Situational Factors Influencing the Functions of Music and Everyday Music Listening Behavior

This project’s basic focus is on the question of who listens to what kind of music in which situation and why. We will here pursue a macroscopic, integrative approach that, taking account of inter-individual differences (for example musical taste), specifically investigates the situational use of music. Various research questions emerge from such an approach, which will be examined in an online study and another study using the Experience Sampling Method.

That music fulfills many different functions for people and that the listener actively makes use of them may seem like a merely trivial fact.  Although a large range of factors influencing music listening behavior (the selection of and listening to music) have already been identified, the question of who listens to what kind of music in which situation and why has not yet been adequately addressed. Therefore, this is the central question of our project, with a focus on situational influencing factors on music listening behavior and the specific musical functions. One premise of our work is that these functions are fundamentally influenced by the situation and that music listening behavior in turn is strongly dependent on these functions. While research on functions of music is to a large extent grounded in the belief in stable listening modes, our own approach will examine the hypothesis that the way in which music is used is time variant and strongly influenced by the situation. In turn, research on music listening behavior only rarely integrates the functions music fulfills in specific situations. Beyond this, we continue to lack adequate empirical research on the interplay between the different factors influencing musical behavior (for example musical taste, mood, surroundings). For this reason, another goal of our project is to integrate the substantial factors into a comprehensive model, in order to examine their interactions and relative contributions.

In a first step we will undertake an online study to investigate the influence of situational variables (for example activity, mood, the presence of other people) on musical functions, together with the subjectively perceived qualities (for example loud, rhythmic, fast) of the music selected in the particular situation at hand. In a second study, we will survey the same variables as present in real, everyday situations and examine their interrelations more precisely. Furthermore, in both studies, personality variables and participants’ musical taste will be measured, to control for their possible influences and interactions.