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Delicate Things
September 5, 2008 12:05 PM   Subscribe

Who you are is what you listen to: Prof. Adrian North of Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University recently published results of what the Beeb calls "the largest study of its kind" linking music listening habits to personality characteristics. His breakthrough conclusions? Heavy metal listeners, contrary to public perception, are not a "suicidally depressed" or a "danger to themselves and society in general. But they are quite delicate things."

Ok, the personality descriptions read like a newspaper daily horoscope personality profile, but while I'm a jazz fan (outgoing, creative, high self-esteem), you Indie fans are "Low self-esteem, creative, not hard working, not gentle" and in other news, "drivers who listen to blues music in their cars are the most likely to be caught speeding." And from the MeFi archives, Wanna come up to my place & see my record collection?

Apparently, Professor North thinks this will help the Music Industry figure out how to market to us based on our personalities to stem declining CD sales. Good luck with that.
posted by beelzbubba (65 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I keep getting a 404.
posted by Hildegarde at 12:11 PM on September 5, 2008


I keep getting a 404.

That's because you listen to John Cage.
posted by cimbrog at 12:17 PM on September 5, 2008 [35 favorites]


*gasp* HOW DID YOU KNOW
posted by Hildegarde at 12:18 PM on September 5, 2008


"drivers who listen to blues music in their cars are the most likely to be caught speeding."

Completely unrelated to racial profiling, I'm sure.
posted by DU at 12:23 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I suspect drivers who listen to blues music in their cars are 90% white.
posted by languagehat at 12:24 PM on September 5, 2008 [16 favorites]


Here's the press release which contains some of the conclusions in chart form. I'd like to see hard data, though - this seems awfully nebulous (I suppose my longstanding haaaaaate and distrust for personality tests is a factor).

Some of the researcher's other work also looks interesting, though.

"...liking for ‘problem’ music was not associated with a greater tendency for participants to identify closely with licentious behaviours carried out by pop musicians."
posted by marginaliana at 12:25 PM on September 5, 2008


I'm outraged and offended that my glorious niche musical subgenres weren't included in their list. This probably means that I'm a snob but crave the attention and acceptance of the cool kids.

I hate your music but for pete's sake hold me close!
posted by cowbellemoo at 12:27 PM on September 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


So what did Hitler listen to?
posted by sour cream at 12:27 PM on September 5, 2008


Drivers who listen to smooth jazz in their cars are the most likely to be caught being douchebags.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:29 PM on September 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


What am I if I listen to pretty much anything that isn't crap? I'm currently looking at the following album covers (the past week's listening pile):

Them, Zappa and the Mothers, African Head Charge, Neutral Milk Hotel, Temptations, T-Rex, Dionne Warwick, Primal Scream, Devo, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Einsturzende Neubauten, Electric Light Orchestra, Black Sabbath, Flying Saucer Attack, Tones On Tail, Beastie Boys ...
posted by philip-random at 12:30 PM on September 5, 2008


I'm seeing it now! Sorry, must have been the tubes around my house.
posted by Hildegarde at 12:30 PM on September 5, 2008


So what did Hitler listen to?

Well, if we reverse engineer it, obviously he was an Indie kid.
posted by beelzbubba at 12:31 PM on September 5, 2008


Well it seems everyone but country music, rap and pop music fans is creative.
posted by clockworkjoe at 12:33 PM on September 5, 2008


Well thank god that list at the end wasn't totally Euro-centric and included indigenous music styles from all over the world from a myriad of cultures.

Wait...
posted by ZaneJ. at 12:33 PM on September 5, 2008


> What am I if I listen to pretty much anything that isn't crap?

Then all of MetaFilter will bow at your feet in tribute to your iconoclastic cool.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:36 PM on September 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


My preferences, let me show you them.
posted by everichon at 12:43 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Music 'can enhance wine taste' - same researcher, same news site, May 2008

In fact, he's quite busy in this area.
posted by pracowity at 12:46 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm outraged and offended that my glorious niche musical subgenres weren't included in their list. This probably means that I'm a snob but crave the attention and acceptance of the cool kids.

