Survey Reveals Music Preference Trends

In his poem The Mourning Bride written in 1697, William Congreve noted that “Music has charms to sooth a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak”, and it has long been accepted that music has the power to evoke strong emotions – both positive and negative – or have a soothing effect in times of stress. A recent study on musical preferences carried out by music researcher Dr Jane Davidson of the University of Western Australia and psychologist Dr Adrian North of Curtin University revealed some interesting insights on the reasons behind people’s musical choices.


Thought to be the largest study of its kind, the survey was carried out in North America, Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, France, New Zealand and Australia, with nearly 29,000 people participating. Past surveys focused on how musical preferences varied between social groups and individuals, while this survey aimed to determine the differences in musical preferences between different cultures. The survey included more than a hundred different music styles and it was noted that preferences changed with geographical location, while employment and education played a relatively unimportant role.

It was interesting to note that the majority of respondents in North America favored classical music, while the countries where some of the best classical music originated from – Germany and France – rated this genre very low and many preferred music with a rebellious tone. Scandinavians have a preference for rock, and New Zealanders and Australians gave jazz a higher rating than other regions, while rating most styles similarly.

It was also found that people listen to music to alleviate tension, loneliness or boredom. Dr North noted that music was like an ’emotional bandaid’ to many people, as it helped them get through the day. He also noted that Australians and New Zealanders had a tendency to use music to create an impression with other people, whereas this was relatively unimportant for survey respondents in North America, the UK and Ireland.