Why Is Heavy Metal Most Popular In Wealthy Countries?

In 2012, a map documenting the number of heavy metal bands per 100,000 people made rounds on the Internet, the greatest concentration landing in the Scandinavian countries. At the time, Richard Florida, co-founder and editor-at-large of The Atlantic's CityLab, originally looked to geography and personality to explain the results. Music that draws the "intense and rebellious" would, logically, go hand-in-hand with long, cold winters and a past filled with Pagans and Vikings, right?

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Two years later, Florida has returned to the map, looking in through a different lens. In his new report, along with the help of his Martin Prosperity Institute colleague Charlotta Mellander, Florida has discovered a relationship between a country's wealth and "high quality of life" and the popularity of heavy metal. He writes: "At the country-level, the number of heavy metal bands per capita is positively associated with economic output per capita (.71); level of creativity (.71) and entrepreneurship (.66); share of adults that hold college degrees (.68); as well as overall levels of human development (.79), well-being, and satisfaction with life (.60)."

While heavy metal might be most common in "the most advanced, most tolerant, and knowledge-based places in the world," Florida notes that there's no indication of direct causation between the two factors. Mellander, who is Swedish, believes that the density of heavy metal acts is related to Scandinavian governments’ "efforts to put compulsory music training in schools, which created a generation with the musical chop to meet metal’s technical demands." A genre born out of the United States and United Kingdom, it is unlikely that the genre would or will ever hold much weight in areas like Africa, the Middle East and much of Asia.

Heavy metal may sound the banner of the destitute and the alienated, but it is thriving among their counterparts, and the affluent certainly have the media, entertainment companies and consumers necessary to keep it alive.

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