I hate your music but for pete's sake hold me close!


They had reggae and bollywood, but no punk :(
posted by bolda at 12:48 PM on September 5, 2008


> Music 'can enhance wine taste'

Interesting. It works the other way around, too.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:48 PM on September 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


All I know is that Rob Halford concurs with the findings.
posted by beelzbubba at 12:49 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


What am I if I listen to pretty much anything that isn't crap? I'm currently looking at the following album covers (the past week's listening pile):

A tedious knob who'll take any opportunity to showcase his oh-so-sophisticated tastes?
posted by atrazine at 12:52 PM on September 5, 2008 [16 favorites]


What am I if I listen to pretty much anything that isn't crap? I'm currently looking at the following album covers (the past week's listening pile):

The magic 8 ball has analysed the records that you list, and predicts that you should be almost ready to draw your old age pension.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:52 PM on September 5, 2008


Indie listeners "not gentle"? What. So much of the genre now seems based around an effort to translate soft woolly blankets into sound format. Sufjan? Belle and Sebastian? Iron and Wine? Does that make this The Boy Least Likely To song a plead for mercy?
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:00 PM on September 5, 2008


not gentle

I had members of the Ys Street Band stomp me and take my wallet once. Admittedly, my guard was down.

Never again.
posted by everichon at 1:09 PM on September 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


and in other news, "drivers who listen to blues music in their cars are the most likely to be caught speeding."

What percentage of drivers listening to hip hop were caught ridin' dirty?
posted by louche mustachio at 1:23 PM on September 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Joanna Newsom will fuck your shit up, to be sure.
posted by Dr-Baa at 1:23 PM on September 5, 2008


Sorry, but I call no way. I took the survey to see if there was more detail (there's a link in the press release). Nope. How are these variables operationalized? The survey asks you to rank genres, but with absolutely no guidelines as to what they mean by these labels. What the hell is chart pop anyway? What's on the charts now? Or 10, 15, 20 years ago? Or what about pop that never made it on the charts? What is the difference between hard rock and classic rock? And what the hell is gothic metal (as opposed to heavy metal)? Plus, the scale used goes from 0 (strongly dislike) to 7 (strongly like). What if I have no opinions about a style? I don't dislike reggae, but I don't like it, I have no feelings at all about reggae. Do I select 0, or 5 (as neutral ), or does 5 indicate that I like it somewhat?

I don't see how these data can possibly be valid given the lack of definitions for the categories they're asking people to rank.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 1:34 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


(Sorry, that should be scale of 1-10 for rankings. Need to preview more).
posted by DiscourseMarker at 1:35 PM on September 5, 2008


Based on my own music habits, I apparently manage to be simultaneously at ease and not, to be simultaneously outgoing and reclusive, and manage to have both high and low self esteem.

Where's the music preference if you're feeling hungry? Or subtly pensive? Or obsequious, purple and clairvoyant?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:41 PM on September 5, 2008


Rap: High self-esteem, outgoing

Heavy Metal: Low self-esteem, not outgoing

So, I have average self esteem, and I like to get stuck in doorways.
posted by aftermarketradio at 1:42 PM on September 5, 2008 [5 favorites]


Colorless green ideas sleep furiously while listening to country.
posted by Bromius at 1:51 PM on September 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


And what the hell is gothic metal (as opposed to heavy metal)?

Gothic Metal generally takes many of the tones of the 70's - 90's Heavy Metal and Hard Rock scene, but with a downturned tempo and tonal structure. Tiamat, Paradise Lost and Type O Neg are some more well-known examples of such, altho some may argue that they fall more towards the Doom Metal side of things.

