New research shows MP3 playlist priorities

People create playlists for certain times of day or year

Research from Heriot-Watt University into how people populate their MP3 players has found that playlists are not only compiled according to artist and music type, but also for particular activities and even for different times of the day or year.

The study, undertaken by Professor Adrian North and researcher Amanda Krause, found that music categories now being created fall into four distinct groups:

  • Genres and artists
  • What people will be doing as they listen to their MPS player  (for example, cooking, exercising or even trying to fall asleep)
  • The time of day or time of year when the music is listened to
  • The emotions that the music will produce (for example, to cheer people up)

People are using music to achieve a particular mindset in a range of different situations

Professor Adrian North, Heriot-Watt University

Nearly a quarter of all the playlists sampled were for use during a particular activity. Playlists for travel and exercise were especially common, along with playlists for sleeping, dancing, and cooking to. Many of the playlists named pertained to specific activities, demonstrating the great desire to tailor what music people hear.

Commenting on the findings, Amanda Krause said, "Turning on the radio might not be enough for people who want music on in the background. People want more control in what they hear. For example, some people had playlists for March containing lighter music suggestive of the warming weather."

Co-researcher, Professor Adrian North added, "Some of these findings makes good physiological sense: in a gym we want to a good workout and so we devise playlists containing loud music with a strong rhythm that help us achieve that. If even tasks like cookery or travel have their own playlists then it seems that people are using music to achieve a particular mindset in a range of different situations."

Professor North and Amanda Krause would like more people to participate in the study by visiting the  Researching Everyday Listening website  to complete a short questionnaire.