Electronic music is an acquired taste

Music tastes and identity. Social consequences of music preferences


1 Introduction

2. Young people and music

3. Taste cultures
3.1 Similarities of like-minded people in terms of taste
3.2 Perception of the listeners of different music genres

4. Music and Identity
4.1 Social contact
4.1.1 Need for friendship
4.1.2 Need to belong
4.2 Expression of identity
4.2.1 Music tastes and badge function
4.2.2 Group membership and social identity
4.2.3 Social Influence

5. Conclusion
5.1 Summary
5.2 Final remarks

6. Literature


Figure 1: Heider’s triad using the example of affection for jazz music 11

Figure 2: Relationship between likes and stimulus-arousal potential 224

1 Introduction

In the course of the spread of electronic media in the form of records, cassettes and CDs and the mass media distribution of content via radio, television and the Internet, there are increasing opportunities to expose yourself to music. While the annual sales of the American music industry exceeded one billion US dollars for the first time in 1967, it broke through the barrier of two billion dollars in 1973 and already exceeded twelve billion dollars in 1994 (Zillmann & Gan, 1997, p. 161). The importance of music has not only risen sharply in commercial terms, but has also gained an important place in the life of the listener.

Among the various functions that music fulfills in people's everyday lives, the present work deals with the question of how it is used by young people in search of their own identity. From a socio-psychological perspective, the aim is to examine how the consumption of music and the associated classification into a system of different taste cultures can be used as a means of defining the self-concept. It should be shown to what extent one's own taste in music can be used to express one's personality.

From a scientific point of view, it is important to use clear terminology for the inclination towards certain music. Viewed across a wide range of studies, however, it is not uniform and can therefore lead to misunderstandings (Behne, 2002, p. 339). Behne cites Abeles' proposal (1980), between current decisions (preferences / Preferences) and long-term orientations (button / Taste) (ibid.). “The colloquial and very diffuse term of Musical taste could therefore sensibly be used globally for the entire complex, Music preference on the other hand, for decision-making behavior in defined, concrete situations ”(ibid., emphasis placed by D.B.). This terminology should also be used for the present work. But there are also "authors who understand music preference as a 'grown, long-term, relatively stable system of value orientations acquired through experience'" (e.g. Jost, 1982, p. 246; quoted in Behne, 2002, p . 340). “On the other hand, the ... term der from social psychology is more concretely defined than the concept of taste

(musical) attitude“(Behne, 2002, p. 340, italics D.B.). This is a "mental and nervous state of readiness which, organized through experience, has a directing or dynamic influence on the reaction of the individual ..." (Kloppenburg, 1987, p. 188; cit. according to Behne, 2002, p. 340).

2. Young people and music

Previous studies that examined music reception and its identity-defining function focused almost exclusively on young people. No other phase of life seems to be more consumed by the need for music. “During this time there is a significantly increased consumption of music, which is strongly emotionalized and firmly anchored in the youth culture of the same age” (Dollase, 1997, p. 257). What is particularly astonishing is the rapid increase in interest in music around puberty and the equally rapid decline in the middle of the third decade of life (ibid.). In adolescence there is more listening, more talk about music, more information about music is sought and more music is discussed than with the average person in advanced years of life. Dollase (1997, p. 257) believes that one could speak of a real “music phase” or “musical age”, whereby almost every young person is covered in one form or another.

Puberty is the time when peer groups become increasingly important alongside parents. “Friends play an essential role, especially in the areas of finding myself and coping with emotional demands” (Baacke, 1997a, p. 14). So it is also the peer groups in which music is now predominantly heard. Baacke sees in this phase of life the "sensitive years in which the social network of relationships is restructured", and it is precisely here that it is "the music that increasingly not only provides a sound basis for situations, but also offers emotional stimuli or emotional processing aids" (ibid ). For example, a student could withdraw into the soundscape of pop after stress at school. According to Baacke, music is a “part of their existential experience” for young people (ibid.). It is experienced as “a holistic spectrum that spans the world in which the search for the I chooses its orientation pattern” (ibid.).

