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Spotify data exposes how much your music preferences change with latitude

Recent data collected by researchers conducting a study with Spotify has revealed that latitude, amongst many variables, has a distinct effect on music preferences around the world. The study drew on the listening data of nearly one million Spotify users worldwide and described the daily and seasonal variations of how people listen to music.

In 2016 – the year used in the study – Spotify reported that more than 80 per cent of songs listened to were users’ personal choices (given that Spotify recommends its listeners songs based on their habits). The researchers limited their focus to tracks that had played the whole way through, coming to the (somewhat obvious) conclusion that Spotify users would skip tracks they either didn’t like or weren’t in the mood for.

Recent data collected by the team at Spotify shows that latitude affects the music you listen to, with countries further from the equator statistically listening to more “extreme” music.

The data was collected from Spotify users in 51 countries, with researchers making sure their samples matched the demographics of each place but selected users randomly. Researchers also tracked a variable called ‘music intensity’ describing the vehemence of each song, ranging from “highly relaxing (acoustic, instrumental, ambient and flat or low tempo)” to “highly energetic (strong beat, danceable, loud and bouncy)”. 

The data also exposed cultural differences behind musical attitudes. On average, more energetic music was listened to in Latin America, with Asia going for a more relaxing vibe. Hemispheres formed gender divisions; in the Northern Hemisphere, females were more interested in listening to music that was less intense than their Southern Hemispherical counterparts, who loved music of a higher intensity.

Peaks and troughs in intensity matched the summer and winter solstices in each hemisphere respectively, and the swings were more extreme at extreme latitudes. Listeners closer to the equator had less variation in their musical preferences, whilst more southerly and northerly locations (which have more drastic day lengths) showed larger changes in their musical preferences. In most countries, day length accounted for music intensity better than a range of alternative variables.

Researchers relied on IP addresses and user profiles to categories their uses by their demographics and geographical regions, which can never be too reliable; users are not always honest with their exact locations and some users in certain countries may be more likely to use VPNs. All of the results are purely surface-level, too; while they can tell us who’s listening to what, they can’t actually tell us why. Reasons are always inferred. Also, Spotify users are not necessarily a super accurate demographic; they’re relatively wealthy and privileged which does not reflect the majority of human experiences.

Still, based on the results of the study it is obvious to see that music is used to affect mood and behaviour, something everyone kind of already knew but it’s nice having the data to prove it.

Via Arts Technica.

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January 25, 2019