Even fans of the same music can have very different tastes, study explains

MUNICH, Germany — Listening to music is an essential part of who many people are and how they connect with others. It influences our behavior, our mood, and even our judgment. However, describing musical taste accurately can be challenging due to the ever-changing nature of music. Maybe you only like rock music or perhaps classical is your thing. A new study finds people who enjoy the same genre of music can have vastly different tastes when it comes to sub-genres. This means that people should not view fans of a particular genre a homogenous group with identical preferences. Instead, the study found it’s important to recognize the diversity within each musical fanbase.

“When people talk about their musical tastes, they often use genre terms,” says lead study author Anne Siebrasse, a doctoral student at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, in a media release. “However, on a genre level, fans of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones would all be rock fans, however, they themselves would probably see huge differences.”

To capture these nuances, the researchers designed a questionnaire that allowed participants to rate their liking for specific sub-styles associated with the five examined genres:  European classical music, electronic dance music (EDM), metal, pop, and rock. This approach provided a more detailed understanding of different taste classes based on attitudes toward sub-genres.

While three of the classes showed similar levels of appreciation for all sub-genres, two classes preferred sub-styles that were either more challenging or easier to process. Across all genres, the mainstream variants were generally preferred over more unconventional alternatives.

Someone playing the keyboard
Someone playing the keyboard (Photo by Puk Khantho on Unsplash)

Furthermore, the researchers discovered that sociodemographic and personality variables, such as age, attitude, and openness, could predict which genre group or taste class individuals belonged to. For instance, in the realm of pop music, there was a clear correlation between preferred pop songs and the age of the subgroup. People tended to prefer pop music from the decade when they were around 20 years-old.

The study offers a more comprehensive understanding of the musical taste of the German population. While some findings may apply universally, others might be influenced by the history and cultural significance of specific genres in different regions. The researchers believe that their approach can serve as a foundation for further questionnaire development and could be expanded to explore other genres and regions. Additionally, future studies could combine surveys with sound examples to enhance the research on musical taste.

The study is published in the journal Frontiers of Psychology.

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