The Geography of Music Preferences

When listening to the music played on the TV, radio, or in clubs, it seems as if the whole world listens to the same ten songs. However, music preferences vary significantly both on the micro and macro level. 

On the micro-level, these variations can be analyzed from person to person, or group to group, while on the macro-level, significant cultural differences can be observed. Given the latter, is there a geographical blueprint that can tell us more about music preferences around the world? 

Music Preferences of Spotify Users

Music data collected by a team of experts at the streaming platform Spotify indicates that the music we listen to could be influenced by latitude, with the countries located further away from the equator having a taste for a bit more ‘extreme’ music.

The researchers collected data from Spotify users located in 51 countries around the world. The users were selected by random, but the researchers made sure that the samples match the demographics of places they included in the study. 

Music Intensity

The main focus was a variable of ‘music intensity’, with ‘highly relaxing’ (instrumental, acoustic, ambient, low-tempo) music at the lower end of the spectrum, and the ‘highly energetic’ (danceable, loud, up-tempo) music at the higher end of the spectrum.

The results exposed geographical, that is, cultural differences in musical preferences. On average, Spotify users from Latin America listened to music that was more energetic and upbeat, while users in Asia preferred songs that had a more atmospheric sound. 

Gender Differences 

Differences across hemispheres pertained more to gender; female users located in the Northern Hemisphere (North America, Canada, Europe, Asia) were more inclined toward less-intense music, as opposed to their counterparts living in Southern Hemisphere (South America, Africa, Australia), who opted for music at the ‘highly energetic’ end of the spectrum.

Fluctuations in Music Preferences

The researchers also found that peaks and dips in intensity of the music coincided with the winter and summer solstices in hemispheres, with the fluctuations more drastic at extreme latitudes. 

Furthermore, the music preferences of listeners from countries located closer to the equator varied less, while those located more toward south and north (which also have longer days) displayed larger fluctuations in music preferences. Therefore, the variable that affected music intensity preference the most was day length.

Essentially, studies on the geography of music preferences are still relatively scarce, even more so at the global level. But the existing evidence shows that some cultural and geographical differences can be mapped out, especially with the rise of streaming platforms that can be used as a source of useful statistical data.

[1] “Spotify Data Exposes How Your Music Preferences Change with Latitude.” HappyMag [Online] Available at: [Accessed on: 14 June 2020]

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