Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Taylor Swift, or Beyoncé? Which do you choose and why? The first insight is that tastes depend on the music itself, but a new big data-based study says not only: the musicians ‘personality also plays a key role in listeners’ preferences.
The work is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and its managers are researchers from the Bar-Ilan University (Israel) and the Columbia Business School (United States), who conclude that musical preferences are driven by the social, psychological and group dynamics.
Thus, by analyzing the public personalities of famous musicians or music bands, and the personality traits of their fans, the team showed that people prefer the creation of artists whose public personalities are similar to their own, an experience they have called the “ self-congruence effect of music ”.
One would think that music pleases itself, but that is only half the story, say the authors, who summarize: the other half has nothing to do with the artist’s work at all.
To reach these conclusions, three independent studies were carried out with more than 80,000 people in total and several factors were examined: the ratings of 50 of the most famous musicians in the western world, the reactions of listeners to real musical stimuli and lyrics of the music of the artists.
The musicians examined were diverse, from Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Whitney Houston, The Rolling Stones to Beyoncé, Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift and Ozzy Osbourne, explains a press release from the University of Bar -Ilan.
The results show that the personality adjustment between the listener and the musician predicts musical preferences similar to the adjustment for gender, age and even the audio characteristics of the music.
The researchers point out that the musicians’ perceived personality or “public person” was measured, not their real personalities.
For the study authors, “the findings are a breakthrough in this area of research and show that musical preferences are driven by social, psychological, and group dynamics.”
The results highlight the social powers of music and how it gives followers a sense of pride and belonging to a social world.
David Greenberg, a professional musician with a scholarship from the Zuckerman School at Bar-Ilan University, points out that “in today’s world, where social divisions are increasing, our studies show us how music can be a common denominator to unite the people”.
For Sandra Matz of the Columbia Business School and one of the authors, the findings can help record labels make new approaches, or for management, to target audiences.
Furthermore, the conclusions can be applied to situations related to mental health.
For example, in times of stress and uncertainty, listeners can seek music from artists with personalities similar to their own and feel understood and with a sense of connection, says Andrew Schwartz of Stony Brook University.
The authors also present some graphics on the personality of the fans, including one on sympathy: the followers of the Dave Matthews Band, Marvin Gaye, Norah Jones and U2 are the most affable, while the fans of David Bowie, Nirvana and Ozzie Osbourne, the least.
More frank, according to another graph, are the followers of Daft Punk, David Bowie or Radiohead, and less those of Justin Bieber, George Strait or 50 Cent.