Nicc Johnson
Sep 23, 2017 · 12 min read

“Tell me about the music you like and ill tell you what movies you’re into…”

On average we spend 20% of our waking hours listening to music in one form or another. That could be direct or indirect, music from a car passing you buy or background music at your café. Music is everywhere. Music is such an integral part of our lives, that we don’t really stop to think about it anymore. Like breathing, we take it as a given and its not till we stop and focus on it, that we really appreciate its importance.

Researchers have demonstrated that we can make some very accurate assumptions about a persons personality by looking at their listening habits and in turn determine other things they might enjoy like, types of movies, fashion, lifestyle choices and even political tendencies. Generally, these studies have been conducted in the form of a questionnaire and a series of audio clips. However, the moment we are asked about our music taste, our answers might differ from the truth — because when we stop to think about it, we might believe a style of music is our favourite, yet we listen to other styles more often, but in some cases we are embarrassed about your music taste and we might just lie. What I listen to when I’m running on a happy day, is different to what I listen to when I’m angry or upset. My music choice will depend on whether I listen alone or with friends, or wether i’m walking in the park versus travelling on the subway — this is where context is so incredibly important.

We’ve had a hypothesis that we could deduct what type of personality a person has, just by looking at the music data we through Muru. Below is actual data about one of our music listeners. We decided to break this down, using 3 personality tests and see if we could identify this users personality and whether new information could be learnt about this user, by understanding the data. In order to run this test properly, we first compiled the data, then made a profile summary and worked that back to the research we have on music personalities.

USER X is a Muru user ( This is some of the data we collected:

*vibe is a metric we created to explain the type of song someone listens to. This metric doesn’t discriminate on genres, but rather looks at the constitution of the song structure.

The data reveals that Electronica is the most listened to genre. The “Vibe” metric, shows that this user prefers their music mid-tempo to mellow. Interestingly though, when listening to Jazz and Hip Hop, they prefer the older music, while when they listen to Electronica, Indie Pop and Deep House, they prefer newer songs.

Our “popularity” metric shows us when people listen to more or less familiar music. The data tells us that this particular user enjoys familiar music, but is most actively engaged when listening to “obscure” music and discovering new songs. More “obscure” songs are favourited than familiar ones.

If we extrapolate all this information and match it with the personality research, we can start making some interesting assumptions.


The first form of research we looked at, determined that all people’s musical preferences can be linked to three broad thinking styles:

· Empathizers (Type E) — who have a strong interest in people’s thoughts and emotions.

· Systemizers (Type S) — who have a strong interest in patterns, systems and the rules that govern the world.

· Balanced (Type B) — those who score relatively equally between the two.

Empathizers: prefer mellow music that has low energy, sad emotions, and emotional depth, as heard in R&B, soft rock, and singer-songwriter genres. Women are more commonly associated with Type E.

Systemisers: prefer more intense music, as heard in hard rock, punk and heavy metal genres. Systemisers also prefer music with intellectual depth and complexity as heard in avant-garde classical genres. Men are more commonly associated with Type S.

Based on the data, we can deduct that this person is most likely a “balanced” Type B individual as they prefer mid-tempo to mellow music but also enjoy Jazz which can be considered music with intellectual depth. We would be hard pressed to determine whether this person is male or female at this stage…


The next study identified 4 character personas that help identify your personality, based on your music taste. These are:

· Complex & Reflective

· Energetic & Upbeat

· Simple & Fun

· Edgy & Aggressive

For more information on what each of these mean, please check the link

By looking at the favourite genres, individual songs and the type of “vibe” this person listens to, we can assume this person scores high on the “Complex & Reflective” and “Energetic & Upbeat” dimensions, but would score relatively low on the “Simple &Fun” and “Edgy & Aggressive” dimensions.

Let’s take a look at what that actually means;

“Complex & Reflective”

People that score high on the “Complex & Reflective” dimension, tend to enjoy Classical, Blues, Jazz and Folk Music.

When we look at the top ten favourite genres for this person we see that Blues and Folk are also on the list. Classical is not active on Muru yet, but we could assume that this user would enjoy Classical as well.

People with high scores on the “Reflective & Complex” dimension, tend to be open to new experiences, creative, intellectual, and enjoy trying new things. This makes sense, given that this person enjoys discovering new “obscure music”.

