Fans Prefer Musicians Whose Public Personalities are Similar to Them
Thu, February 2, 2023

Fans Prefer Musicians Whose Public Personalities are Similar to Them


There's no rhyme or reason for what kind of music people love. Some prefer pop while others enjoy country music. People listen to their music genre to set the mood, gain inspiration, or motivate a workout. However, scientists have proven, for the first time, that musical taste is influenced by the personality trait of the artist.

The self-congruity effect of music

In a study, which appeared in the American Psychological Association's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, authors Dr. David Greenberg and the team explained that fans prefer the music of artists whose public personalities are the same as theirs. They call this experience the self-congruity effect of music.

The study involved more than 80,000 people and their ratings of 50 famous musicians, ranging from Whitney Houston, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Coldplay, The Rolling Stones, Beyoncé, Ozzy Osbourne, Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, and Dave Matthews Band. Other factors considered by the team are the listeners’ reactions to musical stimuli and the lyrics of the music. This means that fans of English singer-songwriter David Bowie may be neurotic, Ozzy Osborne listeners disagreeable, and Marvin Gaye lovers conscientious, among others.

Researchers gave both artists and fans a personality score based on a system that rates these traits: openness, agreeableness, extraversion, neuroticism, and conscientiousness.

Fit in personality between musician and listener

In the three separate studies, the team found that the fit in personality between the musician and listener predicts the musical preferences. The authors, however, pointed out that the study only measured the perceived personality of the artists and not their actual personalities. They added that the findings are a major advance in research as it shows how musical preferences are driven by group, psychological, and social dynamics.

The social power of music

Dr. Greenberg and the team also highlighted the social power of music. They mentioned via Medical Xpress that music gives fans a sense of belonging and pride in a social world. Furthermore, it explains the evolutionary origins of music. That is, it evolved as a means to communicate group characteristics and have helped tribes in determining whether they will cooperate or not.

As a professional musician himself, Dr. Greenberg said that in the modern world where social divisions exist, their study highlighted that music can be a denominator to bring people together. Co-author Dr. Sandra Matz, who is an Assistant Professor at Columbia Business School, likewise said that their findings can lay the foundation for new approaches for music management or record companies to build and target audiences.

Stony Brook University's Assistant Professor Dr. Andrew Schwartz was also a part of the study. He said that their findings can also be applied to mental health. For instance, when listeners are feeling uncertain or stressed, they can choose the music of artists with the same personalities as them so they can feel a sense of connectedness or they will feel understood.

Taste in music and personality

According to Verywell Mind, a platform that provides health and wellness information, fans of pop music tend to be conventional, honest, and extroverted. They have high self-esteem and are hardworking. However, previous studies also show that pop music lovers tend to be more uneasy and less creative.

On the other hand, rap and hop music lovers are usually outgoing and have high self-esteem. The wellness platform negates the stereotype that hip hop music lovers are violent or aggressive. Despite also of the aggressive image that rock and heavy metal music portray, fans of this type of music are found to be quite gentle. They are often introverted and tend to be creative but may suffer from low self-esteem.

Fans of indie music are typically creative, intellectual, and introverted. Yet, they also tend to be less hardworking. The common personality characteristics among fans of the indie genre are anxiousness, low self-esteem, and passivity. Moreover, people who love dance music are usually assertive and outgoing. They tend to rank high in the trait of openness.

Classical music fans are more introverted but at ease with the world around them and with themselves. They have a good sense of self-esteem and creativity. People who enjoy soul, blues, and jazz music were found to have high self-esteem and are more extroverted. They likewise tend to be more at ease, intelligent, and very creative.



Favorite music genres, by age group

In a survey of 3,000 US respondents, 52% of respondents aged 16 to 19 years old consider pop music as their favorite music genre while classic rock is the most favorite genre of people aged 55 to 64 years old (60%).

Some 44% of people aged 25 to 34 prefer rock music and 54% of respondents aged 20 to 24 like hip hop or rap. This is according to database company Statista.

Most favorite music artists as of March 2020 charts

Digital media company Ranker also published in March the most famous music artist in the world. Top in the list is Ariana Grande, whose music genre is pop and contemporary R&B. Among her best songs of all-time are Dangerous Woman, No Tears Left to Cry, God is Woman, and Thank U, Next. As of March 2020 charts, Grande was voted by 17,016 people as their favorite music artist.

Other famous music artists that followed Grande are Billie Eilish (14,628 votes), Ed Sheeran (12,938), Shawn Mendes (12,923), Taylor Swift (12,431), Camila Cabello (9,920), Selena Gomez (9,220), Beyoncé Knowles (7,325), Post Malone (5,267), and Bruno Mars (7,471).



Global music industry

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry's (IFPI), which represents the recording industry worldwide, published that the Covid-19 pandemic presented challenges in the global music industry but revenues rose for the fifth straight year to $20.2 billion. The 23% increase in streaming revenues drove the growth in the global music industry. Streaming revenues totaled $11.4 billion, which accounted for 56% of all sales. The best-selling digital single in 2019 was Billie Eilish's "Bad Guy.” The song amassed a total of 19.5 million converted track equivalents.

The new theory on musical preferences shows how music plays an important role in society by forming the sociocultural interactions between individuals and groups and by influencing their intellectual and emotional life.