Heavy Metal as a genre developed earlier in the 70's from things such as Black Sabbath, Led Zep and the like, became more of a standoff from regular rock with Judas Priest, Iron Maiden etc, and then started to splinter into the many many subgenres we saw throughout the 80's (Hair Metal and then Glam Metal, Speed Metal to Grind and Death Metal, etc). Mostly a historical term at this point, except for some revivalist bands who are hearkening back to a specific 80's sound - 3 Inches of Blood, Dragonforce, and the like - altho those could be said to be more specific than just Heavy Metal (Speed Metal and Power Metal, altho both bands are Fantasy Metal to some extent).

I mean, since you asked.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:54 PM on September 5, 2008


"Gentle?" Like "Nice to children and puppies," or "doesn't accidentally break fancy wine glasses," or "can steer through a corner at 140mph slicker than goose shit" or wtf is that even supposed to mean?
posted by rusty at 1:56 PM on September 5, 2008


I don't see how these data can possibly be valid given the lack of definitions for the categories they're asking people to rank.

I totally agree with DiscourseMarker and find this study dubious. "High self-esteem" and "outgoing" --or their opposites -- seem to be common to too many music styles, and even those are too ill-defined to make such sloppy conclusions as these. There must be, and are, better criteria than this bubble-gum pyschology. As well as being a musician, I've dealt with hundreds of them (us?) professionally over a few decades, and I find the elements here very generalized and often untrue. It's crap.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 2:03 PM on September 5, 2008


3 Inches of Blood are more like thrash than speed metal. I also think that metal microgenre typing should refer to the type of music played, rather than the band's chosen subject matter - although that's obviously important. Amon Amarth are death metal rather than viking metal, for instance.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 2:12 PM on September 5, 2008


What am I if I listen to pretty much anything that isn't crap? I'm currently looking at the following album covers (the past week's listening pile):

Them, Zappa and the Mothers, African Head Charge, Neutral Milk Hotel, Temptations, T-Rex, Dionne Warwick, Primal Scream, Devo, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Einsturzende Neubauten, Electric Light Orchestra, Black Sabbath, Flying Saucer Attack, Tones On Tail, Beastie Boys ...


Sorry. T Rex, Electric Light Orchestra, Primal Scream and Black Sabbath constitute a FAIL.
posted by jokeefe at 2:25 PM on September 5, 2008


Ooh, ooh, also, I couldn't see how they were coming up with qualities like outgoing, or gentle. There were a series of questions that were so obviously about self esteem (obvious to anyone whose taken a Psyc 101 course or seen an after-school special) that I wonder if people might be tempted to game them, and then a bunch of questions asking about how much I trusted, confided, etc. in my mother, father, romantic partner, and my best friend. If I hardly ever talk to my parents, does that make me "not gentle?" If I talk to my husband a lot, am I shy? Or outgoing?

Feh.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 2:26 PM on September 5, 2008


what if you mainly listen to podcasts without music?
posted by jrishel at 2:37 PM on September 5, 2008


Thrash, I can see, also I always thought they were a bit more tightly structured than Thrash allowed for. As for subject matter not being part of the genre-system, I'd have to disagree there - the entire "Christian [genre]" structure is based on not just the composition, but the content. Where would Earth Crisis be if their political lyric content wasn't part of their descriptor (aside from completely forgotten)?
posted by FatherDagon at 2:39 PM on September 5, 2008


I suspect drivers who listen to blues music in their cars are 90% white.
posted by languagehat

"Just so you know, officer...I'm 10% black..."

*loud Blues comes in*
posted by micayetoca at 2:46 PM on September 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm taking social research methods right now... joy. But I would question the quality of these results because of the method. They're asking how the music listener thinks of their personality, from what I can tell. You can't divorce a music genre from your culture, and your culture can dictate/influence your ideas of yourself and what are good personality traits you would be willing to report. I think it says more about the culture of each genre rather than the listeners' personality.
posted by metricfan at 2:48 PM on September 5, 2008


Purtle, I think this study would be a great example to dissect in your methods class. There are so many problems...

