Local Current Blog

Am I a millennial…or a perennial?

Jay Gabler/MPR

I don’t go a day without listening to music. Whether it’s in my headphones or in any Bluetooth speaker I can find, I’ve got to get my fix. My music choice in the morning is essential to how I’ll feel for the rest of the day.

A lot of people look at my age and my race and make assumptions about what kind of music I like. Most of the time, they’re wrong.

A typical day in my playlist can be all over the place. Whether it’s “Edge of Town” by the Middle Kids or a song off of the “Work Out Twerk Out” playlist on Spotify, my song choice is constantly evolving.

I’m African-American and to me, R&B is music for the soul. Growing up, my parents would play Parliament, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, and Rose Royce. Funky, groovy, loving, and conscious songs were my soundtrack at a young age.  A lot of my friends consider that type of music to be “old-school,” but that sound is still my base.

And then there’s the reality of being in college. Whatever music fits the mood for a 10-page paper or cramming for a test the night before, works for me!

So, you ask, how could I possibly be a 19-year-old black girl who loves “Pick Up the Pieces” by Average White Band, “Doo Wop” by Lauryn Hill, and also “L.A. Woman” by the Doors?

There’s tons of different reasons why I like the music that I do. I mean, being a millennial means so many different things. It’s all about what we wear, how many followers we have, and what music we listen to. But somehow, all of those diverse interests get pushed into the “millennial” category.

Luckily Gina Pell, Content Chief at The What newsletter, has another word for us: perennials. In her 2016 post “Meet the Perennials,” Pell describes perennials as “relevant people of all ages who live in present time, [and] know what’s happening in the world.” She also describes them as being people who “get involved [and] stay curious” but people who are also “vectors” and have “wide appeal and spread ideas.”

Pell comes to the conclusion that marketers’ selling techniques shouldn’t be based on age demographics anymore, but targeted at all the “relevant people” who all share the same interest. She points out that the biggest names in music and culture are people who appeal to a wide range of people of varying ages and backgrounds.

We comprise an inclusive, enduring mindset, not a divisive demographic. Perennials are also vectors who have a wide appeal and spread ideas and commerce faster than any single generation. Lady Gaga + Tony Bennett, Lena Dunham + Jenni Konner, Beyoncé + Jay-Z, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Fallon, Pharrell Williams, Justin Trudeau, Ellen DeGeneres, Malala, Sheryl Sandberg, Mick Jagger, Michelle Obama, Emma Watson, Elon Musk, Bernie Sanders, Diane Von Furstenberg, Lorne Michaels, Ai Weiwei, John Oliver, Aziz Ansari, the little girl on Stranger Things … #Perennials

This resonates with me as a young millennial. I come from a family of R&B lovers, but growing up and being surrounded by pop culture, I’ve learned to love various genres and artists of today. My interests and taste are all over the place, so how can a marketer market to me?

I love Adele or Beyoncé as much as the next 65-year-old, but the question boils down to, are perennials really a thing? From my perspective we are; I am. I’m not just one type of person that only likes one type of song, trend, or technique. I’m more of a “perennial” than a “millennial.” Are you?

Erianna Jiles is a student at Saint Paul College.

  • Leah Garaas

    Great read! Well done, Erianna.

  • MrsBanks

    I’m 41 and definitely not in the demographic of some of my favorite new music (esp the newer rap and hip hop that fills up my workout playlists). I am always listening to the newest album but that’s mixed with some of my favorites from growing up and older stuff I’m just disvovering now. Music discovery is much easier now that there’s streaming and it allows me to dig into older music I was too young to hear growing up in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin.

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