Music has been associated with drug use for decades — from the flower children smoking weed at Woodstock to jazz great Charlie Parker getting hooked on heroin, it seems that every type of music has a drug that we associate with it. Last month we discussed a study where college students were asked what type of substances they thought music fans of 14 different genres of music were likely to use. Here are the results:
But are these stereotypes accurate? Rentfrow and Gosling ran into an ethical barrier when they tried to confirm whether the stereotypes they found were true: They didn’t want to ask under-age college students about their alcohol and illegal drug preferences.
Assisted by the anonymity of the internet, we decided to see if we could fill the void in Rentfrow and Gosling’s work with our own survey, and despite the privacy concerns, we received over 500 responses. So how did our readers’ preferences compare to the stereotypes identified by Rentfrow and Gosling? Here are our results:
This graph charts the correlation between respondents’ preferences for a each genre rated on a scale of 1 to 7 and their estimation of their likelihood of using each substance, again on a scale of 1 to 7. Because of our large sample size, any correlation below -.1 or above .1 is statistically significant (p < .05). As you can see, our results match fairly well with the stereotypes: Classical music listeners prefer wine to beer, while rock and rap fans are more likely to drink beer than wine. However, although rock fans are stereotyped as preferring marijuana to wine, our results show no statistical difference in rock fans’ likelihood of using marijuana over wine. And while the stereotype shows rock fans as more likely to use Ecstasy than rap fans, our results showed no significant correlation between liking rock music and using Ecstasy, while rap fans are extremely likely to use Ecstasy.
One potential problem with Rentfrow and Gosling’s method is that they only asked music fans to rate their preference for music on a scale of 1 to 7. Thus, one person could rate several different genres as “7”. How do we know whether she is a rock fan or a classical fan if she gives each genre the same rating?
To address that issue, we had fans rate their preferences in a different way (in addition to rating on a scale of 1 to 7): they assigned a percentage to each genre; all genres had to add up to 100 percent. If you rate both classical and rock a “7” on Rentfrow and Gosling’s scale, but you actually listen to classical music 90 percent of the time, doesn’t that make you more of a classical fan? Let’s see how the results change when we use this method of rating:
Now only Rap, Electronic, and to a lesser extent Rock fans expressed any significant positive correlation with substance use. Rock fans were significantly more likely than chance to use only beer and hallucinogens. Classical fans had significant negative correlations with every substance except wine, which was still a marginally significant negative correlation with r = -.08. Far from being wine snobs, it appears that most Classical fans prefer to avoid pretty much all mind-altering substances. The preferred genre of wine drinkers? Alternative, with a .12 correlation between wine drinking and listening. No other genre was significantly correlated with wine drinking in this measure.
Some other interesting correlations: Heroin and country, .24, heroin and folk, .14; heroin and soundtracks, .17, barbiturates and soul, .17, cocaine and soul, .20.
By popular demand, we also asked readers about subgenres in their favorite musical genre. We received a vast array of subgenres, but there were so many that it’s going to be a significant project to analyze the data. Now that I’ve stripped out the IP addresses of respondents (and deleted the original data file), I’d be happy to share this data with anyone who’s interested.