The intensity with which young people turn to certain types of music is "a sign of the depth of their hunger for adventure and at the same time a sign of the lack of opportunities to experience things in our real world" (Jerrentrup, 1997, p. 88). Jerrentrup draws a parallel here to the interest in leisure activities such as "free climbing", "bungee jumping" or "river rafting". One could also say that music functions during this time as “an outlet or compensation for frustrations that result from the limitation of life possibilities” (ibid., P. 89). That would at least explain why mid-twenties[1] the interest in music wanes, because adults who are firmly socialized and have won their place in this system will no longer be able to empathize with this feeling. In this context, Dollase speaks of the "downturn phase" (Dollase, 1997,

P. 360) young people and tries to explain various theses:

- The young adult establishes himself in his job, he starts a family, has other goals and ultimately does not find as much time and opportunity to take part in the music business as intensively as he used to.
- He recognizes that the symbolic and, depending on the class, other functions that he ascribed to music in his youth - as an expression of his attitude to life, to alleviate his problems, to find individuality or even just for relaxation and entertainment, etc. are now unable to cope with the constraints of an established adult life. Music takes on a less significant status - it no longer helps him in life with the same intensity as it used to.
- He feels out of place in the younger generation; as an older person, he gets to the edge of the age distribution and feels the compulsion to behave differently and to find new forms of music and culture consumption for himself.
- Life in a homogeneous culture of the same age becomes impossible with the professional and family establishment and mobility - an important support factor is omitted. It is by no means imperative to assume that the emotional, social and spiritual enrichment through participation in musical culture naturally diminishes in adulthood, but rather that an important area of ​​personal self-realization is pushed aside by other causes.

In contrast, the “age theory” (Mende, 1991) assumes that musical preferences shift depending on age. After the youth, people usually switch from rock and pop music to hits because music is only heard incidentally. “Even members of the 'beat generation' and subsequent younger generations prefer the hit song beyond adolescence” (Mende, 1991; quoted in Müller, 1994, p. 72). However, this connection apparently only applies to people for whom the music itself was not particularly important in their youth, those who listened to music in their youth because music belonged to the "youthful existence" (ibid.) And not to a large extent to the presentation of identity and self-education served (Müller, 1994, p. 72). It seems to be different with people who are particularly interested in music in their youth and who have a very intensive and knowledgeable relationship with music. “They remain so interested in music beyond adolescence that they follow new developments in their preferred genre with interest. Their relationship to music is to be seen as rather independent of age ”(ibid.).

3. Taste cultures

3.1 Similarities of like-minded people in terms of taste

Identical favorite artists and favorite songs do not seem to be the only common features of musically similarly oriented young people. Obvious similarities sometimes even show in appearance. The classification of distinct subgroups such as punks or fans of Gothic Rock, for example, is relatively easy due to typical clothing, hairstyle and make-up.

In addition to visual characteristics, fans of different music genres can also have character in common. Little and Zuckerman (1986) observed, for example, that the propensity for sensationalism correlates positively with the preference for rock, heavy metal or punk and negatively correlates with the preference for soundtracks or religious music. An American study (Rentfrow & Gosling, 2003) looked for connections between music preference and personality traits. The test persons stated their personal music preferences and then answered questions about their personality. The usual musical preferences were divided into four dimensions: Complex, thoughtful music (e.g.Classical and blues), intense, rebellious music (heavy metal and rock), conventional or upbeat music (pop and country) as well as energetic, rhythmic music (funk, rap, electronica). Personality traits such as openness to new experiences, self-perceived intelligence or political liberality were assigned to the former dimension (reflective music), while a negative correlation with the attribute dominance was observed. Rebel music fans were also classified as open and intelligent (in terms of self-awareness), while conventional music fans appeared to be more extroverted, amiable and politically conservative. Finally, fans of energetic music found positive relationships with the attributes pleasant, extroverted and politically liberal. The study was able to show that personality has an influence on music preferences.

