David killed Goliath, beauty killed King Kong, and video killed the radio star. There have been plenty of shocking murders in human lore, but none so bitterly contested as what Millennials are killing off in their ignorance and elitism.
It seems like every other day there’s a new article clutching pearls about the next sacred institution kids these days have their sights on destroying, so let’s take a look at three that might be on the endangered list due to other factors.
Domestic beer sales are declining, and there’s a lengthy historical explanation behind it.
In 1516 the Germans, undisputed masters of brewing, enacted a beer purity law: only malted barley, water, hops, and yeast would be allowed in beer, and anything else was an affront to the craft. That same sentiment came across the pond when German brewers arrived stateside in droves in the mid-1800s, kicking off a long, successful 60~ years of early American brewing history. Beer consumption was at an all-time high, and drinkers were treated to the best of what German brewing culture had to offer.
But anti-German sentiment in the wake of two World Wars dramatically changed our nation’s beer landscape, and suddenly styles that had been wildly popular in the 1800s were cast aside. The result was that American breweries, and the German brewers who worked there, masked their heritage and began brewing all-American beers with all-American ingredients… meaning no more of those fancy European malts and all those high-brow flavors they carried.
Following the national nightmare of Prohibition, American drinkers didn’t seem to care about the degradation of beer quality. They had been weaned on fizzy soda pop for a decade, so what amounted to alcoholic soft drinks became the staples of the new American beer market. Carbonation was key, and as long as drinkers got a buzz they couldn’t care less about the cheap ingredients that went into the recipe.
That set the stage for the Budweisers, Millers, and Pabsts that Boomers grew up with. Then along came Gen X, and the formative stages of the craft beer revolution. Drinkers fed up with see-through, tasteless beer revived interest in traditional German, British and Belgian styles and introduced them to a new generation of drinkers. Suddenly beer could be dark, malty, chocolatey, citrusy, fruity, bitter, or any number of previously unimaginable flavors and flavorless fillers like rice and corn in Big Beer’s bottles stopped cutting it.
Enter Millennials with our obsession with locally-sourced, fresh ingredients, and we fell right into line in the battle against Big Beer. Call it elitism if you will, but there was a long, winding path that led us here.
Are Millennials truly to blame?
Even though 44% of Millennials have never so much as consumed a Budweiser, there are other forces at play in Big Beer’s decline. The entire alcohol industry is slacking, and Americans of all ages are becoming savvier about the booze they do purchase. More than half of Boomers consider craft beer an “affordable luxury,” and around more than 70% of both Boomers and Gen Xers admit to purchasing alcohol based on taste rather than price.
So while beer sales are slowing overall, other indulgences like wine and spirits are on the rise. Some even argue that competition from recreational legalized cannabis is cutting into beer sales. Whatever the true cause, it’s clear that no amount of Bud Light Lime can stop the bleeding.
As domestic titans like AB InBev scramble to scoop up the craft minnows nibbling away at their toes, their stocks continue to stagnate. With over 5,200 craft breweries located across the US and more opening every day, it’s no wonder millennials are reaching for the glass of fresh beer off the tap a block from their apartments rather than the domestic bottle.
Netflix now has more subscribers than cable television.
50.9 million Americans, to be exact, subscribe to Netflix, with an additional 12 million using its competitor Hulu. With the blood of Blockbuster still on our hands, we Millennials turned our attention to the cable giants and overwhelmingly rejected their offer.
Cable packages have swelled in price on the value proposition of providing hundreds of channels with seemingly infinite content. For the low cost of $100 or so per month, you could get access to all the movies, cooking programs, game shows, comedy and drama you could ever watch. On a single tv, in a single room of your home.
Or, for $10/mo you could access similar content through streaming services on your phone, tablet, laptop, desktop and smart TV.
Doesn’t the former model seem archaic in comparison? If you’re paying for something, Millennials want it to be accessible wherever it makes sense.
The success of streaming services can be traced back to an issue of convenience, and that goes back before the average American had twenty screens on their person at all times. In the early 2000s, the success of DVR addressed the dilemma of viewers having to be glued to their seats at a specific time in order to catch their favorite show.
DVD rental by mail, like Netflix, pioneered in its infancy, addressed the laziness of viewers who didn’t want to drive to the video store to pick out a movie. Streaming services took these solutions to their next logical step, and Millennials have been Netflix and chilling ever since.
Are Millennials truly to blame?
The American Customer Satisfaction Index shows that even as far back as the turn of the millennium, people were fed up with their cable providers. Those numbers have stayed held their ground at best and slipped for many of the big players in the industry.
So, many Millennials grew up listening to their parents complain about their sky-high bills and poor customer service. By the time we moved out, there were already copious convenient alternatives that don’t break the bank. Cord-cutting seems to be the way of the future, as evidenced by the 810,000 Americans who ditched cable in Q2 2016 alone.
Also of note, Americans 45-54 years of age are the quickest-growing demographic of Netflix users. Millennials may have started this fight, but Gen X is helping us finish it.
Some TV stations have wizened up and are offering standalone streaming packages, like HBO GO and Showtime’s app. While they don’t hold a candle to Netflix as far as subscribers go, it’s evident that some players in the industry see which way the wind is blowing.
Every homeowner will tell you that maintaining a house is quite the experience, but Millennials are chasing experiences of a different sort. My generation is still saving up for big purchases, but those tend to be going on vacation or snatching up concert tickets.
One way we’re saving up is by sticking with renting over buying, and that comes with a greater sense of freedom. While homeownership inarguably provides more stability, renting allows Millennials to stay “liquid” in both money and living situation. Being able to abandon a lease every year (or sooner, if you can find someone to sublet) gives much-valued flexibility to our lifestyles.
That yearn for flexibility translates to a looser sense of ownership than previous generations. Why buy movies when you can stream them from Netflix? Why buy a new vehicle when you can ride the subway and rent an electric car when needed? Likewise, why spend tens of thousands of dollars on a home when you can rent an apartment for a few hundred dollars a month?
Student debt coupled with stagnant wages makes home ownership seem like a pipe dream, and having to do yard work and maintain a home on top of working several jobs to cover living expenses truly sounds like hell. So while Baby Boomers may laugh at Millennials for not knowing how to mow a lawn, Millennials laugh at Baby Boomers for having to in the first place.
Are Millennials truly to blame?
Not on your life.
The housing market has been, is currently, and will continue to be crap: by 2025 overall homeownership rate is expected to fall to its lowest since the mid-1950s.
You can’t blame Millennials for avoiding the game when, perceivably, the only winning move is not to play. The playing field is much different than the 80s and 90s when Boomers and Gen Xers were buying. Investing money in real estate is a risky financial decision in today’s market, and our pocketbooks are in no shape to weather the storm.
Also, there’s that whole student debt thing again. There are currently 44.2 million Americans with student loan debt, with average monthly payments of $350. So you’ll forgive us if we get testy when our predecessors actively fight against raising the minimum wage and mock us for latching onto low-rent apartments.