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Here Comes the Sun

A new study shows how weather conditions can influence the commercial success of music. (Picture: MPI for Empirical Aesthetics)
New Study Shows How Weather Conditions Influence Music Success in the Markets

Music is an integral part of our daily lives, but what makes a song successful in the competitive music market remains a mystery to even the most experienced experts. In a new study, an international research team including the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt am Main (MPIEA), suggests that environmental factors such as weather conditions and seasonal patterns can play a significant role in shaping listener preferences and choices, potentially impacting a song’s success in the market. The results have just been published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

The research, which analyzed over 23,000 songs that reached the UK weekly top charts from 1953 to 2019, found that songs that were energetic, danceable, and evoked positive emotions such as joy and happiness were positively associated with warm and sunny weather and negatively associated with rainy and cold months. Similarly, energetic and positive music varied according to expected seasonal patterns in the UK, increasing in summer and decreasing in winter.

However, the study also found that these results depended on the popularity of the music: While hyper-popular songs in the top 10 of the charts exhibited the strongest associations with weather fluctuations, less popular songs showed no relationship at all. This suggests that a song’s fit with prevailing weather may be a factor pushing a song into the top of the charts.

Results: Associations between music features and prevailing weather conditions. The first figure shows the relationship between weather conditions and features reflecting high-arousal positive music. The Second figure (bottom) shows seasonal patterns. The horizontal red dashed line in all plots indicate null effects (absence of a significant relationship); shaded areas indicate 95% CI.

Lead researcher Manuel Anglada-Tort (University of Oxford and MPIEA) said: “These findings challenge the traditional notion that success in the music market is solely based on the quality of the music itself. Instead, our study suggests that favorable 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.”

Overall, the study highlights the importance of considering broad environmental factors when analyzing the success of songs in the music market, and provides insight into how music choices are influenced by external factors beyond the music itself.

Nevertheless, Anglada-Tort added: “This is a correlational study so the results must be interpreted with caution. Correlation is not causation. Although we perform several control analyses to account for temporal and seasonal dynamics, we cannot establish any causal effect between weather and music preferences.”

To study this large dataset, the research used machine learning techniques to extract music features from the audio of all songs. They found that audio features varied along two musical dimensions. The first musical dimension corresponded to audio features reflecting high intensity and positive emotions, such as happiness and joy. For example, Temperature by Sean Paul (2005). The second dimension corresponded to audio features reflecting low intensity and negative emotions, such as sadness. For example, Never Gonna Fall in Love Again by Dana (1976).

Interestingly, not all combinations of music features were related to weather conditions. The researchers found that only music features reflecting high intensity and positive emotions were associated with weather conditions, whereas music features reflecting low intensity and negative emotions were not related to weather at all. This suggests that negative emotional states may be more influenced by individual situational factors rather than general environmental conditions.

Anglada-Tort M., Lee H., Krause A. E., North A. C. (2023). Here Comes the Sun: Music Features of Popular Songs Reflect Prevailing Weather Conditions. Royal Society Open Science, 10: 221443. Link.