8 Insights From Profiling Hundreds of Musicians
Over the past five years, I’ve actively profiled dozens and passively profiled hundreds of musicians for iNtuitiveMusician.com. In the process, I’ve mined a few insights that I thought were interesting.
Before we begin, there are a couple of things worth keeping in mind. Of course, the types I’ve assigned to the musicians I’ve profiled are only one person’s opinion. There’s no way to know type objectively and definitively.
Also, while I’ve encouraged readers to submit requests and I’ve made a conscious effort to be diverse in the musicians I’ve profiled, it’s impossible to account for my own bias in regards to musical taste. If I were born in a different part of the world or with very different musical taste, then the typological landscape of music would undoubtedly look different to me. I’ve done my best to account for bias, but it’s impossible to be objective. So with those caveats, here’s what I’ve found:
- There are relatively few Sensor-Judgers in popular music. While SJs may make up as much as 45% of the general population, it’s clear that that number is much, much smaller amongst popular musicians. My interpretation of this is that ‘career musician’ isn’t a reliable or predictable path and it doesn’t have a strong enough pull for most SJs to compel them to commit. Amongst Sensor-Judger types, ESFJ appears to be the most common, perhaps because they can have a tendency to be drawn to the spotlight and the finer things in life that come with it. Examples include Liberace, Sammy Davis Jr., Barbra Streisand and Selena Gomez.
- Few Sensor-Judgers write their own music. Introverted Sensing orients a person to what’s constant and reliable in the world. This creates a relationship to things ‘as they are,’ which is counter to how most creatives tend to experience the world. In my estimation, about 1-5% of the songs performed by famous Sensor-Judger musicians were written by them. A notable exception is ISTJ Alan Jackson who’s written or co-written about half of the songs he’s released.
- Fi and Ni primaries seem to be the most likely to become musicians. Though IxFPs and INxJs are not especially common in the general population, they’re fairly common amongst musicians. These types tend to have a lot going on beneath the surface and are often highly motivated to find a creative outlet. These types also tend to write a very high percentage of the music that they perform.
- Most songwriters are iNtuitive. Differing from Sensor-Judgers, iNtuitives tend to have a more turbulent experience of the world, naturally juxtaposing information and impressions in a way that lends itself to the creative, artistic process. NF appears to be the most common temperament amongst professional songwriters.
- Intuitives appear to make up a greater percentage of musicians than I realized. My hypothesis going in was that iNtuitives make up about 40% of all musicians. Though they only make up an estimated 25-35% of the general population, it appears to me that they may make up as much as 45-50% of musicians.
- Thinker and Judger musicians are more likely to be mistaken for Feelers and Perceivers than the other way around. Music tends to draw out people’s emotional, subjective side and can make musicians appear quite different from non-musicians of their type. On top of that, the lifestyle of a touring musician can bring out different traits and give a different impression than those in other fields. For example, the impression of Glenn Frey (ENTJ) of The Eagles performing “Peaceful Easy Feeling” is quite different than the image of the cold, ruthless, calculating Frank Underwood (ENTJ) of “House of Cards.” INTJs, in particular, can be easily mistaken for Feeler-Perceivers. The INTJ stereotype may bring people like Elon Musk or Ayn Rand to mind, but as musicians, INTJs tend to show much more of their right-brained side. For example, it caught me by surprise to find images of an unabashedly flamboyant Brian Eno, an otherwise clear INTJ, in his younger days with Roxy Music. Another example is my friend John Oszajca, who has a very laid-back image, playing lyric-driven rock music influenced by artists like Bob Dylan and Hank Williams. As a particularly talented writer, John shows linguistic abilities that INTJs can have that don’t necessarily fit into the more left-brained, science-minded stereotype.
- There appear to be slightly more introverted musicians than extraverted. My interpretation of this is that Introverts are more likely to feel less self-expressed in daily life and turn to outlets like music to meet this need.
- There appears to be no correlation between introversion/extraversion and performance ability. One might expect that since Extraverts tend to move more freely in the world and project their energy more openly that they would make for better musical performers. This doesn’t appear to be the case. In fact, many ‘best performer’ lists on sites like Rolling Stone are made up of more than half Introverts and Introvert-fronted bands like Prince, Muse, Jimi Hendrix, Lady Gaga, Radiohead and David Bowie to name a few. While Extraverts may excel in certain realms of performance, such as stage banter and capitalizing on serendipitous moments, Introverts likely feel more comfortable expressing themselves in an environment that they can have some control over and can be motivated to create an environment on stage to let out a side of them that doesn’t get to show itself often.
Questions or comments? Just post them below, and I’ll be happy to respond.