Study Suggests That Musicians Are Mostly Judged by Their Looks

A study carried out by University College London is suggesting that our musical tastes may be determined more by aesthetics than musical ability.

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A study carried out by University College London is suggesting that our musical tastes may be determined more by aesthetics than musical ability. As SupaJam reports, Chia-Jung Tsay, who administered the experiment, has issued the following statement about the findings:

"People consistently report that sound is the most important source of information in evaluating performance in music," Tsay said, "However, the findings demonstrate that people actually depend primarily on visual information when making judgments about music performance."

Tsay's study put together a group of musical novices and experts, and over a series of tests asked them to predict the winners of several prestigious competitions. Participants were asked to predict the winner using either audio-only recordings, videos without audio, or videos without sound. The correct prediction rate for those watching without sound was higher than those watching with audio. For those listening to audio only, the prediction rate was significantly worse.

"Both experts and novices appear to be surprised by their own data, and experts in particular reported a severe lack of confidence in their judgment when they were assigned to the video-only recordings, not knowing that their approximations of the actual outcomes would be superior under such constrained conditions."

In response to the research, we here at Ultimate-Guitar raise the following question: how does your hypothesis account for this man being one of the most enduring faces of rock music in the last 40 years?

99 comments sorted by best / new / date

    fatgleeson
    Tell that to Lemmy
    vikkyvik
    It doesn't say "good looks". Just "looks". Besides, the article really should just say "Study Suggests That People Are Mostly Judged by Their Looks".
    UncleBluck
    I think the "our" refers to the majority, not "all". And by majority I mean the rather large masses that are happy to ingest the corporate pop garbage being shoved down their throats.....
    vikingman369
    and not the metal-heads, who hate anything that looks emo or "non metal"? i'm not defending metalcore or nu metal or any kind of emo music at all, but the fact still remains that metal-heads and rockers fall into this judgmental category just the same
    von gelb
    I am a "metal-head" but I never judged metalcore bands or emo because of how they look. Nevertheless, I still think most of it should not be called "metal".
    tobbenygard
    The article is perhaps misleading with regards to the original purpose of the study, it was carried out to measure how much the passion and energy any given performer had when playing and how that affects the evaluation. The performers were all playing classical piano, and when you start reaching the absolute top of that scene the playing is if not totally very close to perfection, so the only thing that differs between performers is the stage presence (to what extent a classical piano player can have direct contact with the audience in the sense of your everyday rock band).
    TomWhaley
    Tell that to a guy who plays in a metal band and looks like he plays in a metal band...
    Kriggs
    This was never a problem until MTV showed up.
    DickHardwood
    Screw MTV. Would Elvis be famous if he wasn't good looking? In fact, how many UGLY people have you seen in hugely successful bands?
    Kriggs
    Mick Jagger, Most of Pink Floyd & AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne with Sabbath, All of the Sex Pistols, Lemmy, I can go on and on (Im not even gonna start with the bands from the 60's). When MTV came on the scene, the amount of pretty bands sky rocketed.
    Sparda3
    Let's face it. Iron Maiden are a bunch of ugly dudes. Same with Black Sabbath, Slayer, Metallica...They were all popular because of their music. Now I like Katy Perry, but she wouldn't be as famous if it weren't for her breasts and face to go along with her songs. Lady Gaga? Her image is what's keeping her above ground.
    GhostPlayground
    Not exactly. Image doesn't always have to mean looks, oftentimes it can mean production/promotion/backstory or a variety of other factors. Black Sabbath is famous because they are credited with inventing heavy metal, not necessarily because they are the best at creating heavy metal. Metallica didn't become famous until the story of their bassist being crushed by the band's tour bus became widespread. Iron Maiden became famous because of Bruce Dickinson's operatic voice which, and please don't hate me for saying this, is actually fairly cheesy when compared to their previous singer (whom they played pretty much the exact same style with, yet failed to achieve success). Acid Bath didn't achieve a following until their bassist died, The police didn't become truly successful until Sting started singing fairly creepy love songs (every breath you take. don't stand so close to me) that are still unique and debated only for their lyrical content, the entire grunge scene didn't become famous until Kurt Cobain created a unique image for it, and so on. Be honest, how often have you really gotten into a band that didn't have some sort of image attached to it? If you truly didn't care about image, then you would probably enjoy an album like this. Popol Vuh-Hosianna Mantra
