Music Preference And Morals – Do Evil Geniuses Really Love Classical Music?

When I saw a link on to a research study on PLOS One exploring the link between music and morality, I was half expecting to discover that evil people do prefer classical music, bolstering the stereotype of movie villains who apparently love playing that music to accompany their nefarious scheming.

Alas, the researchers didn’t specifically address that highly relevant question. I did learn that there has been a lot more research into the connections between music preference and personality types than I imagined. The literature/previous research review at the start of the research findings discuss those findings if that sounds interesting.

Rather than plotting on a good/evil axis which would require judgment calls, the researchers categorized different ends of the moral spectrum as:

Individualising (Care and Fairness), indicative of a more liberal perspective, and Binding (Purity, Authority and Loyalty), indicative of a more conservative outlook.”

Looking at everything from lyrics, timbre, and audio elements. In the results section of the study they note the following correlations:

From the perspective of the lyrics’ linguistic cues, we saw that people who value more foundations related to Care and Fairness (Individualising values) prefer artists whose songs’ textual content is about care and joy. Those concerned more about Loyalty, Authority and Purity (Binding or ingroup) foundations tend to choose artists whose songs’ lyrics talk about fairness, sanctity, and love.

Also, individuals with strong ingroup values tend to prefer artists whose lyrics have positive sentiments and talk about dominance. This is intelligible as individuals who value Binding and their social groups tend to engage in group activities such as sports, religious events, and political gatherings, which often make use of music to promote messages of power, unity, and victory (e.g. sports chants, church choirs, etc.). On the other hand, participants with high Binding scores tend to dislike songs with negative valence, violent narratives and songs that resonate with sadness, fear, and disgust.

From an audio perspective, we saw that participants with Binding values preferred more artists whose songs are danceable, loud and with more positive sounds. In contrast, participants with Individualising values chose more artists whose songs are smooth, acoustic and have less dynamic sounds

In terms of timbre, people oriented to Care and Fairness preferred smoother to louder. Binding oriented people preferred the loud, but only conventional rhythmic songs. Binding oriented individuals disliked loud, distorted, rebellious songs that aligned with timbres common in “hard rock, metal indie, pop, and electronic music.”

Like me, you may be wondering where people who enjoy loud, hard music with lyrics about struggle or darker themes. Reading through the study, it wasn’t really clear to me what sort of moral alignment those folks might have. I will confess that I didn’t quite understand some of the technical references to to things like BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) and what fell into those classifications.

One thing that amused me was the lengthy discussion of how preferred lyrics reflected moral value. As we all know, a lot of times people aren’t paying close attention to the lyrics and if they are, they may be getting some of them hilariously wrong. It may be that on the whole, lyrics and morals do track closely, but there have been a number of instances in the last few years where people loudly proclaim that an artist has betrayed the moral values they when they were popular 10-20 years ago and the general public cackles, “Were you paying attention to the lyrics?”

There is specific mention in the article about the choice of music at political rallies in the U.S. and how that often aligns with the general moral outlook of each group.

Wait, NZ Arts & Culture Sector GDP Grew At Nearly Twice The Rate Of The Whole Economy?

A couple weeks ago, New Zealand’s Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage (MCH) proudly announced that the GDP growth for the Arts and Creativity Sector was nearly double that of the economy as a whole for a 12 month period ending March 2022.  “The GDP of $14.9b is a 12-month increase of 10% – compared to total economy GDP growth of 5.3%.”

Some of the highlights from the report:

  • There are more than 115,000 people whose primary employment is in the arts and creativity – that’s a 3.8% increase from March 2021 to March 2022.
  • There are almost 36,000 businesses in the sector
  • Over 10,000 Māori hold primary employment in the Arts and Creative Sector
  • The Māori arts and creative sector contributed more than $1.3 billion to GDP in Aotearoa

As I wrote back in 2017, Maori intellectual property rights has been a point of tension, because as has been the case with many indigenous cultures, there have been differences of understanding both in the wording of treaties and with the concepts of property ownerships.