The research has shown even more detail about people that score high on this dimension. When it comes to politics, they tend to lean toward the liberal side. Wisdom, diversity, and fine arts are all important to them. When it comes to lifestyle, high scorers tend to be sophisticated, and relatively well off financially. After a hard day of work, if they’re not listening to music or reading a book, they enjoy documentary films, independent, classic, or foreign films.

“Energetic & Upbeat”

People that score high on the “Energetic & Upbeat” dimension, tend to enjoy Hip Hop, Rap, Funk, Soul and Electronic. That would be accurate for this user as Hip Hop and Electronic are in their top 5 and Soul is in their top 10.

People with high scores in this dimension, tend to be extraverted, relaxed, romantic, creative and physically active. Friendships, freedom, and social recognition provide their lives with meaning and guidance. For a good party, High scorers of this dimension, are the ones to call. They tend to watch action movies, science fiction, gangster/mobster movies, comedy and erotica.

By looking at the other two dimensions we can deduct that this person would have a low score with both. Read more about that here:


The final bit of research we looked at, was from Professor Adrian North of Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK, who has undertaken the largest study so far of musical tastes and personality types. Over the course of three years, Professor North asked more than 36,000 people in more than 60 countries to rate a wide range of musical styles in order of preference.

Combined with the personality test, the results showed that:

Blues fans have high self-esteem, are creative, outgoing, gentle and at ease
Jazz fans have high self-esteem, are creative, outgoing and at ease
Classical music fans have high self-esteem, are creative, introvert and at ease
Rap fans have high self-esteem and are outgoing
Opera fans have high self-esteem, are creative and gentle
Country and western fans are hardworking and outgoing
Reggae fans have high self-esteem, creative, not hardworking, outgoing, gentle and at ease
Dance fans are creative and outgoing but not gentle
Indie fans have low self-esteem, are creative, not hard working, and not gentle
Bollywood fans are creative and outgoing
Rock/heavy metal fans have low self-esteem, are creative, not hard-working, not outgoing, gentle, and at ease
Chart pop fans have high self-esteem, are hardworking, outgoing and gentle, but are not creative and not at ease
Soul fans have high self-esteem, are creative, outgoing, gentle, and at ease

Professor North says: “People do actually define themselves through music and relate to other people through it, but we haven’t known in detail how music is connected to identity,” he said. “We have always suspected a link between music taste and personality.

North noted that classical and heavy metal music both attracts listeners with similar personalities but dissimilar ages. Younger members of the personality group apparently go for heavy metal, while their older counterparts prefer classical. However, both have the same basic motivation: to hear something dramatic and theatrical, a shared “love of the grandiose,” he said.


When we look at the favourite genres for this user, that appear on this list, we can extract the following personality traits:

High Self — Esteem, Creative, Outgoing, Gentle, At Ease, Not Gentle, Low-self Esteem, Not Hard Working.

Of course all of these are generalisations and are more focused on the extremes, which can sometimes overlap or even contradict as we can see with user X. This is to be expected, because after all, we are talking about humans here, and we all have different moods! The data shows us that this particular user has a wide taste in music which is why they don’t lean towards one extreme or the other on the personality scales. At the end of the day, the research is there to provide us with guidelines.

It would therefor be fair to assume this particular user might also be open to Classical, Reggae, Folk and even some Bollywood music.


We know from numerous studies that our “music taste” is heavily influenced and shaped in our teenage years through to our early twenties. As such, our favourite genres are often linked to those periods of our lives. As Professor North mentioned, Heavy Metal and Classical are linked, but so are Jazz and Hip Hop and the same goes for other genres. The expression might be different, but the “vibe” is often the same.

The most favourited songs for this user are in Jazz and Hip Hop, if we look a little deeper, we can tell that the Hip Hop they most listen to is from the 90’s and the Jazz music from the 30’s to 60’s. Now, there is of course the possibility that this person is from the earlier Era, in which case their musical development would mark this user in the ages between 70–100 years old. However, if this person had their musical taste form with 90’s Hip Hop, it would put this user in an age range between 30 to 45 years old — this seems much more plausible.


