Have you ever felt more creative or focused while listening to your favorite tunes?
Many artists find a unique connection between music and creative processes, a phenomenon we wanted to explore. To understand the influence of music on art-making, we dove into 170 Spotify playlists, totaling over 31,000 songs, all curated by creatives to accompany their artistic endeavors. We also surveyed 502 visual artists across various crafts, genders, and generations to uncover the top music selections dominating these vibrant, creative spaces. Let’s cue up and discover the soundtrack to creativity in the artist’s studio.
- Indie/alternative, pop, and rock are visual creatives’ top genres for inspiration.
- Arctic Monkeys, Taylor Swift, and Lana Del Rey are the top 3 most popular artists to listen to during creative sessions.
- Visual artists listen to music 70% of their creative time.
- 80% of visual artists report that listening to music extends their work sessions by an average of 1.8 hours, compared to working in silence.
- Nearly 80% of visual artists say music boosts their creativity.
- Classical, rock, and pop are the top creativity-boosting genres for visual artists.
Playlists for Visual Creation
Through a comprehensive analysis of 50 diverse user-generated Spotify playlists, including over 12,000 songs, we identified the musical preferences of visual arts creatives. Let’s first review the beats and rhythms filling art studios everywhere.
Artists listened to a diverse spectrum of music while they worked, but indie/alternative was the standout favorite, as 34% of the songs analyzed were in this genre. Pop (19%) was the second most popular art inspiration genre, followed by rock (16%). Hip-hop/rap and R&B/soul were also go-to inspirations, with each genre representing 6% of the songs we studied. This eclectic mix of music mirrors the diverse inspiration fueling artists’ creativity.
Overall, the top three most popular musical artists to listen to during creative sessions were Arctic Monkeys, Taylor Swift, and Lana Del Rey. To discover more about the music that’s inspiring visual artists, we also analyzed artists’ playlists to identify the five most listened-to musicians in each genre. The results were as follows:
|1. Arctic Monkeys||1. The Beatles||1. Taylor Swift||1. Frank Ocean||1. The Weeknd|
|2. Lana Del Rey||2. Fleetwood Mac||2. Harry Styles||2. Gorillaz||2. SZA|
|3. Mitski||3. Queen||3. Elton John||3. Tyler, the Creator||3. Miguel|
|4. Tame Impala||4. Billy Joel||4. Ricky Montgomery||4. Childish Gambino||4. Khalid|
|5. The Neighbourhood||5. Pink Floyd||5. Olivia Rodrigo||5. Mac Miller||5. Beyoncé|
Diving even further, we identified the top 10 songs across all 50 art inspo playlists:
- “Cigarette Daydreams” by Cage the Elephant
- “Always Forever” by Cults
- “Lovers Rock” by TV Girl
- “After the Storm” by Kali Uchis, featuring Tyler, the Creator and Bootsy Collins
- “As It Was” by Harry Styles
- “Riptide” by Vance Joy
- “505” by Arctic Monkeys
- “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears
- “Sofia” by Clairo
- “We Fell in Love in October” by Girl in Red
After identifying the music choices of artists overall, we decided to explore whether the type of art they create influences what they like to listen to.
Soundtracks by Creative Discipline
Now that we’ve uncovered the most popular music filling art studios and classes, let’s look at the top songs, artists, and genres that resonate with different creative activities.
Some interesting findings came up when we analyzed music by artistic discipline. Indie/alternative proved its popularity, being the most listened-to genre for drawing, graphic design, and knitting/crocheting. The ranking of indie musicians like Mitski and TV Girl was especially apt, as the work of these introspective musicians seems to align perfectly with the quiet concentration needed for these detailed arts.
On a different wavelength, potters and sculptors preferred rock, a louder, more energetic genre for these tactile, messy arts. Photographers also liked music with a bit more grit, as the rhythmic, lyrical flow of hip-hop/rap was their most popular work soundtrack.
Painters and fashion designers shared a love of pop music during creative sessions, with favorite musicians ranging from Lana Del Rey to Doja Cat. Pop music’s vast array of beats, moods, and emotions can offer a wide range of inspiration for painters and designers. Madonna was a particular favorite for fashion designers, with her hit song “Vogue” fittingly providing the most runway inspiration.
