Top 10 tunes suggest slow beat for economy into 2011 - NZIER Insight 22

December 24, 2010

The bands fighting it out for the coveted Christmas No.1 are in tune with the latest forecasts for the economy

When we have less money to spend, we not only buy less music, but it seems we also buy different types of music. A recent study of pop music preferences over the past 501 years found that during tough economic times we are more likely to listen to & artists and songs. Instead of escaping into bright and bubbly pop songs, we turn to more serious and meaningful songs from older and more established artists, for understanding and comfort. The rhythms of recession tend to be darker, longer and slower – like the economy. More cheerful, lighter and faster music booms when the economy does.

So what does New Zealand's musical preferences suggest about the economic outlook for 2011? Using a highly scientific method, our in-depth analysis of the current New Zealand Top 10 songs (see table below) aligns well with our take on the economy. The outlook is mixed and messy, like the tunes played by a drunken DJ.

Music stores and other retailers are downbeat this holiday season. Consumer spending has been humming quietly for the past 12 months and, despite ringing tills in the November and December sales, hasn’t risen to its usual Christmas crescendo this year. As the echoes of recession fade, households are still cautious about their spending and focused on repaying debt whilst waiting for employment, wages and the housing market to pick up the beat.

NZIER forecasts economic growth to remain muted for the first half of 2011, before turning up the volume in the second half of the year from 1.7% growth over 2010 to 2.3% over 2011 and 2.9% over 2012. Other forecasters are singing from the same songbook. Whatever your musical tastes, NZIER wishes you a happy holiday season and prosperous New Year. We look forward to making beautiful music together in 2011.

1.Pettijohn II, T.F. and Sacco jr, D.F. (2009) Tough times, meaningful music, mature performers: popular Billboard songs and performer preferences across social and economic conditions in the Psychology of Music, April, no.37, pp.155-179.

This Insight was written at NZIER by Dr Johannah Branson (Senior Economist) John Ballingall (Deputy Chief Executive) and Peter Nicholls (Economist) with assistance from Jessica Matthewson, 24 December 2010.

For further information please contact Jessica on