essays

Who You Calling Old People, Pal?

Fast Company recently wrote about AARP’s launch of a music service describing it as Pandora for old people. Well, if that isn’t the most insulting description (to boomers and Pandora), 45 record playerI haven’t seen one worse.

The article talks about boomers as though we have yet to discover the phonograph. Plenty of boomers are already using iPods and other mps players or getting their music from Pandora. Does the author or AARP think we will drop all our digital music sources just because they have come out with their own channel? I don’t think so.

The article descripes the AARP music service (prgrammed by Concord Music Group) as being designed for those entering the twilight years. Does that sound like any baby boomer you know? It has a “dead simple UI” the article notes. First of all, don’t say dead when you’re talking to us twilight year people, and secondly, you think we don’t know that UI stands for user interface? It goes on to describe the playlist as “a rotation of songs more common of sock hops than online streaming players.” Sock hops? Really? Really? The oldest of boomers have only a vague recollection of sock hops and that can be attributed to having older siblings.

AARP hopes this will help music-loving “seniors” (their word) make the transition to the digital age. Again with the belittling language. Are you telling me that the organization that should be looking out for baby boomer interests really thinks that we are so in the dark ages (with our phonographs), that we know nothing about digital music? They quote an AARP official who says that “because of changes in format and whatnot, a lot of them have gotten lost in terms of how to find their music.”

Then they trot out statistics that while “baby boomers represent the world's largest generation, they consume very little digital music compared to younger generations....those 45 and older represented barely 11% of iPod use; teens, on the other hand, represented more than 65%.”

Did it occur to anyone that maybe boomers are smart enough not to make their hearing any worse by listening to music on an iPod. Those statistics do not mean that boomers are not digital music consumers --- it just means that they don’t listen to their digital music on an iPod. A lot of boomers are listening to music on their computers at home and at work. They’re using Pandora, iTunes, and Cloud players; listening to the Tiny Desk Concerts on NPR; and learning about new artists and genres everyday. They read music reviews and then go on older driverAmazon to sample various tracks before buying songs or an entire MP3 album.

The final insult of the article is this direct quote. “AARP has a massive reach, and a good shot at capturing the baby boomer digital music market. At least the part of the market that's willing to move on from transistor radios and 8-tracks.”

You read that right -- the author has implied that boomers still use transistor radios and play 8-track tapes. Does that make you want to grab your pitchfork and light out for the AARP offices?

While we might remember when 45s had a big hole in the middle, boomers are a lot more sophisticated about digital music than AARP thinks, and that may not bode well for their new “oldies” channel.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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