How College Students Listen in the United States



College radio stations might not hold the sway they once did, now that dorm rooms are connected to all of the music on the internet. But it’s somewhat telling that Napster, the file-sharing service that fundamentally altered the course of music history, was created in a dorm room to help students share music with each other.

Universities have long been musical hotbeds, as generations of students find much of the music that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. There’s a great deal of music being played at college in general, a lot of which is formative listening. From the library to the gym to the party, and even to bedtime, college life often features a soundtrack.

What are these students streaming that the rest of us aren’t? What is the distinctive sound of their musical taste? And can the rest of us listen to it too?

To determine the The Sound of Students in the United States, Spotify data alchemist Glenn McDonald started with anonymized data about the music played by US university students who have taken advantage of the Spotify’s Student Discount. He compared how popular that music is among students against how popular it is with all other US listeners, to determine the music that “pops out” as being the most distinctive to US students’ listening habits.

It’s basically a distillation of their unique taste, in playlist form.

Here are the tracks, in ranked order, that US students listen to quite a bit, compared to the rest of the US population, The Sound of Students in the United States:



The playlist updates twice per month, so it always reflects the distinct taste of US college students relative to the rest of the country — and the playlist is ranked, so songs at the top are most distinct to students.

Right now, the single most popular student song, which the rest of the population is relatively sleeping on, is “Jordan Belfort” from Wes Walker and Dyl; remember to scroll around too, because there’s over six hours of music in there. If we’re to generalize, relative to other people in the country, US students listen to lots of chilled-out electronica-tinged music with singalong choruses. Students also love downtempo hip hop and slow jams including oldie remakes like this Marvin Gaye remix and this somewhat faster take on a Jackson 5 classic. Generally, the songs have lots of space between the instruments – fairly sparse, clean production seems to be the order of the day.

That’s just one opinion — hear The Sound of Students (US) for yourself (also embedded above).

We also did this for students in the UK:



And in Germany: