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Music, food and drink bring us together in a new tradition of friendship celebrations that are as important to us as family gatherings.

Who are your friends?

At first, it seems a simple question. But think again: when was the last time you saw your best friend? Who did you spend your weekend with? Who are the people you really care about and how do you stay close to them?

Science tells us we can maintain a network of up to 150 friends but that we, really, only could count our close friends at 15.

We maintain connections in their hundreds, sometimes thousands, on social media and our networks of “friends” are linked by likes and shares. We can go for months without a face to face interaction with some of the people we consider closest to our hearts.

Today’s friendship has become abstracted by our globalized and increasingly virtual lives. We have become more nomadic, moving in our careers from town to town, to new countries even. We make new friendships as we go, with more and more of our life taking place online.  

With social media, we don’t have to let friendships lapse, keeping pace via feeds and photographs; snatched moments of connectivity that create a feeling of close proximity regardless of distance. These changes are having a fundamental impact on friendship itself.

We are making more and more friends than ever, but we often struggle to meet in person. The psychology of what we’re experiencing is unique to our time: we are negotiating friendship on entirely new terms, with new tools, and we’re struggling.

What used to be a sci-fi dream of virtual reality is here now, and it is distancing us from the deeper relationships our spirits crave. Against this backdrop, the need for tactile friendship has risen to the fore, and we’re witnessing a renaissance of friendship’s truest forms.

The ‘friendship ceremony’ – coming together has never been more important

In our busy lives, time is precious, and we choose carefully who we spend it with.  Whether we are distanced by time or by continents, connecting physically with our closest friends takes on a new significance.  

These moments are not just dear to us, they affirm the importance of the people we choose to spend them with. They provide much-needed breaks in our lives: a time to truly enjoy friendship in a world moving at breakneck speed.

Now, more than ever, the need to get together has become truly vital. Loneliness has entered the domain of the sociologist, doctor, and epidemiologist; technology has offered us incredible connectivity but we’re fighting against a reality of increased distance and isolation.

Conventional social milestones: weddings, births, birthdays, don’t really serve our needs in this way. The ‘Pintererestization’ of these events can feel almost competitive, with all eyes on the star of the event.

In the gap between, we have started to create our own ‘friendship ceremonies’, sometimes complementing, occasionally replacing traditional family gatherings with something that is altogether more vibrant, loud and fun.

These events are an opportunity to confirm your presence in the social circle, to demonstrate personal value and show appreciation to those around you through inviting them into your home – your most sacred and personal space.

Invitees are finite, usually around 13 – a number that is consistent across countries. Amongst 8 countries studied the biggest average friendship celebration is still only 15, in the USA.


Potlucks: the perfect antidote

Potluck, an old English phrase meaning to accept a situation in which one must take a chance that whatever is available will prove to be good. It has also come to mean a meal shared by friends in which everyone brings a dish to the table. It’s a custom that is shared by many cultures, in many countries, each in their own interpretation.  

Potluck dinners are spontaneous; they focus on the group, not the individual. They put the opportunity to celebrate and nurture friendships front and centre. New friendship rituals from Galentines Day, Friendsmas, Friendsgiving, and even Game of Thrones season finales, provide moments to get together and celebrate without the formality of more traditional occasions.

Over half of our global sample (57%) say they look forward to Friendsmas and Friendsgiving gatherings more than their family’s holiday celebrations.

Potluck expresses a desire for flexibility, an opportunity to incorporate the diversity of our modern lives. We are remixing rituals on our own terms.

The locations in which Friendsmas is celebrated implies that people are aiming for greater control of the gathering. Homes are more popular than public places. 49% say they’ve had these events in their own home and 41% a friend’s home, compared to 31% in restaurants, 15% in bars and only 4% in nightclubs. For 74% of people, the event has to involve catching up with old friends and the home is the best setting for this.

It’s surely no surprise to see the perfect holiday gathering events have four key ingredients: friends, music, food and drink.


People and music

2_middle_imageAdding music is fundamental to the holiday party, a condition, alongside good company and great conversation, that is truly fundamental.

85% of attendees say there has to be music playing at these gatherings, and the same percentage believe that just behind the presence of good friends and good conversation being in flow, music is the next most essential ingredient.

“Music has always been part of celebrating Christmas to the point that it is unthinkable to have Christmas parties without music. With Friendsmas parties, music has taken on an even more significant role.” – Dr. Daniel Müllensiefen

A generation that grew up to a sound-track of poor-quality compressed mp3s has matured and calibrated to an expectation of high quality sonic experiences.

79% valued the sound quality of the music played through the speaker system as ‘important.’

“(Now) music is among the goods you can savor and appreciate in a high quality mode, not just consuming it as you go along.”