The musical choices of visual artists shed some light on the distinct sensibilities within various creative disciplines. It also illustrates how music transcends boundaries, serving as a universal muse for artists from diverse backgrounds.
Music’s Influence on Creative Processes
Visual artists turn to various genres and musicians for inspiration, but how does each impact the creative process? We surveyed 502 visual artists about music’s effects on their working sessions and creativity. Discover which genres give inspiration the biggest boost and which help it last the longest.
On average, the artists we surveyed reported listening to music during 70% of their creative work sessions. Furthermore, 80% said music extended their sessions. Compared to working in silence, music extended sessions by an average of 1.8 hours. For extended creative focus, 23% of artists preferred indie/alternative music, 22% favored classical, and 21% opted for hip-hop/rap. Country music and metal ranked 8th and 9th in popularity but extended sessions the longest, each by an impressive 2.3 hours.
Interestingly, different generations displayed significant preferences for particular genres. Over half of the baby boomers (59%) favored classical music to extend their artistic sessions, as did 31% of Gen X. Meanwhile, 41% of Gen Z strongly connected to indie/alternative. Millennials were more diverse in their musical preferences, but hip-hop/rap was their most favored genre for long work sessions at 22%.
In addition to extending artistic sessions, 79% of visual artists said music boosted their creativity. Let’s examine the genres turning up the creative volume.
Surprisingly, the dulcet tones of classical music were the most popular for boosting creativity, with 19% of artists agreeing it helped their creativity the most. However, rock, pop, and indie/alternative were close behind at 18% each.
Whichever genre they chose for extending art sessions or boosting creativity, 64% of artists preferred a medium volume for their studio soundtrack. Another 26% cited low as the best volume to improve creativity. Only 1 in 10 liked to create while listening to loud music. The preference for medium and low volume suggests artists appreciate a balance between sounds of inspiration and a focus on the art.
Where Artists Find Inspiration
To better understand the music visual artists listen to while working, we also asked our survey participants about the emotions that inspire them most. Let’s explore the secrets of these artistic hearts, including some firsthand accounts of musically inspired creations.
While artists found inspiration in every emotion listed, their most frequent muses were feel-good emotions. Joy and happiness were the most inspiring at 66%, followed by love or passion at 44%, hope at 40%, and curiosity or wonder at 38%. Nostalgia or longing and sadness or melancholy were also common inspirations at 37% and 36%, respectively. However, heartbreak or loss only inspired 19% of artists—far fewer than expected.
Visual artists used music to connect these emotions to their art, sometimes listening to one song on repeat for hours. From Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” serving as an outlet for overcoming challenges to an entire Fleetwood Mac album inspiring a series of paintings, there is an undeniable connection between music, emotions, and visual art.
The Harmony of Music and Visual Art
There is a profound link between music and art that many visual artists take full advantage of during their work sessions. Artistic inspiration is found across all musical genres and within the harmonies and lyrics of thousands of musicians. Music extends creative sessions, enhances creativity, and amplifies emotional inspiration. Whether indie or rap, quiet or loud, artists use music to transform their souls into mesmerizing visual masterpieces. So, the next time you want to create something beautiful, turn on some tunes and let your creativity soar.
We analyzed 170 user-generated playlists on Spotify, totaling 31,250 songs. We searched for specific playlist keywords that matched our inquiries, such as “art studio,” “art class,” “painting,” “drawing,” “knitting,” etc. The top artists for creative inspiration were ranked using a metascore method, which ranged from 1 to 5 (least to most popular), based on unique playlist count and total song count. The unique playlist count determined the top song, artists, and genre for each creative discipline, with the total song count used as a tiebreaker, given the smaller dataset.
We also surveyed 502 visual artists about how music influences their creative flow. Among those surveyed, 52% were women, 43% were men, and 5% were non-binary. Across generations, 53% were millennials, 21% were Generation X, 20% were Generation Z, and 6% were baby boomers.
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Fair Use Statement
Do you love to create art while listening to music? Feel free to share our findings for non-commercial purposes as long as you link back to this page to provide full access to our methodology and insights.