Study Finds Record Labels Glorify Antisocial Themes But Consumers Prefer Prosocial Music

A new study led by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles found that commercial recording companies tend to sign hip–hop and rap artists whose works espouse antisocial themes such as violence, drug use, materialism, sexism, and crime. But when researchers examined the recordings most likely to be shared through social media by hip-hop and rap music fans, they found that the recordings tended to have more pro-social themes such as faith and spirituality, political activism, education, and community building.

The results showed that antisocial themes appeared 47 percent more frequently in songs at the top of the Billboard charts than in the songs popular on Facebook. And for the songs more popular on Facebook, pro-social themes appeared 16.5 percent more frequently than in the songs popular on the Billboard charts.

Lead author Avriel Epps, who conducted the study for her undergraduate honors thesis at UCLA, stated that “the findings suggest that rather than passively accepting what the media promotes, consumers are making conscious choices about the music they listen to and share with friends. They may also be resisting negative messages that are being promoted by media corporations and using the autonomy offered by social media to find more positive alternatives. Ultimately, I believe this suggests that music labels are leaving money on the table by not investing in pro-social artists, which consumers are actively searching for.”

Epps will begin doctoral studies at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University this fall.

The full study, “A Comparative Content Analysis of Anti- and Prosocial Rap Lyrical Themes Found on Traditional and New Media Outlets,” was published on the website of the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media. It may be accessed here.

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