The fact that the absolute truth (e.g. "Pop fans are conservative!") Is to be sought in vain in such studies is shown by the sometimes divergent results of various studies. However, it is useful to know that different personality traits are related to different music preferences. Another problem is the increasing diversification of musical styles. The large number of genre names makes classification into a few categories more and more difficult; this is shown by the various studies in which such classifications sometimes diverge considerably and the studies can therefore hardly be compared with one another.

Distinguishing features of supporters of certain music genres can also be demographic in nature. Some studies are devoted to the task of relating musical preferences to specific classifications according to age, gender, ethnicity, or social class. In this context, Skipper (1973; quoted from Zillmann & Gan, 1997, p. 166) observed among American students that classical music exerts more attraction on women than on men, as well as on whites more than on African-Americans. Skipper was also able to show that the preference for classical music decreases with decreasing social status. This connection could be explained by the fact that hardly any activity of the young people is so strongly determined by the domestic educational background as playing the instrument. Accordingly, nothing has such a strong impact on the music that you have played yourself. It is therefore understandable that classical music is always valued much more frequently by high school graduates, while pop music is valued more by elementary and secondary school students (Behne, 2002, p. 347). According to Skipper (1973), the preference for the folk genre also decreases with decreasing social status. The preference for pop and rock music was - apart from a lower affection of Afro-Americans - uniform across gender and social class. The preference for hard rock,

Finally, rhythm ’n’ blues and jazz stood in contrast to those for classical and folk music and affected men more than women, African-Americans more than whites, and people of lower social status more often than the opposite.

3.2 Perception of the listeners of different music genres

Knowing about the commonalities of the listeners of certain musical genres, the idea is not far that there is a need to standardize these groups and to provide them with appropriate attributes. There are "stereotypical ideas ... about people to whom different musical 'locations" are ascribed ... "(Behne, 1991, p. 285). “The stereotyped perception of fellow human beings is not only based on their external appearance and other easily recognizable characteristics” (Knoblauch et al., 2000, p. 19) such as gender or ethnicity.

In addition to behavior, which can only be judged after a long time and on the basis of given opportunities, information on taste ... and lifestyle also act as important social indicators. In a differentiated modern society, in which occupation, educational level and income are no longer sufficient to define the social position of an individual, 'everyday aesthetic schemes' [Schulze, 1995] ... increasingly serve to distinguish and classify in social space (Knoblauch et al ., 2000, p. 19).

For Knoblauch et al. it stands to reason that such “everyday aesthetic schemes” are used for social categorization and stereotyping. “Accordingly, it can be assumed that when forming a first impression about a person from information about their lifestyle and taste, conclusions are drawn about the group membership of this person and also about their personality in the narrower sense” (ibid).

A study from the 1970s examined what jazz listeners think of Schlager listeners, and vice versa, Schlager listeners think of jazz listeners (external image), but also how they see themselves (self-image) (without reference; quoted from Behne, 1991, p . 285-286). This revealed "downright dramatic differences in the allocation of educational status and political location" (ibid., P. 285). Jazz listeners consider themselves unusually well-educated and at the same time the Schlager listener is quite uneducated. They suspect similar differences - albeit not in this form - with regard to a more liberal or more conservative political orientation. It is more than remarkable that the Schlager listeners themselves - in a somewhat softened form - are of the same opinion: They even consider themselves less educated and less liberal than jazz listeners. It is well known that educational status and political position also have an influence on musical orientation (see Chapter 3.1), but it is evident here that “depending on the perspective [external image / self-image], certain aspects are accentuated and others are played down, obviously with the intention of drawing one's self-image realistically, but still so positive that one can live with it without suffering ”(Behne, 1991, p. 286).

Another study (Zillmann & Bhatia, 1989) examined how individual individuals are judged in terms of character after they have acknowledged their music preference. A man and a woman were presented in two short video sequences and different music preferences were manipulatively attributed to them. Test subjects of the control group received no information about the musical preferences of the presented persons. Revealing musical tastes had a considerable impact on the perception of these individuals: men judged women who liked classical music as cultured and those who liked heavy metal less. Women, on the other hand, judged men who liked classical music and those who liked heavy metal equally cultivated.


[1] The allocation of certain age information must be thought of in a flexible manner. A significant fluctuation is possible.

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