Oct 2nd 2014

What does your musical taste say about your personality and lifestyle?

by Adrian North

Adrian North is Head of School of Psychology and Speech Pathology at Curtin University. Adrian North is interested in the social and applied psychology of music. His research concerns music and well-being in specific population (e.g., suicidality among rock fans) and the general population (e.g., use of digital music in everyday life to improve mood); the impact of music on consumer behaviour (e.g., purchasing, advertising etc.); and theories of musical preference and taste.
Abba - Knowing me, knowing you

I’m quite used to receiving abuse concerning the content of this column, but in contrast my previous post (about why fans of heavy metal shouldn’t have been banned from a pub) seems to have caused some interest in what one can infer from somebody’s musical taste about their personality and lifestyle.

The simple answer is an awful lot! In 2010 I surveyed 36,518 people about their liking for 104 musical styles and their personality. Self-esteem was highest among fans of blues, funk, jazz, classical music, opera, and rap, but lowest among fans of heavy metal, indie, and punk.

The most creative fans were those who liked jazz, classical music, opera, and indie, whereas lower creativity was linked to liking for easy listening and chart pop. The hardest-working fans were those who liked country and pop, whereas those who regarded themselves as relatively lazy tended to like funk and indie.

The most sociable and outgoing fans were those who liked funk, country, rap, and dance music, whereas more reserved people tended to like classical music and heavy metal. The gentlest people in my sample liked opera, easy listening, and heavy metal, whereas the most headstrong tended to prefer dance music, indie, and punk. The most nervous fans were those who liked chart pop, whereas those who were most at ease with themselves preferred blues, funk, jazz, classical music, and heavy metal.

Links between musical taste and people’s more general lifestyles are also manifold and wide-ranging. Factors concerning money, education, employment and health tended to show that those who like high art music are wealthier, better educated, and in higher status jobs. Fans of jazz, opera and classical music in particular seem to lead blessed lives with the highest income, and greater access to financial resources (e.g. several bank accounts, credits cards, and owning shares in companies).

This greater wealth means they also spend more on food than others, and prefer to drink wine. As an academic, I might also add that this wealth is probably because they were more likely to have a Masters degree or PhD; and it is interesting that they are also more likely to give something back to the community by doing voluntary work.

But income and education can’t explain all the differences between the lifestyles of fans of different styles. Fans of opera and jazz were more likely than most to vote for right-wing political parties, but this conservatism was shared with country music fans. Similarly, despite their typically right-wing voting habits, fans of classical music and opera were among the most likely to favour development of green energy sources, whereas fans of hip hop and R&B, despite their radical counter-culture stereotype, were happiest with the fossil fuel status quo.

What is also interesting about these findings is the extent of overlap between those who like musical styles that are, on the surface, very different. Country and classical music fans overlap considerably in everything but their income, in reflection of a shared conservative worldview; and opera and heavy metal fans also united on more than just their love of dramatic music, as they share similarly creative and gentle personalities.

So someone’s musical taste does tell you a lot about them, but as these examples show, many of the stereotypes of the fans are nothing more than that. Moreover, the gross differences between fans that do exist in terms of, for example, income and conservatism, express themselves in some very specific ways in everyday attitudes and behaviour.

The Conversation

Adrian North does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

For Adrain North's web site, please click here.

For Adrian North's Twitter account, please click here.


