Blame it on the sunshine: Weather influences pop music preferences

Don’t like the songs in this week’s music charts? Blame it on the weather.

Scientists have found that weather conditions, as well as seasonal patterns, can play a role in shaping a listener’s song preferences, which in turn may have an impact on its success in the UK music charts.

Researchers from the University of Oxford found that dance songs which evoked positive emotions of joy and happiness performed better in the charts when the weather was warm and sunny, compared with cold and rainy months.

They also found that popular songs had a stronger association with the weather.

The researchers said their findings, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, challenge the view that success in the music industry is solely based on the quality of the music.

Dr Manuel Anglada-Tort, a lecturer in the Faculty of Music and head of the Music, Culture, and Cognition Lab at the university, said: ‘Our study suggests that favourable environmental conditions, such as warm and sunny weather, induce positive emotional states in listeners, which in turn, leads them to choose to listen to energetic and positive music, potentially to match their current mood.

‘Thus, it highlights the importance of considering broad environmental factors when analysing the success of songs in the music market, and provides insight into how music choices are influenced by external factors beyond the music itself.’

Dr Anglada-Tort and his colleagues analysed more than 23,000 songs that reached the weekly charts in the UK in the last 70 years, gathering historical data from the Met Office as well as Official Charts. They measured three different weather conditions: daily temperature, daily hours of sunshine, and days of rain.

‘The UK presents a compelling case study to investigate the impact of weather on behaviour due to its well-known climate patterns, with lots of rain and notable changes in weather,’ said Dr Anglada-Tort.

Using machine learning techniques, the researchers were able to determine each song’s musical features such as melody, harmony, rhythm, timbre, dynamics, and tempo.

The team found that songs which were energetic, danceable, and evoked positive emotions – such as Temperature by Sean Paul (2005) – performed better during warm and sunny weather when compared with rainy and cold months.

They also found that hyper-popular songs in the top 10 of the charts showed the strongest associations with weather fluctuations.

Meanwhile, songs that were of low intensity and had negative emotions of sadness – such as Never Gonna Fall In Love Again by Dana (1976) – did not appear to be influenced by the weather.

‘This suggests that negative emotional states may be more influenced by individual situational factors rather than general environmental conditions,’ added Dr Anglada-Tort.

The researchers said their work only shows a link between music success in the charts and the weather conditions so the results must be interpreted with caution.

‘Using our methods, we cannot establish any causal effect between weather and music preferences,’ said Dr Anglada-Tort.

‘Moreover, alternative explanations may account for our results, such as the role of industry gatekeepers or recommender systems that decide which music is available to consumers.’

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