In summary we have been able to determine user X is between 30–45 years old with a well balanced music taste across a variety of genres, but all at a mid-tempo to mellow vibe. The person is adventurous, creative and extroverted with a liking for the arts. It even tells us what types of movies this person would like and how they spend their free time.

This is an incredible amount of information just by looking at their listening data.


We ran this experiment with several random users in our data set. We picked the results of this particular user, because we knew User X personally. This was the only way we could run the following test to determine the accuracy of our findings.

People could argue that the results are biased, because we knew User X, as it would be easier to fill in the “blanks”, which is why we went a step further.we asked User X to take a personality test, based on the Meyer-Briggs 16 personalities type indicator.

The personality test showed that User X is an “ENFJ (–A — T)” also known as a “Diplomat”. Just an FYI, User X is 33 years old — so the age prediction was spot on, which explains why User X listened to older Hip Hop, a lot!

This is what is written about the music taste of the “The Diplomat” ENFJ:

The pronounced Feeling aspect of Diplomats may partially explain their choice of music: blues (46%), soul (50%), world (49%), alternative (85%), and jazz (54%, tied with Analysts), all genres that are often characterized by great emotional intensity. Ambient (59%) music may also appeal to Diplomats’ poetic nature. Aside from passion, Diplomat personalities may also seek out these genres specifically for their borderlessness, their resistance to being confined by arbitrary categorization.

Quantity alone may not necessarily be the most accurate measure of appreciation, but nevertheless, the finding that Diplomats are the Role most likely to listen to more than two hours of music every day (48%) may still be significant. At the very least, this data may illustrate how readily Diplomats can become lost for extended periods in the alternate realities that music can conjure into being. *The Muru data shows that on average I listen to music for 1.3 hours a day, but this is only accounting for one music service — I use 4 regularly and easily reach the +2 hours of music listening a day.

The depths of the devotion that Diplomat personality types have to their music may also be exemplified by the fact that they are the most likely Role to embrace MP3 players (14%). Where some Roles may see music as an afterthought, an added feature for their workstation or means of conveyance that is nice, but hardly necessary, Diplomats may feel that having their own tunes close at hand is absolutely vital. For a Diplomat, an MP3 player may take on almost talismanic properties, adored as much for its form — and its symbolism — as its function.

People Mastery which relates to the -A

Personality types falling under the People Mastery Strategy hold a number of top spots: blues (51%), country (40%), jazz (60%), soul (54%), and reggae (38%). These genres tend to feature fairly relaxed and melodic tracks, and People Masters’ preference for such music may be a reflection of their social and confident natures.

Social Engagement which relates to the -T

Just like their Assertive counterparts in the People Mastery group, Social Engagement types scored highest in quite a few genres: electronica (72%), pop (77%), rap or hip-hop (57%), ambient or new age (59%), world (47%), and religious (35%). All these genres are fairly distinct, so it is not immediately apparent what factors may pull Social Engagers toward them. We may get a clearer picture by looking at individual genres and personality traits in the next section.

Of course these results are all to be taken with a pitch of salt, however I read the entire personality brief. Some parts are merely broad guidelines, but a lot of it is very accurate and if we compare the above with our own findings, we see a clear correlation between the two.

If we are able to determine your personality just by looking at your music taste, it opens up the doors to a whole new level of personalisation, not just in music but in all other areas of our lives. That is incredibly exciting!

There is too much choice in music today and no easy way to personalize your experience without the music provider really understanding who you are. We are still trying to figure out what else we can extrapolate from our data, but these are very positive first steps in identifying personalities and opening up a whole new form of personalisation, not just in music but in film, fashion and more.

On that note, I’ll leave you with a paragraph from Professor Adrian North.

“At times, the modern ubiquity of music can deafen us to the beauty of sound, the often subtle interplay between voice and instrument communicating a feeling that no other medium can quite match. Moreover, with limitless availability, we also have limitless variety, a much-celebrated blessing that carries with it the curse of the “tyranny of choice,” the idea that, when faced with too many options, we become overwhelmed with the number of variables at play, and end up choosing none of the above. Awash in an ocean of music, our identities, so closely bound to our sonic preferences, may sometimes feel in danger of being drowned out by the noise.”

I’m interested to explore this topic further and encourage people to share information and other research they have found.

Nicc Johnson

Written by

:: Founder :: Musicologist :: DJ :: Music Tech Nerd ::

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