Services such as Spotify have accelerated our ability to discover music exponentially. Simultaneously, the speed of sharing and conversation happens faster than ever before. Thanks to these exciting new resources, our tastes are diversifying and we are becoming more empowered to develop and showcase our newfound obsessions.

63% say there needs to be a large music library to choose from while 67% think it should be easy for guests to pick a song. 60% believe that it’s important that everyone has the opportunity to add to the playlist.

“This is in contrast to the idea that there should be a DJ scripting the event. More importantly it’s about sharing access to the playlist; the process of choosing music can help to increase the feeling of togetherness. It’s more democratic, and very few people would try to hijack that and to impose their taste.”

Setting the tone with the right music choice helps us to connect and feel comfortable. Helping the conversation from the kitchen to the dining room.

The style of music matches the taste of the people at the gathering: 80%.


Music, food and drink

end_imageAnd talking of the kitchen, the centre of any home, where would we be without great food and drink?

“Once you’ve found the right kind of music, that matches the event, it sends the immediate signal that we’re all on the same page. Then, other types of interaction, like eating together, or cooking together, will benefit from that experience, as the music helps everyone feel the same emotion.”

Music is not only a vital ingredient, it’s an enhancer. Where every second is precious, every detail should be optimized.  From our tastebuds to our eyes, music infuses and enhances every aspect of the Potluck.

Music makes the food and drink taste better for 62% of our sample.

“This idea that our senses are separate and completely independent is simply not true. They interact in the brain together: arousal in one sense will carry over to perceived arousal in another sense.”


Playlist Potluck: playlists and modern friendship

Playlist Potluck. A potluck in which we all contribute to the food, the music, the atmosphere is perhaps the truest, democratic expression of the friendship ceremony; an essential antidote to the stress and anxiety of modern life. It’s a wonderfully simple and flexibly created social setting to make lasting collective memories.

“One of the reasons music exists at all is around social interaction, bonding and the communication of emotion. Things you couldn’t easily say in language can be much more easily communicated by music.”

Playlist Potluck provides the perfect opportunity to reinforce and nurture our most important social bonds with friends.

“Music generates and triggers the same emotions in people. If you feel an emotion triggered by music and you have the impression that someone else is feeling the same emotion, it creates a strong bond. Music is particularly good at doing that – because you are listening to the same stimulus, you want to generate more of this feeling of togetherness, and that might carry over to other activities.”

Music at these parties helps 82% relax, and 78% use it as an ice-breaker.

Casting convention aside, there’s no need to follow any rules or guidelines. It’s this informality, the ability to choose together that makes for the best conditions for all, creating shared playlists, enjoying them out loud, as they should be heard.

As we set out on bigger and bolder journeys, the true form of friendship that we long for faces real challenges. But we are finding our own way to tighten connections and strengthen bonds between us. We hope you’ll join us this holiday season by celebrating your own Playlist Potluck with Sonos and Spotify, bringing the perfect collaborative soundtrack into your home.


Survey highlights

  • Over half of our global sample (57%) say they look forward to Friendsmas and Friendsgiving gatherings more than their family’s holiday Christmas celebrations.
  • 85% of attendees say there has to be music playing at these gatherings, and the same percentage believe that just behind the presence of good friends and good conversation being in flow, music is the next most essential ingredient.
  • The music at these parties helps 82% relax, and 78% use it as an ice-breaker.
  • 79% valued the sound quality of the music played through the speaker system as ‘important.’
  • 63% say that there needs to be a large music library to choose from while 67% think it should be easy for guests to pick a song.
  • 73% believe that music encourages people to sing along.
  • Music makes the food and drink taste better for 62% of our sample.
  • The style of music matches the taste of the people at the gathering: 80%.

  • 60% believe that it’s important that everyone has the opportunity to add to the playlist.
  • Invitees are finite, usually around 13 – a number that is consistent across countries. Amongst 8 countries studied the biggest average friendship celebration is still only 15, in the USA.

What we did

The Study

In August 2016, Sonos and Spotify commissioned a quantitative global study of adults aged 18-40 across the UK, U.S, France, Germany, Canada, Sweden, Australia and Netherlands. We spoke to over 9,000 people in these eight countries, and compiled usage data from millions of Sonos homes and Spotify customers. Our analysis was also informed and supported by two independent experts and Flamingo Cultural Intelligence.

The Experts

Oliver Burkeman – new relationships and milestones

Author and Journalist, Oliver explores the evolving fabric of everyday life and relationships, from ‘The trouble with modern friendship’ to ‘Can you make your own happiness?’

Dr. Daniel Müllensiefen – music psychologist

Music Psychologist, Course Director and member of the Music, Mind & Brain research group at Goldsmiths University, London.


Still want more?

Please head over to our friends at Polygraph for some interactive fun.

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