Music is not just entertainment – it can affect our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. If you need a boost of energy for a workout, you can put on a fast-paced groove; if you’re going through a breakup, a soothing ballad might be your choice instead – and most live performances and concerts are their own brand of energy. But this relationship between music and our psychology might not be as one-sided as we thought – our personalities might also affect our music choices. New research from Columbia Business School’s Assistant Professor of Business Sandra Matz, along with co-lead author David Greenberg of Bar-Ilan University and Cambridge University, H. Andrew Schwartz of Stony Brook University and Kai R. Fricke of Helmut-Schmidt-University Hamburg, suggests that music preferences go beyond personal choices shaped by mood or taste – instead a musician’s personality plays a large role as well.
By analyzing the public personas of famous musicians and bands and the personality traits of their fans, Matz and her co-authors show that people prefer the music of artists whose public personalities are similar to their own – an experience they’ve dubbed the “self-congruity effect of music.” In three separate studies of more than 80,000 people, the researchers looked at several factors: ratings of 50 of the most famous musicians in the Western world ranging from the personas of Frank Sinatra and Bob Dylan to Lil Wayne and Taylor Swift, and lyrics. The results show that a fit in personality between the listener and the artist predicts musical preferences similar to the fit for gender, age, and even the audio features of music.
This tie between a musician and a fan’s personalities helps explain how fanbases often band together in large groups embodied by “stan” culture – or those most avid fan bases – of some of today’s biggest acts. The music industry – indeed many forms of artist entertainment – are predicated in fans. The research has the potential to pave the way for new approaches by record companies or music management to target and build audiences, and understanding the social powers of music.
The study, The Self-Congruity Effect Of Music, is available online here.
Readers can visit www.musicaluniverse.io to take the music personality test and find how their personality and preferences match that of the artists.
About the researcher
Sandra Matz takes a Big Data approach to studying human behavior in a variety of business-related domains. She combines methodologies from psychology and computer...Read more.