Brown, A.R (2014) Revenge of the metal-univore or rise of the metal-omnivore? Exploring changes in the legitimacy of having a 'taste for classical music and heavy metal'. In: Metal and Cultural Impact: Metal's Role in the 21st Century, 6-8 November 2014, Dayton, Ohio, USA.

Official URL:


Recent research exploring Peterson’s ‘cultural omnivore’ thesis—that predicted the decline, or transformation, of traditional ‘snob’ cultures organized around a preference for legitimate or ‘high culture’ (such as a liking for classical music and opera found among the elite/highly educated) in favor of a model of greater multi-cultural tolerance—have noted a ‘surprising’ (and highly unexpected) preference for heavy metal among graduates. For example, Savage (2006), summarizing the findings from a recent UK study of musical tastes, states: ‘liking for classical music is negatively correlated with liking for all the other musical genres except jazz [and] (very surprisingly!) heavy metal’ (p.165), concluding that ‘the highly educated middle classes are no longer just fans of classical music. They are now also devotees of rock and jazz [and] to some extent, of heavy metal’ (p.173). Or as Warde et al observe: ‘Many items – perhaps, most notably […] Heavy Metal – which would previously be seen as decidedly beyond the pale of refined tastes, are now consumed more by the highly educated’ (2008: 164). The reason for the inclusion of the genre of ‘heavy metal’ in the survey (with rock, jazz, world, classical, C & W, electronic, urban) is due to the impact of Bryson’s (1996) “Anything but heavy metal” paper which showed that, while the highly-educated had become more tolerant of ethnic-minority-identified-musics (reggae, rhythm and/or blues, world), they demonstrated an active dislike of genres identified with the lower-educated, including heavy metal, country and rap. Investigating this apparent transformation in the cultural legitimacy of the genre, this paper offers a case study that explores the cultural-mediation of a social-psychology study that reported a distinct preference for heavy metal among a sample of Educationally Gifted Young People, as it went ‘viral’ across UK middle and highbrow-newspapers, social-media platforms and the World-Wide-Web. Examining, in particular, why metal fans ‘liked’, commented-on and re-posted the story, tells us some interesting things about changing cultural-hierarchies within metal culture itself, as well as its changing relation with traditional cultural-hierarchies outside of it.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Presented as part of a conference section entitled 'Mercury rising! Exploring the recent cultural legitimation of heavy metal music' which included contributions by Fellezs and Smialek.

Divisions: College of Liberal Arts
Date Deposited: 07 May 2015 17:05
Last Modified: 29 Apr 2016 13:27
Request a change to this item or report an issue Request a change to this item or report an issue
Update item (repository staff only) Update item (repository staff only)