Music Taste vs. SAT Scores Shows USA's Decline

Digital researcher Virgil Griffith has struck gold with a simple formula that correlates your taste in music with SAT scores.  According to the site Digital Inspiration, Griffith took data from facebook, including what college people went to and what their favorite bands were, and plotted them on a graph (seen below).  The SAT scores used were an average for the individual school, and approximately 1400 bands were surveyed from over 1300 schools.

Clearly, minorities are at a large disadvantage, judging by hip hop and reggaeton holding down the bottom of the chart, and alternative rock and classic rock, mostly listened to by white people, close to the top.

sat-scores-and-music

An excerpt of Virgil Griffith's fascinating research in music taste and SAT scores.

Why do the kids who listen to classic rock tend to go to better schools than the ones into rap and reggaetón?  And where is Willie Nelson? It seems to me that a teenager into classic rock is trying hard to please their parents, even being into the same records.  These kids have a low rate of their parents saying “turn that down!”  While the Counting Crows place high, I see them as a classic rock/parents’ band.

A fan of mellower new bands like Guster and The Shins seem to have reached a high degree of enlightenment, and Kelly Clarkson and Jay-Z fans seem vapid in comparison.   In my era, there were students who saw music competitively, who wanted to be seen as having the best taste, regardless of the band’s popularity.  “We’re an American Band” and “Long Live Rock” are a few of the rare self-referential songs from the classic rock era.

We wanted our favorite bands to be popular, but unlike today’s music artists, who speak about their own popularity in the music, it was not essential.  The “celebrity” factor is what makes Jay-Z and Beyoncé fans seem dumb — in another era, these would have been fans of Madonna.  These fans are just not that into music, and like the colors and costumes more than deep lyrics or album to album progression.  Ben Folds, The Shins and Guster have a much deeper relationship with their fans because how they conduct their careers demands it.

It’s not Ludacris and Jay-Z’s fault.  They represent larger-than-life characters and live a fantasy life carried out on programs like “Entertainment Tonight” and “Inside Hollywood.”  Their images are widely available as a form of packaging or communicating “noisy” and meaningless messages.  Any serious music fan would have a hard time getting to the core of why they are great having to ignore their commercialism, red-carpet appearances and boasts.  It’s very hard to feel possessive of someone like that, while if you are into The Shins (or in my case the Talking Heads and Elvis Costello), they are your band, for your reasons.

Probably the biggest reason that rap and reggaeton are near the bottom of the pile is the economic and cultural challenges still inherent in being a minority in America.  That is the biggest question posed by this information. What are we doing to get Jay-Z and Daddy Yankee fans into good colleges?

1 comment to Music Taste vs. SAT Scores Shows USA's Decline

  • J Pace

    Hmmm, very interesting yet I find-hard-to-belive study. First, Jazz features some of the most complex dynamics and theory and the fact that it is as low as pop and below Kanye West I find extremely hard to believe. Trust me, I love playing jazz piano, and I listen to jazz as well. I got a much higher score on the SAT (try 1970 the first time I took it). I'm not saying this to brag, just to disprove this graph.

    Maybe the researcher should have just taken data based on the area or school attended instead of the music that the person listens to. This chart makes it seem like people who listen to jazz or classical (which is also surprisingly low) are dumber than those who listen to Rage Against the Machine or AFI, because of the music they listen to, when in actuality it has to do with the school they attend or the area that they live in.

    Also the fact the the data was taken from facebook is kind of sketchy