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Aims. The study aims to determine the importance of music to adolescents in England, and investigates why they listen to and perform music. Sample. A total of 2465 adolescents (1149 males; 1266 females; 50 participants did not state their sex) between 13 and 14 years of age who were attending Year 9 at one of 22 secondary schools in the North Staffordshire region of England. Method. A questionnaire asked participants (a) about their degree of involvement with musical activities; (b) to rate the importance of music relative to other activities; and (c) to rate the importance of several factors that might determine why they and other people of their age and sex might listen to/perform pop and classical music. Results. Responses indicated that i) over 50% of respondents either played an instrument currently or had played regularly before giving up, and the sample listened to music for an average of 2.45 hours per day; ii) listening to music was preferred to other indoor activities but not to outdoor activities; iii) listening to/playing pop music has different perceived benefits to listening to/ playing classical music; iv) responses to suggested reasons for listening to music could be grouped into three factors; and v) responses to suggested reasons for playing music could be grouped into four factors. Conclusions. These results indicate that music is important to adolescents, and that this is because it allows them to (a) portray an ‘ image’ to the outside world and (b) satisfy their emotional needs.