So I just went back the main survey page (http://www.peopleintomusic.com/)--there are actually two surveys, one for people ages 16-23, the other if you're over 24. The one I took originally was for the ahem, old people.

Turns out they're asking a bunch of different questions of younger people--even some of the music categories people are asked to rate are different. But I didn't see anything in the press release or other article about age-related variables.

They're asking 16-23 year-olds to rate how much they like grunge, for example, but they didn't ask me that (*sniffs*). I'm not sure a 16 year-old even knows what grunge is (was?).
posted by DiscourseMarker at 3:01 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


So what did Hitler listen to?

Wagner.
posted by philip-random at 3:57 PM on September 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


How can I be creative and not creative at the same time?
posted by divabat at 4:15 PM on September 5, 2008


[/derail by someone who has been pulled over for driving while 'Black']

I suspect drivers who listen to blues music in their cars are 90% white.
posted by languagehat

"Just so you know, officer...I'm 10% black..."

*loud Blues comes in*
posted by micayetoca


Please, stop that. It's annoying. [/derail ends]

posted by Minus215Cee at 4:16 PM on September 5, 2008


What am I if I listen to pretty much anything that isn't crap? I'm currently looking at the following album covers (the past week's listening pile):

98 Degrees, Color Me Badd, Slipknot, Céline Dion, Creed, Amy Grant, Kenny G, Yanni, ICP, Hannah Montana, Kenny Chesney, J-Lo, Michael Bolton, 2 Live Crew, Vanilla Ice….
posted by shakespeherian at 4:26 PM on September 5, 2008 [5 favorites]


How this study got published and how the BBC picked it up depresses me.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 4:27 PM on September 5, 2008


Equally compelling.
posted by everichon at 4:38 PM on September 5, 2008


Um, I listen to all these kinds of music. I must be Superman.
posted by davejay at 4:45 PM on September 5, 2008


I can't tell what I, as a person who listens to They Might Be Giants, Oingo Boingo and chiptunes, am supposed to be in marketing-speak. They had categories for "gentle," "creative", "outgoing", and "high self-esteem," but none for "fedora."

Also, Hitler liked Disney movie soundtracks. I mean I'm just saying.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:57 PM on September 5, 2008


I only listen to the sound of raw meat slapping oil drums, and the wailing of widows.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 5:16 PM on September 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I can't tell what I, as a person who listens to They Might Be Giants, Oingo Boingo and chiptunes, am supposed to be in marketing-speak.

Somebody who wears glasses.
posted by jonmc at 5:21 PM on September 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ehhhh. Yeah, what the other guy said about it reading like a horoscope.

I dunno. For me at least, the music I listen to has little to do with 'who I am', and a lot to do with 'what's my mood/where am I at mentally today'? Yesterday it was Mozart and Vivaldi, but today it's Slayer and Iron Maiden. Tomorrow it might be Sinatra.

I've always liked Metal, but I have never suffered from low self-esteem and have always been hard-working.

So yeah, I think they're being awfully simplistic about it.
posted by spirit72 at 5:21 PM on September 5, 2008


(I was right, wasn't I, Countess?) I like TMBG, too, but I went to see them a few years ago with two buddies (both of whom are four-eyes). I had a great time, but I'd never seen so many pairs of black-rimmed specs in my life.

Of course, I'm sure they have an equally glib characterization of somebody who listens to the Dictators, the Ramones and stuff from Nuggets and Back From The grave cooked up.
posted by jonmc at 5:28 PM on September 5, 2008


Please, stop that. It's annoying.

Since you quote my remark as if it came out of nowhere, I feel obliged to point out that it was in response to this, which seems to imply that anyone listening to the blues in a car must be black:

Completely unrelated to racial profiling, I'm sure.
posted by DU at 3:23 PM on September 5 [1 favorite +] [!]


