Marketing Letters

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 1-11

First online:

The same old song: The power of familiarity in music choice

  • Morgan K. WardAffiliated withCox School of Business, Southern Methodist University Email author 
  • , Joseph K. GoodmanAffiliated withOlin Business School, Washington University in St Louis
  • , Julie R. IrwinAffiliated withMcCombs School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin

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Does "familiarity breed contempt" or is "to know you is to love you"? In this research, we explore the role of familiarity in music choice. We show that although consumers say they would prefer to listen to unfamiliar music, in actuality familiarity with music positively predicts preference for songs, play lists, and radio stations. Familiarity with music is at least as good, if not a better, predictor of choice as are liking, satiation (which actually positively predicts choice), and regret. We suggest that the need for familiarity is driven by consumers' low need for stimulation in the music domain, and show that when the need for stimulation decreases, the power of familiarity significantly increases. In addition to their theoretical contribution, these results are informative for music managers determining playlists, for the promotion of music events and products, and for advertisers selecting the most potentially lucrative music venues.


Familiarity Mere exposure Optimum stimulation level Music Song