Where does our taste in music comes from?

Where does our taste in music comes from?

 jeanniejeanniejeannie.co.uk BLOG Wednesday 27th July 2022


Where our taste in music comes from

We all have our music tastes. The more obscure favourites usually develop at a younger age—we hit up local gigs, listen to funky tunes that our friends recommend, and delve back in time to listen to the greats that came before. Indeed, music has an incredible influence on our lives. It can make us feel ecstatic or bring us to tears.

But is there any science behind why we’re attracted to certain kinds of music?

Early years

Essentially our musical tastes are planted. Just like how we aren’t born able to speak a language, we aren’t born with the ability to appreciate certain kinds of music.

Specific synapses strengthened

With language, we are born with the ability to learn any language, but as we learn one some synapses are activated and others aren’t.

We learn certain sounds

The ones that aren’t proxy don’t get stronger. We develop an ability to understand certain sounds. Music works similarly.


With music, this is known as a process called enculturation. In the first six months or so, babies can follow the syntax of any musical style.

The musical sponge

Complex rhythmic music from Turkey, major scales in European music, and drumming patterns from Africa are planted like seeds in the young mind.

Babies know when something changes

If a piece of music is played for a baby multiple times and then the music is changed slightly, the baby will notice.

What we hear growing up

This means that the wider cultural musical context is another influential factor. What we hear growing up is what we learn to love.

The structure of the music industry

As we know, the music that we’re exposed to is controlled. It’s done so by record labels, radio stations, and even streaming sites.

Front-running big label musicians produce familiar music

How does this work? Well, to begin with, record labels like Sony, Universal Music, and EMI front musicians they think will succeed in selling records.

Big industry influence

After this, it becomes vital for the label to get this person’s music out there. The more people hear it, the more likely people are to enjoy it and buy tickets to the show or buy the album.


These labels partly own all the streaming sites, have a huge influence on what we hear on the radio, and also largely shape what goes where on the shelves at record stores.

Big label influence

In a nutshell, big labels along with their subsidiaries (management companies, booking agents, PR companies, etc.) and their influence on distribution channels (radio, ownership of streaming platforms, music video channels, etc.) control what we hear and therefore what we have a taste for.

The familiar

We like what we know, what we’re exposed to. Just like we enjoy a movie that has a structure that we’re used to. Perhaps the movie has a conflict and resolution.


The music that these labels put their chips on is also based on music that they know to be familiar with regards to structure and melody. It works as a feedback loop. For example, they might sign an artist that they know to be able to produce songs that are generally under four minutes long and have a chorus within the first minute.

The feedback loop

It’s like a feedback loop. They play music to us that they think we will like and we generally do and develop a taste for it. In recent years with how we steam music, however, we have had much more power to explore.

Unsigned artists are invisible

Keep in mind though, you are essentially invisible as an independent artist if you don’t have decent backing to get on playlists. So the forces that be still very much exist.


The next part of why we enjoy the music we do has to do with identity. This isn’t just how often certain music around us is played, but also means that how we associate certain music with ourselves regarding our cultural surroundings is important.

Group identity

In practice, this might mean that a young person might force themselves to wear all black clothes and pale makeup and give more time to trying to appreciate heavy rock music because their friends do.

Hip-hop and rap music

Rap music, for example, is the music of the oppressed identity. It began as a form of musical expression for young African-Americans artists.

Irish trad music

Other kinds of music and our taste for it can exude our national identities. For example,  in listening to a lot of trad music in Ireland, you essentially communicate that you are a proud Irish person or identify with Irishness.


Some people’s tastes in different forms of music will expand as the result of an externally-motivated venture to ‘collect’ these kinds of experiences. For example, someone might want the bragging rights of having seen a certain musician at a certain time and in doing so expose themselves to more music.


Our taste for music can also be affected by our general life experiences, too. Perhaps traumatic events draw us to a need for escapism through music, for instance.

We tailor what we listen to based on our needs

For example, we may have learned to listen to music that goes on for longer (psychedelic rock rather than pop perhaps) so that we didn’t have to listen to arguments in our homes growing up.


Another reason could be that someone may not have felt included before until they went to clubs and danced with kind strangers who accepted them for who they were and they, therefore, made a tremendous effort to understand and learn to like techno and house anthems of the clubs. That’s just one example, of course.

This is me

In a sense, the reason that music is so universal is that the music we like can reflect some or almost all parts of us: our experiences, our tendencies to feel melancholic, or our rage. It’s a flag that says “this is who I am.”

Many factors at play

Because of this, we can say that our taste in music is therefore not the result of a single phenomenon like how our brain develops during childhood. It’s a mixture of this and our experiences, our nature, our identity, and much more.

There’s no formula

There will never be any exact formula because the weight of how these factors affect our taste in music differs from person to person and also with a person’s life.

How we’re listening to music changes

With this all being said, it should still be noted that the way we experience music is changing. We used to listen to music only live 100 years ago, now it’s mostly on headphones.

What we will listen to in future depends on the mode of delivery

This will change the type of music we like because some kinds of music work better when listened to this way. For example, hip hop with its kick drum-heavy bass frequencies works well on headphones.

Sources: (NBC News) (Diggit Magazine)



Top 10 Best Movies Where The Protagonist Is A Live-Action Animal, Ranked By To IMDb

1              The Bear (1988) – A giant Kodiak bear roars at a human hunter in The Bear

2              Old Yeller (1957) – Old Yeller features another beloved movie dog though is also best remembered for its heartbreaking ending.

3              Eight Below (2006) – Dogs pull a sled through the snow in Eight Below

4              A Dog’s Purpose (2017)

5              Lassie Come Home (1943)

6              Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)

7              Babe (1995)

8              Charlotte’s Web (2006)

9              Free Willy (1993)

10           Beethoven (1992)


REMEMBER: The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.

– Nicolas Chamfort



  1. “If you work on something a little bit every day, you end up with something that is massive.” ―Kenneth Goldsmith.


Happiness is…listening to music we love.


Two aerials get married. The ceremony was rubbish – but the reception was brilliant.


Love is…


Be kind.


A time to watch Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey…A time to watch Babe – The Sheep-Pig.





©2022 Phil M Robinson