    DickHardwood
    Mick Jagger was good looking when he was young (Keith actually looks better now though), Ozzy was definitely not ugly, girls creamed over Sid Vicious, Lemmy doesn't count, being God and all that, and again, regular looking people at worst, definitely not ugly.
    Kueller917
    Image is a bit of a subjective thing and changes with time. There have always been the "pretty" popstars along with the rock icons and other genres. Also, Nirvana was pretty unappealing with appearance but MTV sort of capitalized on that and suddenly made that the trendy appearance. The image isn't always about being a made up doll. Lemmy sure isn't the most gorgeous human alive but you can't deny his appearance is iconic. Clothes, guitar styles, stage setup, etc. Being in music is very visual as well as aural.
    Yabba Who
    I have an important message to deliver to all the cute people all over the world. If you're out there and you're cute, maybe you're beautiful. I just want to tell you somethin' there's more of us ugly mother****ers than you, hey-y, so watch out. ― Frank Zappa
    TryTheKetchup
    our musical tastes may be determined more by aesthetics than musical ability. U DON'T SAY
    jmako
    Hey now, don't sass the brilliant minds working hard over at ...University.....College Ok never mind, that sounds made up
    SKB
    I wouldn't start slagging UCL....It's a very very good university.
    Fourgiven
    point and case: Deap Vally. if you have not see them, dear god you need to see them
    Mouloudo
    I'd like to think girls are mainly responsible for that... as long as you sing a lame song about love, and look good, you have a huge following, but if you're ugly and you sing your heart out about bad or serious things in life, you'll get men to follow you, and that's a fact that men are a more reliable fanbase, they dont switch to the next boy band every 6 months...
    Kriggs
    I dont wanna sound stupid but which man was UG referring to as one of the most enduring faces of rock music in the last 40 years?
    jamie_hough
    Assuming Jagger... possibly Lemmy... maybe Ozzy - the fact its hard to pinpoint does mean that, at least in the rock category, this study doesn't mean all that much.
    rXp
    Wait.... I'm the only one listening to music ? I mean, there is some bands that I really like, I know what the cover of the albums are, the songs and the lyrics but not the faces or what the group looks like.
    archangels
    The study was in regards to live performances, not studio recordings.
    dewitt
    Also, from what I remember about the article I read about this a couple days ago, it was to do with live classical music performance competitions. On that level of competition, most players will be more than competent, but there's not a whole lot of room given for improvisation, due to the judging tactics. So, when everybody basically sounds the same, it comes down to picking the one who exudes the most confidence and has the best appearance. Their charisma is what sets them apart, not necessarily their looks or their music. The study was kind of weird in the first place, but this article is misleading about what the study found.
    Mouloudo
    well I'm happy to say that I listen to music rather than watch it, looks are meant to arouse teenage girls, but once you passed that stage of fanboyism, you start to just listen to your mp3 or whatever rather than spend the sunday watching MTV or Vevo crap
    Silveroon009
    Lol @ people assuming aesthetics = pretty boy bands, you do realize Lemmy has an image (crafted or otherwise) that has worked perfectly for his style of music right? Same with Ozzy and most of the guys that have been mentioned. Good God, Hendrix is practically a synonim with psychedelia, and Pink Floyd/Roger Water's stadium shows are HUGELY influenced by their aesthetic.
    Anjohl
    Definitely true for girls. Ask any girl who their favorite bands are, and 99/100 times, they like the band because they have a hot singer.
    nashmanz
    I could care less about what you present as an "image". If the music sucks it doesn't matter.
    BenMSmith
    Hasnt this been common knowledge for decades now!? Im sure a study didnt have to be done.
    Jacques Nel
    I don't like seeing the bands I like, I'm usually like "Wait, that was you?"
    RCA1186
    "how does your hypothesis account for this man being one of the most enduring faces of rock music in the last 40 years?" Only picture posted is of young woman with headphones..
    kill it
    This data is obvious but I think it's usually non musicians that seem to "hear with their eyes". Most pop stars are attractive, however many of them don't write their own material or even sing live. Surprisingly many of the fans know this and still pay to just go look at them.
    Deflection
    This is absolutely irrelevant to a site like UG. This is most likely research on mainstream pop music. As other have pointed out, most legendary rock stars are ugly as hell. In fact, the prettier they are, the worse the musician, in my opinion.
    bass-fale47
    Appearance is not just about being facially good looking, it's also about how you dress. A lot of bands/musicians/pop stars success is based on fashion.
    throwinshapes45
