But there are still problems with this approach that deserve a closer look.
First, let’s clarify the relationship between “gray-haired” and “dying.” Most people start graying in their mid-thirties to mid-forties. Since the life expectancy for Americans is currently at 78, many of us will have gray hair for the majority of our lives. Given that reality, saying a gray-haired person is dying is about as accurate as saying a person who doesn’t have gray hair is wearing diapers. Sure, it’s true in a number of cases, but the number is relatively small.
Secondly, though the young demographic is the big prize, dismissing gray-haired listeners seems a bit greedy. There are currently 108 million Americans over the age of fifty. Capture the interest of even 10% of them and you have quite a following.
Next, at various times in our lives, our perceptions are dramatically impacted by hormones. Music that is hormone-driven can have a powerful appeal in those stages, and for that reason a lot of music zeroes in on the very themes our hormones find most engaging. That’s great – in fact, it’s a huge boon to the survival of the species – but it is not the entire sum of the experience of being human, nor is it the only thing that music can do well. Humans beings of all ages can also think about their place in the world, suffer, laugh, and even develop wisdom over the course of decades of experience. These are things we all do, especially when hormones are more or less dormant, and music can be a vital part of that shared experience.
So sure, hormonally driven music serves a valuable function – I don’t have any desire to downplay its importance. There are, however, extended portions of our lives when that kind of music can seem limited, beside the point. At times like these, a piece like Webern’s Symphony or Lang’s love fail can be the answer.
And yet, I can’t deny it, of course: first and foremost, go for listeners in the 15-45 range, they are and always will be the big prize.
Just don’t diminish the importance of the rest of the population – hair color notwithstanding.