Pop Music Fans Are the Most Closed Minded about Genres

The Digital Music Lab at McMaster University in Canada released some interesting findings about music listeners. The group has been poring over data from 20 million song downloads. The study is ongoing but the researchers have released some results including information on the most open and closed-minded listeners based on genre. The study ranked the openness of listeners to genres other than their favorite with 1 being the most open-minded and 10 the most closed-minded. According to this study indie music fans are the most receptive to other genres while pop music fans are the least receptive.

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


The music of major label country artist Kacey Musgraves is far less commercial than...

...the music of indie act Jason Aldean

What Is Indie Exactly?

The most confusing thing about this list is that indie isn't a genre. It refers to any artist who's either releasing music themselves or who's signed to an indie label. Jason Aldean who is part of the popular bro-country movement that took over country radio for years is signed to an indie label in Nashville called Broken Bow. Bro-country is country-fied party music with lyrics that focus mainly on drinking, girls and pickup trucks. Think of it as a country version of Pitbull's music. Kacey Musgraves who has been labeled a savior of country music because of her traditional sound is signed to a major label Mercury Nashville, which is part of Universal Music Group. Absolute Punk said about her:

"Kacey Musgraves isn't destined to be a celebrity. Instead, she's destined to become an underrated career musician, probably with a brilliant discography and a fiercely loyal core fanbase."
-- Absolutepunk.net, Kacey Musgraves - Pageant Material

The reviewer called the music of the likes of Aldean "hollow, derivative, and overproduced." So, indie doesn't mean much when it comes genre and researchers haven't explained how they define indie.

Poliça is an indie band signed to the "Mom + Pop Music" record label. The band makes pop and electronic music

If they are defining indie as anyone releasing music independently or through an indie label then that would cover every genre including pop, rock, country, folk and electronic. Indie music fans may appear open-minded in this kind of study but if they're dismissive of every act that achieves commercial success that really isn't very open at all.

Indie music fans have a reputation for enjoying artists solely because they're obscure. They're accused of abandoning these acts if they achieve a modicum of commercial success. These people absolutely do exist, so they make the results of the study questionable to some. But the indie music scene is actually incredibly diverse genre-wise.

The Definition of Open-minded?

Jazz fans are the second most open-minded fans on the list. But are they really?

Monstercat is an indie record label that releases electronic dance music. There are indie artists making all kinds of music.
Monstercat is an indie record label that releases electronic dance music. There are indie artists making all kinds of music. | Source

The Girl by Hellberg (ft. Cozi Zuehlsdorff) may sound like pop music but it's from the indie Monstercat label

"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."
-- cbc.ca, Indie fans most open minded about music, pop fans most closed off

A jazz fan may enjoy classical music, classic rock, and adult contemporary pop but that doesn't necessarily make someone open-minded about music. They may still think all mainstream pop, rap, electronic and country are trash without ever giving these genres a chance. Open-minded refers to being "willing to consider new ideas; unprejudiced."

I think of being open-minded as accepting that there's good and bad in all genres, being open to listen to any genre, and not deciding that some kinds of music are "real music" and some aren't. If you write off whole genres of music as bad, you're not open-minded.

The study seems to suggest that someone is open-minded if they listen to some other genres in addition to their favorite genre. But this is hardly a good definition of open-mindedness.

Why Pop Music Fans Might Be Closed-Minded?

According to this study, people who mainly listen to pop are the least likely to listen to other genres. Why would this be the case when pop often takes influences from rock, country, folk, R&B and rap? One explanation often given is that many pop or dance music fans don't ever explore or search for music. All they do is turn on their local pop station to be fed music by radio conglomerates. If they aren't doing any musical exploration, it's going to be difficult to stumble across other types of music they may appreciate.

Except pop music fans can be close-minded to the point that they won't enjoy songs from their own favorite artists if they aren't "pop" enough. When Kesha's second album Warrior was reviewed, many critics singled out the sleepy country-esque ballad Wonderland for praise. Kesha herself listed it as one of her favorites. Yet it's a song many of her own fans dismiss because they think it's "boring." A commenter on the popular pop music forum ATRL complained:

"Kesha's [Wonderland] is so ridiculously underrated. It makes me feel so nostalgic. There's such a magic about it that no one on here appreciates."

Kesha listed Wonderland as one of her favorite songs on her second album but some of her fans dismiss it because they think it's "boring"

People who have a preference for pop music tend to enjoy songs that are catchy. If a song has a great story, meaningful lyrics or beautiful instrumentals but lacks a catchy hook many pop music fans can't appreciate it. Many express a preference for upbeat songs they can dance to over ballads. So, even when exposed to different sounds some pop music fans still don't care for them.

Another possible reason for pop being at the bottom of the list is that it's often the go-to music for people who aren't big music fans. People who listen to music mainly when they work out or as something to distract them in the car often won't stray much beyond the pop and dance songs they hear on the radio or in clubs. Music isn't hugely important to everyone just like movies, sports and books aren't hugely important to everyone. If music isn't too important to someone they aren't going to seek out anything past what's popular and mainstream.

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