Think of all the ways music integrates itself into our relationships. Everything from road trip playlists to concert dates and wedding songs can create romantic memories. For many couples, the phrase "our song" conjures tender moments.
But what if your music choices don't mesh? Would a complete distaste for your partner's music tastes negatively impact your relationship? We surveyed just under 1,000 people to find out. Continue reading to see the noticeable impact music choices have on Americans' love lives.
Despite open-mindedness being a staple in most relationships today (e.g., the rise of interracial, same-sex, and polyamorous marriages), only 66% of people were sure they could date someone with different music tastes. Musical tastes were so polarizing, in fact, that this number dropped to 55% if someone considered a person's tastes to be bad. Of those who were sure they could not date a person with different music tastes, the majority were women (61%).
Women were also the most likely to avoid having sex with someone if they disliked their music. Nineteen percent of the women surveyed said they wouldn't sleep with someone who had music preferences different from their own. By comparison, just 7% of men wouldn't have sex with someone because of their music tastes.
While many couples may have different backgrounds, incomes, or lifestyles, only 2% of the couples surveyed had very different music tastes. In other words, 98% of people in relationships could at least somewhat enjoy music with their partner.
Not only were musically opposed partners less likely to exist, but differences in music tastes also correlated with lower levels of relationship satisfaction. Those with similar music tastes to their partner rated their relationship higher not only for relationship satisfaction but also emotional availability and communication. Music most impacted communication: Couples with shared music tastes rated their communication as 8.2, compared to 6.8 for couples with different music tastes.
The first step for musical harmony in relationships is liking the same music. The second step, however, might include liking classic rock, oldies, or jazz. These three genres, when mutually enjoyed in a relationship, correlated with the highest average relationship satisfaction. Partners who both enjoyed classic rock, oldies, jazz, country, or folk music rated their satisfaction at 8.5 or higher. If you're a classic rock fan looking to enter a relationship with another fan, you're in luck. Eighty percent of couples who shared a liking for classic rock rated their relationship satisfaction at 8 or higher.
The least satisfied couples? Those who enjoyed Korean pop. Couples who shared a love for this genre were the only ones to drop their relationship satisfaction below an 8. According to Rolling Stone, K-pop has "conquered" the West. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to conquer relationships as well.
Different music preferences didn't only impact relationship satisfaction. General attraction and first impressions also change based on musical preferences. For men, a potential love interest's preference for classic rock was the most attractive to them. Women, on the other hand, were most interested in those who enjoyed hip-hop/rap. Both men (32%) and women (35%) were fond of others who liked alternative music as well.
Music may even play a role in your ability to date online. In fact, 74% of single people would probably give someone a "like" on a dating app if they revealed a shared music interest. It may be worth sharing some of your favorite musicians or songs if you have a profile.
The following fact may shed some light on the persistence of the gender gap in the hip-hop/rap industry: A woman who enjoyed rap was considered less attractive than any other genre studied. Women who listened to K-pop or country were also considered relatively less unattractive.
Women most negatively perceived potential love interests who enjoyed heavy metal. Thirty-seven percent of women agreed this was the least attractive music genre, compared to just 3% of women who felt this way toward oldies. Although the heavy metal industry is predominantly male, it wasn't something that women necessarily found attractive.
As it turns out, dominant women and men didn't share musical tastes. And neither did submissive women and men: Sexually dominant men most often enjoyed classic rock, compared to dominant women who liked pop music. Inversely, classic rock was the favorite among sexually submissive women, while sexually submissive male respondents most often preferred alternative music.
Recall that classic rock and alternative music were seen as some of the most attractive music tastes for both men and women. Pop was previously shown to be a much less attractive music taste, yet 48% of sexually dominant women considered this their favorite genre.
Unfortunately, if a relationship goes south, a favorite song can turn into musical torture. Thirty-five percent of single people couldn't listen to certain music anymore because it reminded them too much of their ex. One 20-year-old male respondent had a particularly hard time with hearing songs that reminded him of his ex. He mentioned "Somebody That I Used to Know" could "bring me to tears and ruin my day."
Another woman suffered through a musically inspired breakup. She mentioned that her ex used the lyrics to Chris Brown's "Say Goodbye" in substitution for his words. The song still arouses sadness for her today. Other respondents echoed this sentiment, citing songs like "Circle of Life" from Disney's "The Lion King" as a painful reminder of a past relationship.
Concerts can be great to take a date so long as you both enjoy the same music and hosting venue. Classic rock may well be the most enjoyed music for couples, as 18% of people said this was the best genre to attend a concert with their significant other. Heavy metal negatively influenced many dates, as 12% of couples said it provided the worst concert experience with a significant other.
Regardless of the genre, concerts typically create some type of romantic spark, as 81% of people who went to a concert on a first date also went on a second date. Data would also recommend sticking to outdoor venues, as 24% of romantic dates enjoyed their time this way, compared to 22% who said their worst concert dates were at local venues.
Our data indicates the strong influence that music has on relationships. Only 2% of couples survived when each person had completely different music tastes. Moreover, couples who enjoyed music together saw improvements in their relationship satisfaction, emotional connection, and even communication.
If you're not currently connecting with your partner on a musical level, consider expanding your horizons and attending a live show of their choice. And if you don't happen to be in a relationship, you can form new memories, musical or otherwise, where you just might meet your musical match. TickPick provides tickets for everything from music to cultural events, all without any surprises or hidden fees. Head over to our website and find your next night out!
For this study, we used Amazon's Mechanical Turk to survey 496 people in a relationship and 489 single people. 43% of respondents were single; 30% were married; 17% were in a relationship; 6% were divorced and single; 1% were engaged; 1% were divorced and in a relationship; and less than 1% were divorced and remarried. 46% of respondents were female; 53% were male; and 1% reported a nonbinary gender.
In terms of generational breakdowns, 63% were millennials (born 1981 to 1997); 25% were from Generation X (born 1965 to 1980); 10% were baby boomers (born 1946 to 1964); and 2% were from Generation Z (born 1928 to 1943). The average age of respondents was 36 years old with a standard deviation of 11 years. To qualify for the study, respondents were required to complete the entire survey and pass an attention-check question in the middle of the survey. Participants who failed to do either of these were not included in our data.
We created scales of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest measure and 10 being the highest measure, for respondents to rate their relationship satisfaction, emotional availability in their relationship, and communication in their relationship. The results were then averaged. Outliers were excluded from any calculations using quantitative values. We provided an exhaustive list of music genres in our survey. In regards to the "Live Music Is Key" visual, our related survey questions included the options of "general admission," "small venue," and "large venue" for the best and worst types of concerts. However, these options were excluded during the data analysis, as the high number of respondents who attended these types of concerts would skew our conclusions.
A limitation of this study is that we relied on self-reported data, which may come with the issues of selective memory, exaggeration, attribution, and telescoping.
Music can always bring people together, both romantically and platonically. You are more than welcome to share this music data for noncommercial use, so long as you link back to this page and our contributors receive proper credit for their work.