Gallup Organization Reveals Findings of "American Attitudes Toward Making Music" Survey

Silver Anniversary Survey Commissioned by International Music Products Association (NAMM) Discloses Highest Music Instrument Ownership Rate Since 1978

Carlsbad, Calif.

More than ever, Americans are saying “We want our musical instruments,” according to a 2003 survey conducted by The Gallup Organization and commissioned by NAMM, the International Music Products Association.

The survey found that musical instruments are being purchased by American homeowners at the highest levels since 1978. Slightly more than one in two, or 54 percent of households surveyed, have a member who plays a musical instrument. In 48 percent of households, where at least one person played an instrument, there were two or more additional members who also played an instrument ,according to the survey.

“The survey results demonstrate that more Americans are enjoying the benefits of playing music than ever before,” said Joe Lamond, president and CEO, NAMM. “This says a lot about the public’s growing awareness of research linking music making with increased brain development in young children, student success in school, and health and wellness in older adults and seniors.”

It’s Never Too Early—or Too Late
No matter how young or old, Americans of all ages continue to bring music into their lives. According to the NAMM/Gallup Survey, 31 percent (up from 25 percent in 1985) of those who played an instrument were between the ages 5 to 17, and 27 percent were between the ages of 18 to 34.

The survey also found that adults are still quite active in the creation of music, with 42 percent of those surveyed between the ages of 35 to 50 currently playing a musical instrument, up from 35 percent in 1985. As for those 50 and older, 20 percent were still playing an instrument, up from 16 percent in 1985.

Conversely, the vast majority of those questioned began their musical education prior to entering their teens. In fact, some 64 percent of those questioned began musical training between the ages of 5 to 11, while 18 percent began between the ages 12 to 14.

Who’s Buying?
Of households surveyed, 51 percent owned a musical instrument and 55 percent said they would most likely buy an instrument or an additional instrument from a music retailer compared to 18 percent who would buy it from the Internet. With regard to education, 64 percent of instrument owners were college graduates and 57 percent made more than $45,000 a year.

Across the board and from year to year it’s the players who are determining which instruments to play. When asked who decided what instrument each person in the household would play, 75 percent responded that whoever is playing makes that decision.

Of those surveyed, 40 percent became interested in playing music through their parents’ encouragement, with 28 percent responding they became interested on their own and 15 percent were inspired by a teacher.

Where We Learn to Play
At a time when school budgets are being cut, with many music education programs being reduced or slashed completely, the survey found that 30 percent of the respondents learned how to play an instrument through lessons at school. In fact, 26 percent responded that they learned by taking private lessons, 22 percent were self-taught, 9 percent learned by being part of a band or school orchestra and 13 percent were either taught by a family member or friend.

With regard to continuing to receive some sort of formal music education, 35 percent of the respondents said that someone in the household participates in a school instrumental music program, up from 27 percent in 1990. Around 18 percent take private lessons and 15 percent utilize some other type of instrumental music lesson.

Attitudes Toward Music
According to the NAMM/Gallup Survey, 54 percent of the respondents believe that children should be exposed to music before they are one year old, 50 percent responded that music plays a significant role in preschool development, while 64 percent said it is important for children to engage in musical activities in daycare and preschool.

It was agreed by 97 percent of respondents that playing a musical instrument provided a sense of accomplishment and is a good means of expression. Exactly 80 percent believed that playing an instrument makes you smarter.

Of those surveyed, 85 percent regretted not learning to play an instrument and 67 percent said they would still like to learn how to play one.

Other results included:

  • 96 percent said that school band was a good way to develop teamwork skills
  • 95 percent said music was part of a well-rounded education
  • 93 percent felt schools should offer musical instrument instruction as part of regular curriculum
  • 85 percent believed participating in a school music program corresponds with better grades
  • 79 percent felt states should mandate music education so all students have the opportunity in school
  • 93 percent said playing an instrument helps children make friends
  • 88 percent said playing an instrument teaches children discipline
  • 97 percent said playing an instrument helps a child appreciate arts and culture
  • 71 percent believed that teenagers who play an instrument are less likely to have discipline problems
  • 78 percent said learning a musical instrument helps you do better in other subjects

The purpose of this study was to gauge public attitudes toward playing a musical instrument in the United States in 2003. A random sample of consumers, 12 years of age and older in U.S. households were used to complete 1,005 telephone interviews between February 4, 2003, and March 8, 2003. The survey was executed by The Gallup Organization. Error attributable to sampling and other random effects would be plus or minus 3.1.

* College-Bound Seniors National Report: Profile of SAT Program Test Takers. Princeton, NJ: The College Entrance Examination Board, 2001.

Media Contacts
NAMM Communications - John Dolak, Director

The Lippin Group for NAMM

About NAMM

The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) is the not-for-profit association with a mission to strengthen the $19.5 billion music products industry. NAMM is comprised of 15,400 global member companies and individual professionals with a global workforce of over 475,000 employees. NAMM events and members fund The NAMM Foundation's efforts to promote the pleasures and benefits of music and advance active participation in music-making across the lifespan. For more information about NAMM, please visit