Sorry if it offended you.
posted by languagehat at 5:33 PM on September 5, 2008




Please, stop that. It's annoying.

As the other person quoted, I just want to say sorry, didn't mean to offend, it's just that in languagehat's sentence it sounded as if the person was 90% black, not 90% of the universe of drivers. It was a silly joke with no bad intentions, sorry if it came across as something else.
posted by micayetoca at 6:10 PM on September 5, 2008


I am with Spirit72. My taste can run from Coltrane to Zep to Van der Graaf Generator to Fleet Foxes to Dvorak. I am always looking for something new, something stimulating. A test like this is just simplistic bullshit.
posted by Ber at 6:10 PM on September 5, 2008


As I read this thread, I'm listening to the Black Keys. Last FM tags them with indie, blues and rock. So that would make me, according to this list:
High self-esteem, creative, outgoing, gentle and at ease; Low self-esteem, creative, not hard working, not gentle; Low self-esteem, creative, not hard-working, not outgoing, gentle, at ease.
Ok, so I'm creative. That's simple. I'm two thirds lazy bum and two thirds at ease, which seems accurate. I have a 2:1 gentleness ratio. I am equal parts intovert/extrovert, which fits every Myers-Briggs test my high school gifted program made me take, and my self-esteem has a 2:1 gear ratio, which roughly corresponds to a torquey 2nd gear. Sounds about right.

Chalk up one anecdote in favor of bubblegum voodoo science!

I'm listening to Chulahoma, the best damn LP ever as far as I'm concerned.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 6:13 PM on September 5, 2008


Apparently heavy metal has as many genres as "electronic" music.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:40 PM on September 5, 2008


Apparently heavy metal has as many genres as "electronic" music.

But less acronyms.
posted by cj_ at 8:39 PM on September 5, 2008


Okay guys so lately I've been mostly listening to this one band, The Miskatonic Folk Standards Club and Gentlemen's Octet, that makes songs like this: they take some totally authentic roots folk melody, it doesn't matter what kind of folk music as long as it's got the authenticity thing going, so it could be like an Irish reel or a Yoruba chant or a Tuvan throat-singing thing or what the fuck have you. Then they recenter it into Locrian mode, and then they hit the studio and record it at usually about 1.75 times the original tempo, with the basic guitars-bass-drums combo, except the bass is an upright bass with a pickup attached to it, which gives it a completely different sound and makes you consider the bassline in more of a contrapuntal context. And then usually they bring in a classically-trained string quartet to provide some backing tracks, which they run through a thick-ass flanger. Seriously, they flange the fuck out of it. At least a couple songs per album are flanged so hard that they binaurally beat you into a Komando stupor. Then they press a few thousand copies, just enough to ship a small supply out to every decent record store in the lower 48, and I go out and buy one and listen to it and use it as a hook to tell people on the Internet about how eclectic my musical taste is, because even though the thread in question is a day old one can derive incredible pleasure just by dwelling on one's own enlightened aestheticism.

But don't look them up, you'd never understand them.

Am I gentle?
posted by decagon at 12:16 PM on September 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


Apparently heavy metal has as many genres as "electronic" music.

It's just that three people may have four names for the same genre.
posted by ersatz at 4:12 PM on September 6, 2008


Hmm. *puts on some soul music, hopes to achieve inner peace like everyone else*
posted by tehloki at 5:32 PM on September 6, 2008


[languagehat, micayetoca, I wasn't offended. Just a little saddened. If I'd been offended, I would have flagged and moved on. I decided to post in-thread merely to....ah, dammit, this is one of those subjects that I'd need to GMOFB in order to explain, at length, why the Inappropriate Hammer of Funny hit me in the knee instead of the funny bone. Thanks for your apologies.]

Okay. Carry on.

posted by Minus215Cee at 6:32 PM on September 6, 2008


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