u3a commissions survey on attitudes towards age in music

You’re “Too Old” to listen to Justin Bieber by the age of 39 and no one over 53 should attend an Adele concert, according to Brits 

  • Ahead of The BRIT Awards ceremony over half (54 per cent) think music tastes should reflect people’s age
  • However, older generations disagree with 4 in 5 saying age is not a factor
  • The poll was commissioned by charity u3a, who are exploring the unexpected ways ageism presents itself in people’s day-to-day lives

Ahead of The BRIT Awards ceremony this evening, a poll has shown many people think you can be ‘too old’ to listen to modern artists. 

In fact, half (54 per cent) believe the genre of music people enjoy should reflect their age. 

Almost six in 10 people say there should be a cut-off for listening to Justin Bieber, citing an age of 39 on average. 

And anyone over 53 should also forget about going to an Adele concert, according to the 44% who felt there was an age-limit on being a fan of the acclaimed artist. 

Two-thirds (66%) say the upper threshold for going to see Stormzy perform live is 44-years-old on average, while most (58%) Brits claim people can be too old to listen to Harry Styles, suggesting they should tune out after they reach 41. 

The poll was commissioned by charity u3a, formerly known as the University of the Third Age, who are exploring the unexpected ways ageism presents itself in people’s day-to-day lives. 

As well as the public poll, the Charity surveyed over 2,000 of its members who overwhelmingly (82%) rejected the notion that age should be a factor in musical tastes. 

Worryingly, over one in 10 (11%) of their members say they’ve felt patronised for listening to younger artists and a number shared their experiences: 

  • (On going to a concert): ‘A girl once thought a friend and I must be related to the band i.e. being parents due to our age!’
  • ‘At a one-day outdoor music festival some people asked why we were there and said 'aw bless' when I said I was there to see the main band’
  • Some have looked at me in shock as I sung a bit of Grime
  • (I’ve received) General comments such as 'Aren’t you too old to be listening to that?'
  • I had left a Pearl Jam CD lying around in the house (American rock band). A tradesman asked me I had teenage grandchildren!!!
  • On a holiday in Cyprus, music being played round the pool, I was singing along & was told by a stranger I was too old to know the words!! Patronising or what.
  • Several years ago, at work a much younger colleague said 'What's the story', I replied 'What's the story, morning glory'. He said 'You're too old for that!'.
  • Once we were dancing at a gig and some youngsters said 'we love you cool old folk' and came and joined us and hugged us.

Despite the perceived differences among young and old when it comes to music, the research also shows that music can, in fact, help bring generations together. 

Over three-quarters (77%) of u3a’s members believe music can provide a way to bond with younger generations and a third (35%) of the public say they chat to their parents about music. 

Young people would also love to explore their parents’ and grandparents’ music collections, with 36% of 18–24-year-olds hoping to get the chance. 

The research also showed people are listening to similar artists with Ed Sheeran the most listened to in both the public poll (40%) and the u3a member survey (34%). 

Sam Mauger, CEO of u3a, said: “It’s been fascinating to look at these perceived differences when it comes to music and equally intriguing to find out that, broadly speaking, we’re more alike than we think. 

“Music is a great way to bring people together. Rather than focussing on differences and belittling other people’s tastes, we’d encourage everyone to embrace other’s love for music and use it as a chance to connect, whether their favourite artist is Sting or Stormzy.” 



For broadcast interviews with Sam Mauger, CEO of u3a, or for any further information, please contact edible group on 020 7126 7100 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

About the Research 

  • The public poll was carried out by Mortar Research. 2,006 people were surveyed online in January 2002.
  • 2,065 people responded to the U3A members’ survey. The survey was carried out online in January 2022.

About u3a 

Founded in 1982, u3a* is a UK-wide movement of locally run interest groups that provide a wide range of opportunities to come together to learn for fun. Members explore new ideas, skills and activities together. 

There are 1,057 u3as with over 450,000 members; membership costs less than £20 on average per year and is open to everyone who’s no longer in full-time work. 

* University of the Third Age 

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