Lindsay Brazell

Music Educator and Creative Professional

Article Response: A Study of Sing-Along Behavior


This post is inspired by an article review assignment for my Psychology of Music class. Thoughts are my own and not of my institution.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have been doing a fair amount of reading, particularly in the area of research studies. This particular article caught my attention due to my interest in songwriting and the music industry. 

Pawley, A., & Mullensiefen, D. (2012). The Science of Singing Along: A Quantitative Field Study on Sing-along Behavior in the North of England. Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 30(2), 129-146. doi:10.1525/mp.2012.30.2.129


The title of this article immediately caught my attention due to my interest in the relationship of music and lyrics. I have previous knowledge of health and psychological benefits of singing, particularly singing in a group. While I can understand those reasons as to why people sing, the question of what makes people sing along at a performance or to recorded music was intriguing.

The authors of this study designed an observational study where they also participated as observers. Five entertainment venues were chosen, and over the course of a year they attended each venue six times for different events. They tracked the nature of each event, the songs, when they were performed, and other musical variables. The participants were not aware of their role in the study, nor were they informed that there was any research being conducted. Due to the nature of the study, the authors did not want to influence singing, but rather observe when and, eventually, why they sang when they did. While, in my opinion, this data seems daunting and almost unmanageable, the authors noted some interesting findings. First, they found that more familiar songs were sung-along to more than unfamiliar, or less main stream songs. Next, they found that more people sang along in larger venues, at weekend events, mostly younger audiences, and songs that spent at least four weeks on the UK music charts. 

While the article did not address the musical elements of each song that have particular interest to me, I do think this study could be useful in designing further observations of the kinds of songs that had the most participation. Questions that come to mind are:

  1. What keys are these songs in?
  2. What is the structure of the song? Verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, etc?
  3. What is the range of the melodic content?
  4. How long is the song?
  5. What are the lyrics about?

While there are lots of “opinions” in the music industry about what kinds of songs sell and how they should be structured, I wonder if this kind of research would be more beneficial, rather than going by the financial aspects of music. 

Additionally, this study made me wonder if people were only singing along purely due to the fact that they were surrounded by other people. When people attend concerts, it does not always imply that they are a fan of the performer, so it could simply be a social outing. Could the participants be singing along because they know the song, or were they emotionally moved by the music to do so? 

My final thoughts on this topic are somewhat less academic, but I feel strongly about them! I am not sure if the music industry has this kind of research happening or if there are even careers in this field, but if Nashville called and needed someone to do this kind of research to inform their music labels, I would jump on that opportunity in a heartbeat! So if you’re reading this, Nashville, I’m available! 🙂


Do you think this kind of research would beneficial in the music industry? Leave a comment below, or continue the conversation on Twitter @LindsayBrazell.


Photo Credit:


About Lindsay

I’m Lindsay, a choral music educator by day, a singer-songwriter by evening, and a writer when time allows. You can find my latest album, The Room I Found – Lindsay Morelli on iTunes.

Subscribe to Music Appreciation Monthly!

Feature Box

Sign up to receive Music Appreciation Monthly, a monthly email with music recommendations, articles about various topics in music, and a short lesson about how to listen to music intentionally and converse about music intelligently!