"What kind of music do you like?"
This always ends up being one of the saddest questions I ever hear. It's not the question itself that is the problem -- it's a perfectly reasonable thing to ask, and it seems like it should be easy to answer. The problem is that people seem to be geared toward not answering accurately, and I'm not really sure where we went wrong as a society that we can't just straight-up give an answer.
People hedge and stall. They say blatantly vapid things like, "I like everything", or even more tellingly, "I like everything except country/hip-hop/electronica". They act puzzled, say "I don't know", or otherwise seem like they almost don't know what you've asked them -- like you asked them what their favorite silent movie actor was or some shit -- and can't begin to fathom an answer.
I think this begins with how truly subjective musical taste is. It is, by my estimation, the most subjective art form. I mean, examine other art, here. Films and TV? We can all pretty much agree on whether someone is a good or bad performer, or if a film or show is done well or poorly, and while our opinions differ, it's rare that they differ wildly outside of hyperbole. Culinary art? While tastes vary, we can all recognize a good meal when we eat it. Dance? Whether it thrills you or leaves you cold, the recognition of beauty is pretty common. We can tell good artwork from bad artwork unless it straight up relies on some esoteric knowledge of art; a good photo is easily distinguished from a bad photo; good craftsmanship is easy to separate from poor craftsmanship.
Now examine music. You can love a band -- quite literally love and worship them, if you choose, and think of them as the pinnacle of performance and talent -- and have someone pick them apart in front of you as talentless hacks, and while you may disagree, it's really hard to form an objective argument about why someone is wrong. Musical tastes vary wildly, and most "popular" music is openly loathed by the critics whose job it is to inform the public of the virtues of music. There are so many variables -- rhythm, melody, harmony, vocals, lyrics, composition, style, choice of instruments, et alia -- that a minor change to a tune can render it unlistenable to those who are otherwise its biggest fans.
And so when we ask people "What kind of music do you like?", it's like we're asking them to tell us what their favorite color is, then somehow explain why in a meaningful fashion. People don't know what to say, so they say very little.
I've taken the question out of my social vernacular and replaced it with, "What are your current top 5 bands?", and I suggest you do the same.
This question cuts out a lot of middlemen. First, it's not asking anyone to define their taste in music in terms of genres, artificial or established; there is very little choice of WHAT, and instead a choice of WHO. Second, it isn't an all-time choice, which prompts people to think really hard about their answer lest they forget someone important -- it's just who they like RIGHT NOW, which should be easy to do if they're at all into music. And third, it sets a soft limit of 5, so people have an idea of about how many bands they can choose, giving them the option to either pick a variety of artists and styles to give depth to their taste OR stack the deck in a particular direction to declare a distinct preference for a certain style of music. Also, since it's just a question and not a mandate, people can go over if they really want to do so. Nobody reasonable is going to hold them to 5 if they want to name 6, or 10, or 20. After all, wasn't the point of the question to talk about what kind of music you like? What better way to explore that than to broaden the search past a short list of bands?
I will say, though, that anyone who puts the Dave Matthews Band in their Top 5 has terrible taste in music. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with liking Dave Matthews, but I am saying that making him one of your favorite artists means that you like fairly bland, non-threatening, unchallenging music, and it means we probably have nothing in common musically.