We all know how much the weather can affect our mood – from over the moon to down in the dumps. Hardly anyone is immune to the effects of warm or cool temperatures. A thorough study has now proven for the first time that sunny and rainy days also affect the music we like to listen to. Who would’ve thought?
Weather and music – a fascinating correlation
A group of scientists led by Dr. Manuel Anglada-Tort, Lecturer at the Department of Music and leader of the Music, Culture, and Cognition Lab (MCC) at the University of Oxford, have discovered a rather fascinating relationship between the weather conditions in Great Britain and listeners’ musical preferences. They evaluated more than 23,000 chart hits from the past 70 years. Surprisingly or not, they found that danceable, emotionally positive melodies and pulsating rhythms are automatically associated with warmer temperatures. Environmental influences like warm and sunny weather evoke positive emotions, thereby affecting the listeners’ choice of music. On the other hand, melancholic songs are mostly associated with autumn and winter.
Weather and music – under the scientific microscope
The Oxford study is in fact the first to deliver scientific proof of this correlation in the United Kingdom. The researchers analyzed historical weather data and official weather charts from the Met Office in terms of the daytime temperatures, hours of sunshine, and the number of rainy days. Aided by machine learning technology, the next step was to analyze and classify the musical attributes of the songs. Among the factors considered were the rhythm, tempo, melody, chord progressions, and dynamics. Finally, the collected weather data and musical information were superimposed onto each other on a digital timeline. It was found that the most popular songs from the top 10 showed the strongest correlation with the weather.
Mysterious marketing strategies
One could argue that many artists and music industry insiders have long known about this relationship between music and the weather and “(…) capitalize on this knowledge by publishing songs with a summer feel in the warmer months”. Do we really need a scientific study to come to this realization? Quite honestly, it’s not that surprising that we don’t want to listen to Christmas carols while lying on the beach, just like most people don’t play party tunes while gathering around the Christmas tree. You don’t have to be a music industry marketing genius to know that a rainy autumn probably isn’t the best time to publish your next summer hit.
Summer Nights was actually published in the summer
In any case, the study proved used a highly complex procedure and thorough analysis to prove that summer hits were in fact published in summer. What’s more, the Oxford researchers were even able to verify that cheerful, highly energetic songs like “Summer Nights” by John Travolta and Olivia Newton John were published during the summer months. Surprise! Don’t we all know the puzzled stares of bystanders when we start singing “All Summer Long” or “Summer Dreaming” in the pouring rain? Likewise, humming “Raindrops (are falling on my head)“ in the blazing sunshine is sure to turn heads.
Weather and music – no causal relationship
While they found a correlation between the weather conditions and the commercial success of songs in the charts, the researchers around Dr. Anglada-Tort point out that this does not indicate or prove a causal relationship. They are aware that the results must be taken with a grain of salt, especially since the current state of research also allows for completely different explanations such as the effect of playlists curated by popular streaming services.
Different countries, different weather
All the more, doubts remain about the results and interpretation, especially since the study is limited to the weather and musical preferences in Great Britain – a notoriously rainy country. Between those long stretches of drizzling rain, how did all the positive feel-good music by British bands and artists come about? That said, the methods used could also be applied to evaluate similar relationships in other countries with different climatic conditions. It would surely be interesting to find out how the weather affects musical preferences in other countries and regions.
Still an interesting approach
Without a doubt, music producers and artists have an interest to publish their songs at the best time possible. Numerous factors play an important role in deciding whether a song becomes a success or failure. This begins with the overall mood in society as determined by current events, and it goes well beyond the current trends. When it comes to streaming services, even the time of day can play a role in determining the number of plays. All things considered, it is somewhat unlikely that the weather alone is responsible for commercial success. Nevertheless, it is an interesting consideration for music industry strategists.
How about you – what kind of music do you like to listen to and play and with what kind of weather?