Ryan Snook

In a Billboard survey, 21 artists, influencers and industry professionals born between 1980 and 1995 -- members of the largest, most diverse generation in the U.S. -- share their musical discovery habits, which artist best represents them (Drake! Miley!) and their thoughts on how they're widely misunderstood. Spoiler alert: "We don't need the industry as much as it needs us."

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WHAT THE MUSIC INDUSTRY DOESN'T UNDERSTAND ABOUT MY DEMOGRAPHIC:

Sophie Ash: If we aren't given what we want, we will take it.
Stabile: We're willing to pay for stuff, but you need to make it easier for us to do it.
​Udell: The next generation is starting to see through the bullshit.
Maloney: How to service video content to us effectively. Music videos had this amazing run in our youth, and now YouTube has enraptured Gen Z, but there was a gap somewhere.
​Phili: Our tastes evolve very fast.
Reyna: We're more present and involved than you think.
​Caiti Green: We're sick of gimmicks and hungry for substance.
​Chepurny: There's need for substance. With all the fluff in music, people in my demographic are looking for direction -- and they need music that actually says something to find that.
​Kalyn Heffernan: We don't need the industry as much as it needs us.
 

WHICH ARTIST BEST REPRESENTS THE MILLENNIAL DEMOGRAPHIC?

Green: Kendrick Lamar.
James Shani: Drake.
​Blaha: The preachings of Lil B represent the purest distillation of millennial values, even though many would consider his music basically unlistenable.
​Navarra: Britney Spears.
Moe Shalizi: The Biebs.
Luis Coronel: Leslie Grace.
Phili: Chance the Rapper feels in line with optimistic millennial spirit.
DJ Carisma: Kehlani, Bryson Tiller, G-Eazy, YG.
Meller: Miley Cyrus. She holds nothing back. She also represents the older generations' worst fears about millennial culture -- it's fun watching them be outraged.
 

WHICH ARTIST LEAST REPRESENTS THE MILLENNIAL DEMOGRAPHIC?

Green: Taylor Swift.
Ash: Artists who promote their music in the comment section of celebrity Instagram posts.
​Udell: Young Thug.
Maloney: Kanye West isn't technically a millennial, but he's a major part of our vocabulary and most closely associated with our age bracket. I am a big fan of his music and fully respect him as a creator, but his narcissism isn't doing our generation any favors.
Kosha Dillz: Justin Bieber.
Chepurny: Adam Lambert.
Carisma: Artists who built their buzz from Instagram.
Shalizi: I'm not sure. Our demographic is pretty screwed anyway.
 

IN THE FUTURE, MY BIGGEST CONCERN ABOUT MUSIC -- AND THE INDUSTRY -- IS:

Stabile: Concert ticket prices, scalping and bands not getting money for playing shows.
Clayton Blaha: That the concept of the album will go away.
​Udell: The lack of artists who are willing to stand up for what they believe at all costs.
​Stelio Phili: The precedent set by the ruling of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," which basically states that a song's "vibe" can be copyrighted.
​Fabiola Reyna: The lack of cultural reflection.
Sarah Avrin: The trend of not playing physical instruments. Even the strings on Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" -- which I love -- are synthesized.
Mike Darlington: The sustainability of revenue for musicians who don't tour. Even touring revenue is a struggle for the entry/mid-level artist.
​Udell: The lack of understanding about the positive impact streaming will bring to the industry's bottom line.
​Blaha: As for the industry, this shit is tight -- I'm not worried.
 

WHEN I HEAR THE WORD "MILLENNIAL," I THINK:

Francesca Stabile: Shitheads.
Mike Navarra: The year 2000.
Jake Udell: The future.
Caitlin Maloney: Overhead photos of food. 
John Meller: Internet think pieces about how millennials have poor work ethics and are destroying America.
Gabi Chepurny: Ugh.
​Amrit: Someone old is definitely using this word -- no one in my generation uses this term.

 

Participants: Amrit, 28, DJ-singer; Sophie Ash, 27, project manager at Parkwood Entertainment; Sarah Avrin, 31, publicist at Girlie Action Media; Clayton Blaha, 31, director of A&R at OWSLA Publishing and artist manager at Blood Company; DJ Carisma, 25, on-air talent at KRRL Los Angeles; Gabi Chepurny, 24, Prosthetic Records; Luis Coronel, 20, singer; Mike Darlington, 32, CEO of Monstercat; Kosha Dillz, 34, rapper; Kalyn Heffernan, 28, MC-producer; Caiti Green, 29, product manager at Atlantic Records; Caitlin Maloney, 26, brand manager at Superfly Presents; Juan Diego Medina, 29, president/founder of La Industria; John Meller, 27, attorney at LaPolt Law; Mike Navarra, 29, director of publicity at Columbia Records; Stelios Phili, 27, songwriter-producer; Fabiola Reyna, 24, founder of She Shreds Magazine; Moe Shalizi, 25, artist manager at Red light Management; James Shani, 27, founder/CEO of SAV Studios; Francesca Stabile, 28, operations manager at Songkick; Jake Udell, 27, founder of TH3RD BRAIN.

This feature was originally published in the March 19 issue of Billboard.