    Guthrie Govan is one ugly mofo and looks like a guitar-shredding hippie AND has bad teeth, but it doesn't change the fact that he's one of the best guitarists in the world right now.
    HeretiK538
    "Participants were asked to predict the winner using either audio-only recordings, videos without audio, or videos without sound." Anyone else spot something very wrong here?
    studwig
    were the members of this group of "musical novices and experts" 14 year old girls?
    AcousticMetal99
    Going to buck the trend and say that how a band sounds to me is more important than what they look like. Most of the time, I don't listen to music with attached videos. So, sure, if a band looks cool or dresses/acts in a way which appeals to me, that's a bonus, and if a band turns out to be a bunch of numpties, then I may stop listening to them... but it's not a deal-breaker.
    sujay999
    "videos without audio, or videos without sound." Ground-breaking science differentiating audio from sound or (more likely) quality proofreading (again) from UG.
    PirateMuffinDan
    What a load of crap. How much ignorance does it take to confuse musicality with visual aesthetics?
    Reevo
    Id agree. Funny enough, i gave Black Veil Brides alot of shit because of how they looked, then i picked up Saints Row The Third, heard a song on the radio which i thought sounded pretty good... Turned out it was BvB. Guess i cant be biased on looks anymore
    wylde1994
    This is only relevant with the pop sh*t that has been spawned from shows like the X-facter, groups like one direction and Justin bieber wouldn't be famous if they weren't good looking...imo that's the only reason y thousands of pre-pubesant girls flock to their concerts.
    Abacus11
    When someone is good looking, people will fool themselves into thinking that they are also good at whatever it is they're doing - music, art, acting, whatever. It's always been like that, unfortunately. Some people grow out of seeing things like that but sadly most don't.
    Dynamight
    "Study Suggests That Musicians Are Mostly Judged by Their Looks" Only true for pop music.
    Xpl0r
    Turisas? Black Veil Brides? Slipknot? Lamb of God? they all look like mental nut jobs who scream their nut off. While I'll admit 3 of those bands actually dress up to play their music Lamb of God just has long hair, great big bushy beards and tattoos left right and centre. But they say musicians are judged on looks, again going back to Lamb of God, they look like mad bear drinking blokes that would spit roast a pig and just rip chunks of meat off it for food, half the band is vegetarian :/ You can't judge a book by it's cover
    xonty
    Most of prog rock people aren't exactly attractive, and a lot of people love their music...
    bigblockelectra
    "visual information" can mean anything from what a person looks like to the color of the lasers, pyro, lighting affects sync'd with the music.
    nicholsonisgod
    That may be true for me actually. Most of my favorite musicians dress like hobos. That's just probably a strong correlation though.
    ryancide
    the parameters of this study are never clearly defined here. i mean, i hope to see a band that looks like they know what they're doing, exude confidence, and seem to be excited to play. if you see someone so painfully nervous performing, it does taint the experience. while lemmy maybe ugly as sin, he gets up there and rocks the **** outta that stage. that's what people like to see.
    inlpwetrust
    I was exposed to Lacuna Coil's music after seeing Cristina on a magazine back in 2004. By God have they done some excellent music. This superficiality thing isn't all bad if you ask me.
    Funnyname99
    Doesn't this just mean that musical ability has little to do with winning awards/competitions? They simply miss-predicted the winners when they were judged on actual musical ability, without aesthetics or relation to trendy imagery.
    Eifler121
    "In response to the research, we here at Ultimate-Guitar raise the following question: how does your hypothesis account for this man being one of the most enduring faces of rock music in the last 40 years?" Who is this man?
    Chronologo
    What was the focus group of this study? 12 years old hysterical pre teen girls? That can explain the success of guys like Bieber and 1 direction
    IgnoreThis
    It's not about prettiness. It's about image, and more to the point, the way a band presents itself when performing. Iron Maiden weren't exactly pretty, but they wore their hair long, wore spandex, had shiny guitars and could bound up and down the stage like no-one else - they looked damn good, and it worked. Pink Floyd, alongside their amazing music, had some of the most spectacular live shows of all time - a visual spectacle which accounted for their 'looks' The Rolling Stones - Yeah they were all ugly as hell, but look at them perform! They literally ooze confidence and cockiness at every corner, and you can not only hear, but SEE that. They're the cocky jocks in highschool with the crooked noses and the mullets who still managed to hook up with the cheerleaders Look at the backlash Metallica received after cutting their hair, or after KISS decided to go without the makeup. Ugly people can still have a defining 'look' which makes the band. Look at how iconic Judas Priest made their biker-style leather wear! Even if you don't realize it, a band's look has most likely influenced your opinion on them at some point.