Every culture is made up of behaviors, ideas and products (Christian anthropologist Paul Hiebert defined culture as people who join together because of “shared patterns of behavior, ideas and products.”1. One of the most powerful and cohesion-generating products is music and the celebration that accompanies it.
Holbrook and Schindler’s research suggests that a musical preference begins to crystallize in the early 20s and hardens throughout the rest of a person’s life.
This is important to know when attempting to understand worship wars. Rather than trying to attract people to into adopting music from a different culture, it might be more helpful to find touchstones and points of agreement between the music of their youth and the music of your youth.
So if you’re trying to reach out to another musical generation, begin by studying the music of that generation’s 20something years.
Try this leadership exercise to see if this research can be confirmed with your team members.
A. Ask your team members to share the year in which they were born. If do not want to do so, graciously excuse them from the exercise. Try to get at least two or three participants. Write down their birth year next to their name.
B. Next, ask your leaders to name their favorite musical groups and/or singers. Write these down next to their name. Each person should select three or four examples.
C. With your team (or later on your own if you prefer) go online and locate in which years those musical groups were the most popular.
D. Then correlate the year range of artist popularity with the period in time when the team member was in their 20s.
E. Finally, ask yourself, “Was there a correlation?”
There seems to be so, about 60 to 70% of the time. This is enough to say that Holbrook and Schindler’s research may be partially reliable and valid. But of course, more research is needed. That’s why I ask my students to undertake this leadership exercise. It can add to their experience and to their emerging theses (a thesis is basically a scholarly hunch 🙂 And at the very least, it can make them more sensitive to the musical products that are prefrered by members of their teams.
1. Paul Hiebert, Cultural Anthropology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1976), p. 25.
2. M. B. Holbrook & R. M. Schindler, “Some exploratory findings on the development of musical tastes,” Journal of Consumer Research, (1989) 16(1), p. 122.