May 142015

You may think your taste in music is unique to you, but according to a new study, specific musical tastes are tied to class positions in urban English-speaking Canada. Gender, age, immigrant status and ethnicity factor in too.

Credit: Hernán Piñera /

Credit: Hernán Piñera /

Gerry Veenstra undertook the study in response to a hot debate brewing behind the walls of academia, with some cultural sociologists suggesting that wealthier and better-educated people, otherwise known as elites, actually have a wider range of taste in music than lower class people.

Veenstra decided to test this out in the Canadian context.

By conducting interviews with 1,595 English-speaking people in Vancouver and Toronto, he established that a person’s breadth of musical taste – that is to say, the number of different musical styles a person likes – has nothing to do with their class position.

That isn’t to say musical tastes aren’t classed.

The study found that wealthier, better-educated people are more likely to like blues, choral, classical, jazz, musical theater, opera, pop, reggae, rock and world/international.

Poorer, less educated people are more likely to like country, disco, easy listening, golden oldies, heavy metal and rap.

The study identifies all sorts of unique combinations of predictors of specific musical tastes. For example, well-educated but poor White native-born Canadians are most likely to like folk music, older South Asian women are most likely to like disco, and older White males are most likely to like jazz.

But it’s not just musical likes that demarcate class boundaries – it turns out dislikes are also class-based. Higher-class people tend to dislike country, easy listening and golden oldies, while lower-class people tend to dislike all types of highbrow music except jazz.

“Social class permeates all facets of our lives, and in particular, the cultural dimensions of our lives, even our musical tastes,” says Veenstra.

Access Veenstra’s study

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