Browse articles by author

More Music Reviews

Jul 9th 2021
EXTRACT: " .....I have to give everything in these concerts,.... "
Jun 26th 2021
EXTRACT: What do you want to be known as? --- As “Stewart Goodyear, composer and pianist”.
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: Denis Pascal, founder of the French Trio Pascal: ".....recording studios began working again. We recorded our Schubert trios at the end of September. And musicians everywhere are finding that the crisis allows time for a certain introspection and questioning into the way music is performed. Music will play a much more important role after the crisis."
Feb 12th 2021
EXTRACTS: "She began her piano training rather late in life – age 8." ..... "I want to contribute a sense of joy by discovering atypical works that might surprise an educated public. I have great experience and am inclined to share them with anyone who can appreciate them, or as André Gide wrote, anyone “who has an open mind”."
Jan 31st 2021
EXTRACTS: "A new recording of Franz Liszt’s piano compositions presents ten carefully balanced pieces in a double-CD album aptly titled Between Light and Darkness, launched by Piano Classics. The pianist, the veteran French virtuoso Vincent Larderet .... Larderet opens his CD with a moving exploration of Après une Lecture de Dante with a tortured lyricism unmatched by many of his contemporaries who play it. I was stunned the first time I heard his performance. In our interview below, he describes lyricism as “an essential facet of my musical conception. The piano must be able to sing like the human voice.” "
Jan 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "Jack Kohl is an American pianist and writer with three novels and two essay collections to his credit. His new collection, From the Windows of Diligence: Essays from a Standing Pianist, has drawn critical acclaim in the U.S. and Europe. In these reflections, he examines the power of ‘hack pianism’, the metaphor of running vs. the piano, and the ‘hidden gift’ of the Covid virus pandemic on solitary practicing. Robert Beattie spoke to Kohl about his music training and how he made the transition from pianist to author. (This edited interview was first published on www.Seenandheard-international.com and is reproduced with permission.)"
Dec 17th 2020
EXTRACT: "Freedom in Beethoven’s music takes many, frequently overlapping forms. There is heroic freedom in the Eroica (1803), freedom from political oppression in the Egmont Overture (1810), artistic freedom and innovation in the Ninth Symphony (1824). Today, Beethoven’s music remains deeply connected with a true humanism, which has the principles of freedom and self-determination at its heart. The composer’s music grew out of the age of European Enlightenment, which located human reason and the self at the centre of knowledge......"
Nov 27th 2020
EXTRACT: "One of the most durable tales in Western civilization – the legend of Faust – is brilliantly rendered in a piano adaptation, performed this week by the multi-talented Australian musician of German/Slovenian parentage, Ashley Hribar. A new recording of the music, now available digitally, will appear as a CD in the New Year. Hribar calls his recording, “Faust: A Mortal’s Tale”.  It is a personal musical reflection on the Faust story, loosely based on the 1926 silent film by Wilhelm Friedrich Murnau."
Aug 6th 2020
EXTRACT: "For 60 minutes, my mind was clear, the air was clean and the sound heavenly. It was my honor and privilege to have been there."
Jul 25th 2020
EXTRACT: "Scarlatti sonatas are enjoying a popular surge in recent years, tempting pianists –Europeans, Americans, Asians -- to try to master their broad range. Margherita has some advice: “Don’t be afraid to slow down, to speed up, to play the truly singable melodies with a quasi-Romantic feeling.” "
Jul 18th 2020
EXTRACT: "The dizzying output of John Cage the musician, the poet, the writer, the thinker, the artist, was so prolific that one of his sidelines – his interests in wild mushrooms -- has been almost overlooked. A new a two-volume set of books, beautifully designed by Capucine Labarthe, packaged in an elegant slipcover, seeks to fill this gap."
Jul 9th 2020
EXTRACT: "In our chat by telephone, Paley spoke from his Paris apartment and asserted his belief that Rameau was “the greatest French composer ever. Pure genius and very special colors.” He acknowledges his extensive research into the period of Rameau’s life (1683-1764) in order to recreate the spirit of the time."
Jul 8th 2020
EXTRACT: "In A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and subsequent films, Morricone opted for an unprecedented fusion of archaic-sounding lines in the melody, reminiscent of medieval modal music. He intermixed this sound with contemporary pop touches (the Fender electric guitar), wordless choirs, unusual instruments (Jew’s harp, ocarinas, mariachi trumpets…) and ambient sounds (whip cracks, whistles, gunshot, coyote’s howls). He also infused scores with his trademark humour. This can be heard in the comedy western Il Mio Nome è Nessuno (My Name is Nobody, Tonino Valerii, 1973) where a toy trumpet toots bits of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries."
Jul 1st 2020
EXTRACT: "Question: Are you collaborating with living composers? Answer: Yes, Scott Wollschleger sends me unfinished new works every month. Keeril Makan is working on a piano concerto. Melaine Dalibert has dedicated several recent works to me. There are more names on the horizon. But these are the three where I feel I can have a big impact on their careers, and all three write music that I feel born to play. That combination of things is important to me."
Jun 1st 2020
EXTRACT: "Question: How do you see your musical mission today? Answer: My real passion in music is to resist popularity rankings and market forces. In my view, these currents impoverish our cultural richness........."
May 1st 2020
EXTRACT: Alessandro Deljavan: "I bought a former convent 40 kilometers from Pescara, in Villamagna. It's very important for me to breathe clean air and live as simply as possible. Life in a giant city full of cars and smog is hard for me to imagine. My perspective is always to live fully. My aspirations for the best musical experiences guides my decisions and over the past several years I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with some wonderful musicians—these experiences have brought me a sense of optimism for what might lie ahead.”
Apr 16th 2020
EXTRACT: "Federico Mompou, the reclusive Catalonian composer whose calm, spare piano writing is currently enjoying a rebirth, might well look askance at any effort to pull him forward into modern mode. Such was never his genre but that’s precisely what one of his ardent admirers, pianist Maria Canyigueral, proposed to do. The result is her intriguing new CD, Avant-guarding Mompou."
Mar 22nd 2020
EXTRACT: "In our interview, Prof. Réach says he cautions his students in Barcelona to approach the Variations with care, warning them “the path will be long and will require great patience”. He has personally overcome his fear of this “masterpiece of masterpieces”, having recorded them three times and performed them in about 15 countries a total of about 150 times."
Mar 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "The 88-key piano looks headed for a major transformation in the coming decades. The mechanism under the lid is based on a 130-year-old design and many specialists believe it is time to dispense with those delicate moving parts.  As innovative Australian piano builder Wayne Stuart says, “The piano has been crying out for a rethink for over a hundred years.” "