This fall, millions of students are settling in at the universities where they’ll study, socialize, and prepare for their futures — and that includes discovering music they’ll listen to for the rest of their lives.
Maybe it’s all the fresh sounds encountered just as they’re learning new things and working out who they are, but for whatever reason, people tend to establish their music taste at college, and for that matter, during the adolescent to young adult years. The classic rock girl might discover vintage jazz, or the EDM enthusiast gravitate towards hip-hop, and everyone is exposed to lots of new music, no matter where they’re coming from.
Music accompanies much of the studying, socializing, and just about everything else that goes on at universities, so we wondered: Which are the most musical universities? And what does each of those schools listen to?
We found the schools whose students signed up for our student deal at the highest rates last semester, because that plan appeals to students who love music. Then, we ranked the schools where these listeners played the most songs, because people who love music listen a lot:
- California Polytechnic State University
- Iowa State University
- University Of California Los Angeles
- University Of North Texas
- University Of Washington
- Texas Tech University
- Arizona State University
- Northeastern University
- University Of Arizona
- Georgia Institute Of Technology
- Miami University
- University Of Missouri Columbia
- University Of California Berkeley
- Cornell University
- University Of Wisconsin Madison
- University Of Oklahoma
- University Of Colorado Boulder
- Virginia Polytechnic Institute And State University
- Purdue University
- Texas A&M University
- Ohio State University
- University Of Minnesota Twin Cities
- University Of Arkansas Fayetteville
- Michigan State University
- University Of Central Florida
- University Of Illinois Urbana Champaign
- University Of Virginia
- Brigham Young University
- University Of Michigan Ann Arbor
- University Of Southern California
- Pennsylvania State University
- University Of Pennsylvania
- University Of Florida
- University Of Alabama
- New York University
- Florida State University
- Auburn University
- Indiana University Bloomington
- University Of Texas Austin
- University Of Georgia
Paul Lamere, director of developer platform for The Echo Nest at Spotify, identified several distinct musical characteristics of each university: the artists, songs, and genres they listen to way more than the students at other schools.
“We saw quite a bit of diversity in listening behavior, especially in the distinctive tracks and artists that define a school’s taste,” said Lamere. “I was also really interested in getting insights into the sleep/wake cycles at these schools through music — it’s interesting that some schools stay up late, some get up early, and others do both, burning the candle at both ends as it were.”
Here are some observations. To be clear, these “distinctive” traits mean that a school listens to a song, artist, or genre disproportionately to the other schools. All of the schools showed plenty of variety; looking for distinctive traits makes their unique qualities stand out in relief.
- In “the city that never sleeps,” listening patterns indicate that NYU students get an hour’s less sleep on average. They also listen to more slowcore and hipster music.
Cornell University listening spikes at 6am and 7am (right). One possibility: its students wake up and exercise before class more than those at other schools.
- University of Colorado Boulder students play our study-oriented Focus playlists the most. They’re also top streamers of Relax.
- Who listens to the happiest songs? it’s Iowa State, followed closely by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, University of Georgia, and University of Alabama.
- Texas A&M appears to follow fads and trends less than the other schools.
- Northeastern students enjoy metal, jazz, and Christian music, but not juggalos or listening at night.
- Boston EDM duo Timeflies is really popular at Iowa State, relative to other schools. They played a show there in 2012, which appears to have gone well.
- Penn State kids rock out on high-energy music, R&B, punk, and the EDM artist Hardwell way more than the kids at the other schools.
- You can find fans of fast skatepunk music at Purdue.
- Students at the University of Alabama listen to country music at about twice the average rate (right). They also listen more to sleep-themed playlists.
- Speaking of which, Brigham Young goes to bed the earliest and wakes up the earliest, which might have something to do with its midnight visitor curfew (1:30am on Fridays).
- The top Latin music schools are University of Pennsylvania, University of Florida, and University of Minnesota Twin Cities.
- The University of Washington listens to the longest, most instrumental music.
- Peak listening is 4pm across all of the schools.
There’s plenty more to explore.
*Update: An earlier version of this post listed the top 40 most musical schools alphabetically. You can still find that view here; the list in this post is now ranked by plays per student subscriber to the Spotify Student Deal.