In a new study at the University of Michigan, researchers have discovered that people enjoy replaying favorite songs hundreds of times even after the novelty and surprise are gone.
The mean among the sample was more than 300 times, and this number was even immense for listeners who had a profound connection to the song, something that was exceptionally likely if they had assorted sentiments, such as “bittersweet,” while listening.
The availability of digital music through streaming services and YouTube makes it simpler than ever for people to listen to almost any song anytime.
Frederick Conrad, professor of psychology and the study’s lead author, said, “Niche listening may enable listeners to develop the kind of personally meaningful relationships with particular songs that allows their affection for those songs to persist across very large amounts of exposure.”
During the study, 204 participants went through an online questionnaire in the fall of 2013 about their experience listening to their favorite song, including how it made them feel and the frequency with which they played the song.
Although people’s favorite songs fell into 10 genre categories, they were mainly pop/rock songs.
About 86 percent of the participants reported listening to their favorite song daily or a few times weekly. Forty-three percent of those who listened to daily replayed the song at least three times a day. Sixty percent listened to the song multiple times consecutively, and about 6 percent indicated they urgently wanted to hear the song before they played it.
Conrad, who directs the Michigan Program in Survey Methodology at the Institute for Social Research, said, “Clearly, these listeners were very engaged with these songs.”
Jason Corey, associate professor of music and a co-author of the study, said certain features of the song were particularly important reasons why respondents listened many times. The most important features were the song’s “melody,” “beat/rhythm” and “lyrics.” For songs that made listeners happy, beat/rhythm was especially important for relistening.
The researchers added, finally, the more times people listened to their favorite song, the more the listeners could hear it internally.
Conrad stated, “Listeners…should be able to ‘hear’ large amounts of the song in their heads, potentially including all the instrumental and vocal sounds.”
In fact, the more times they listened to the song, the more of it they could hear in their heads.
The findings appear in Psychology of Music.