I am not sure how the ministry categorizes what falls under art and what falls under creativity, but the arts alone account for a much smaller slice of that GDP number (.8%) according to the article summarizing the report. However, that part of the sector is still seeing pretty good growth with employment at 2.8% compared with the 3% for the country as a whole. While arts workers are far more likely to be self-employed than people in other parts of the economy, it is apparently a growth area.

I was pleased to read that most New Zealanders working in the arts sector were considered to be performing highly skilled work, especially in comparison with the rest of the occupations in the country.

In news that will come as no surprise to many, the Arts Sector has 11,641 self-employed workers – accounting for 42% of the sector’s workforce and more than double the total NZ self-employment rate (16.2%).

Interestingly, that rate has increased by 8.1% over the past 15 years compared to the overall self-employment rate in New Zealand which has decreased by 0.9%.

80.7% of the Arts sector workforce are employed in what is described as highly-skilled occupations. This is higher than for all occupations in New Zealand (38.4%).

That number doesn’t look set to drop – Infometrics estimates that between 2023-2028, there will be 10,091 total job openings in the Arts sector (30.3% expected to be new job growth) with three-quarters of those positions likely to be highly-skilled jobs.

Public Comment Praise Takeover Helps Renew Denver Guaranteed Basic Income Program

Long time readers will be aware that I have been keeping an eye on guaranteed basic income programs in different communities, especially those that are designed to benefit artists.

Recently Denver agreed to renew their program for a second year to benefit unhoused groups. The pilot program had provided funding in different increments to people as part of an attempt to study what approaches were most effective.  I am unclear about whether they have settled on a standard amount to distribute as they move into the second year.

What caught my eye in a Vice article on the topic was the discussion of how the different advocacy groups went about lobbying for the continuation of the program, reversing the new mayor’s rejection of a proposal to renew the program.  Other groups looking to advocate for basic income programs, whether specifically for artists or not, may be able to learn from the Denver groups’ approach.

A coalition of about 20 groups advocated for the funding, including SEIU Local 105, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC), Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and Center for People With Disabilities. Advocates attended weekly city council meetings for 12 weeks wearing the color green (for money) and using the public comment period to praise the program.

“The Denver Guaranteed Income Coalition worked together to rally outside the Colorado state capitol, execute a 40-person public comment takeover at a city council meeting, send hundreds of emails to newly elected Mayor Johnston and city council members, and phone bank which resulted in over 2000 calls to Denver residents and subsequently dozens of calls to city council members,”

Covid Restrictions May Have Resulted In Increased Social Inertia

I recently saw a link on a CityLab story noting that since the end of Covid restrictions, people appear to be less willing to venture outside of familiar neighborhoods and locales.

As of late 2021, people remained less likely to engage in social exploration, which the study authors define as the likelihood of visiting a new place where they earn significantly more or less than than the general population. Instead, they just returned to familiar destinations.


Fewer people are visiting attractions like museums, restaurants or parks that are outside their immediate mobility radius, and they’re spending less time among residents at different socioeconomic levels.

Outside of the concerns operators of arts organizations, restaurants, parks and other attractions may have about a drop in attendance and purchases, this has implications for the overall social cohesion in the US. While most cities studied experienced this drop of mobility, places that had fewer restrictions on public assembly and in-person office work saw a smaller decrease in relation to how much people were willing to circulate to unfamiliar locations.

If the narrowed social mobility habits of residents endure, policymakers will have to contend with an extended loss in income-diverse encounters — a trend likely to further exacerbate political polarization and diminish social capital.

Yabe said the research could help decision-makers get a better sense of the trade-offs as they try to strike a balance between safety and social cohesion.

It should be noted that while this report came out in 2023, it appears the most recent data was from the end of 2021 when people were still a little wary about moving around. While this situation may not exist to the same extent as late 2021, the implications still bear attention.