Infinite Content and Interrupted Listening: The Impact of Smartphones, Streaming and Music ‘Superabundance’ on Everyday Personal Music Listening Behaviour

by Ellie Moore

9 October 2019
Originally published in our Old Blog.

Since childhood I have been a devoted music listener. Like many people music is my daily escape from reality. First, I carried around a tape player, tapes and headphones that hurt my ears. Now my noise cancelling headphones, plugged into an iPhone and an everlasting Spotify music library keep me company and feed my love of new music. But always being plugged in meant that being without headphones made me panic. At some point my listening was no longer about music; it was about blocking out the rest of the world. Following a desire to put enjoyment of music back in the centre of my listening, I became fascinated by music listening behaviours and habits. I started to keep a diary about my music listening and experiment with leaving my headphones at home.

This self-exploration led me to write a paper called ‘Infinite content and uninterrupted listening’ as part of my Social Research MSc at Goldsmiths. In this piece of work, I investigated the impact of smartphones, streaming and music ‘superabundance’ on everyday personal music listening behaviour. To do this I asked 12 people living in UK cities to do 3 things; talk to me about their music listening habits, keep listening diaries and experiment with leaving their headphones at home for a whole day. In doing this I uncovered some behaviours which I recognised and some that I didn’t. As a new social researcher, the most fascinating part of the process was that after the study some of the participants made plans to change their listening behaviours. Which I did not expect!

So, if you have ever wondered, why people have their headphones in all day and whether this changes the way they value music, I would recommend reading the paper. If you’re one of those people who has their headphones in all day, perhaps keeping your own listening diary might be an interesting experiment? 

Ellie Moore is a project manager and researcher based in London. She’s currently Senior Creative Programme Officer at Help Musicians UK where she focuses on grant making, research and evaluation projects as well regularly speaking at conferences and offering funding advice to musicians. She tweets @elliealice.

You can read the working paper on Ellie’s project here.

︎ Dong-kyu (2013) <Music for dreaming> Based on: The dream by Pablo Picasso (1932). Used with permission from the artist.