All Commentary
Monday, March 6, 2017

What Your Music Streaming Service Tells People about You

Amazon, Google, iTunes, Pandora, Spotify. Choose one and label yourself.

There are two questions that label you more harshly and permanently than any others. They are: “Apple or Android?” and, “What do you use to listen to music?” If your answers to these questions are the same, then you’re really stuck for life.

The music question reveals a lot more than just your Apple-Android loyalty though. It unconsciously tells people – including yourself if you pay attention – how social you are, how you think, how you react to the unexpected, how you live your day-to-day life, and how you engage with the world. In other words, it reveals your temperament.

Amazon, Google, iTunes, Pandora, Spotify. How do you think?Before Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers were putting everyone into eight categories with a quiz people quickly learned to game, and before Freud was offending everyone with his psychoanalyses, the ancient Greeks were divvying everyone up not according to personality, which is wildly changeable, but to temperament, which is not.

They decided there were four categories: choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic, and sanguine. Most people are in two of those, with one dominant and one secondary, but some are isolated into a single one. The Greeks associated an element with each one – fire, earth, water, and air, respectively – and contributed their existence to an excess of either yellow bile, black bile, phlegm, or blood (super fun, I know). We’ve removed them from their anatomical connections, but they’re still surprisingly accurate and do more to help you understand yourself and others than any MBTI “test.”

Want to know which one or two you’re in? All you have to do is ask yourself which music streaming service you use: Amazon, Google, iTunes, Pandora, or Spotify.

Behold, your temperament:

Google/Amazon: Choleric

You probably use Google or Amazon for music because you have Android everything, or you have Amazon everything. Maybe that wasn’t the reason initially, but now that Google Home and Alexa exist, you can live most of your life within one of these systems and never have to go outside of it. Cholerics are goal-oriented, which aligns with Google and Amazon’s pre-made playlist organization. Cholerics are also short-tempered, which means you don’t want to sit there going through every song ever made, putting them all into different personally created playlists.

iTunes: Phlegmatic

Phlegmatics are really laid back. Very even-tempered, relaxed, reliable, kind of apathetic. You go with the flow. iTunes was the first major mainstream service that lasted, and you probably got on board when it first came out. It was pretty easy, pretty cool, and your friends were using it too, so it became a social thing. You’re nurturing, too – you’ve been cultivating your music library for years and years and years now. And you just never really saw a reason to change services. By the time these other services were established, you already had your music on iTunes. Why would you go through all the trouble of recreating what you already have?

Pandora: Sanguine

Pandora is true to its mythological namesake – it really is a Pandora’s box. You never know exactly what you’re going to get, even when you listen to the same stations a few times each. You’re adventurous, carefree, and optimistic. You’re also generally happy, but you’re pretty emotional overall. Pandora caters to that. Pandora’s also great for entertaining, which is perfect, because you’re social and you like being the entertainment yourself.

Spotify: Melancholic

Spotify takes a lot of organization if you want to want to get the most out of it. You’re analytical, orderly, and managerial. You’re a bit of a worrier, so you like to have control over your music, and you’re loyal, even to your own songs. But you’re also impulsive, and that’s why you like Spotify’s not-so-secret mission to introduce you to new music. Still, you also appreciate that you can look through each list of recommendations and new songs before you commit to hitting “play.” You’re social when you feel like it – you probably have some kind of “Party” playlist ready on hand, just in case – but most of the time you’re pretty quiet. Just you and the music, yo.

But What about Vinyl?

These four categories and these five technologies of course do not exhaust the whole range of the human temperaments. There are those who seriously enjoy collecting vinyl records and playing them on spinning wheels, claiming that doing this means they experience a higher level of aesthetic pleasure than any merely electronic streaming services. The middle ages had a word for people like this too: heretics.