Indie fans most open minded about music, pop fans most closed off

New research out of McMaster University’s Digital Music Lab shows just how open minded music fans are to different genres of music, based on their favourite genre. Where do you rank?

New research from McMaster University ranks music fans 'exclusivity' by genre

Enjoy indie bands like Arcade Fire? Then you're more likely to also be open minded and listen to other genres of music, according to new research out of Hamilton's McMaster University. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Indie music fans are most open minded to listening to different types of music, while pop fans are much less likely to branch out in their listening habits, according to new research out of McMaster University's Digital Music Lab.

Researchers in the lab – which is spearheaded by professor Matthew Woolhouse – have spent months pouring over data from more than a billion song downloads since it opened in 2013. Now, the university is starting to release their findings, which delve deep into the way we consume music.

One of the projects measures "exclusivity" – or how likely a fan of certain type of music is to also have other genres of music in his or her library.

And indie music fans, the research says you're the most open-minded listeners out there. Here's a list of genres, ranked from most open minded to least open minded:

  1. Indie
  2. Jazz
  3. Folk
  4. Country
  5. Classical
  6. Rock
  7. Metal
  8. Rap
  9. Dance
  10. Pop

"Some genres are very exclusive," Woolhouse told CBC News. "That says something about the type of person who likes that type of music."

"We think it relates to personality."

Can music fans play nice with each other?

So what exactly does that say about subcultures of music and the people who listen to them? Are pop fans just totally unable to get down to an old-timey bluegrass tune, and are indie fans also running out in droves to buy Kanye West albums?

Woolhouse doesn't have an easy answer – at least not yet, anyway. "It has to do with more complex sociological reasons that we're currently exploring," he said. "We're trying to get a handle on what features about a musical style make it more attractive to people who are exclusive."

Another interesting part of the data – which was provided by music service MixRadio (but without users' personal information) – comes from seeing how different genres of music intersect.

Jazz and classical listeners, for example, are the most likely to have songs from each others' preferred genre in their library on top of their own favourite type of music – so jazz fans also like classical, and vice versa. Pop and rock listeners work the same way too, and enjoy each others' genres.

On the flip side, some genres totally hate each other, like metal and jazz. The data shows those two genres barely intersect at all.

Then there are strange "asymmetrical pairings," where one genre likes another genre, but the reverse isn't the case – kind of like unrequited love. Country listeners tend to also like pop music, the data shows, but pop fans don't like country in the same way.

Rock and pop most popular music genres

The most popular genres in the study were pop and rock music, Woolhouse says, but that's partly because they're "so ubiquitous" and have lots of different artists lumped into them.

Though the project gives valuable insight into the world's music listening habits from 2007 to 2014, now it faces a new challenge – that streaming services are starting to totally eclipse downloading.

Woolhouse freely admits that "downloading is dead," but that doesn't mean the project is any less valuable, he said. This is still a historic database that gives a snapshot of one of the most important periods in the globalization of music.

"It doesn't undercut it – this is still a snapshot of a very important moment in time," he said.

Researchers are also examining the possibility of expanding the project to include music streaming data in the future.



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