“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” –Billy Joel
I am convinced that, in some sort of way, music is a form of medication. There is a certain feeling you get when you slip on headphones, turn up the radio way too loud, scream-sing with friends, or hear that first note of a concert’s headliner; these all excitedly shock your system. Maybe it’s just me or anyone else who turns to music as a support system. No matter my mood, a song can exactly parallel how I’m feeling, and therefore, it evolves into a natural crutch that helps me through anything.
There are things I don’t believe in: driving in a silent car (don’t trust those people), listening to something too softly (why listen at all), hearing a song without listening (lyrics can be mini therapy sessions). But what exactly about music makes it so important to people? I can easily describe how it makes people feel, but what about it creates this worldwide value across genres, cultures, and religion – all that try to separate us? *MAJOR KEY ALERT* Music is a major key to happiness. Here are 10 reasons why:
1. Lyrics create connection through relatable experiences.
A song’s lyrics can create a bonding experience between the musician and listener or between the listener and another listener. Lyrics express emotion, situations, and even creative stories. They are meant to express a message to the listener. However, with the amount of music consumed in a day, we might hear music more than we actually listen to it. This “background music” trend can help when it comes to concentration while studying, but it also neglects taking advantage of all the benefits that music has to offer.
One of those benefits is personal connection through lyrics. Have you ever been listening to a song and thought, This completely relates to my life right now? Someone in a studio somewhere far away conjured a message that somehow connects to you; it’s a powerful tool. Through relatable life experiences or even creative imagination, musicians can conjure a feeling of togetherness through lyrical composition. Music can breathe without the words; jazz makes the listener feel based on quickly veering tempos and swanky rhythm. Lyrics without music are poetry.
Yet, this does not make them of a lesser importance. The ability to interpret a situation far removed from your life and somehow relate demonstrates a fascinating theme of human experience commonality. Though we are vastly different, we still go through similar situations with similar emotions. Lyrics not only connect us to the artist, but they can also help us connect to a fellow listener who might also relate to a song’s message. Music without the words has no spearhead; though it might be enjoyable to listen to, the lyrical outfit gives a song power to exert social issue awareness, reflection, pain, happiness, and so much more.
2. Music can decrease stress and anxiety.
Studies show that music is less of a magical aid and more of a scientific proponent to relieving anxiety, stress, and insomnia. There are consistent parallels between calming effects and listening to music. Some believed it was merely an emotional tie to those who typically enjoy music. However, now there are many studies that determine the scientific backup behind music’s ability to aid. In decreasing stress and anxiety, it inadvertently fosters more happiness.
In addition, this decrease of stress and anxiety does not only happen throughout one’s daily routine. Music can create calming effects for surgical patients, the critically-ill, and others suffering from pain. Music’s positive effect has led to the development of organizations such as Musicians On Call. Musicians on Call coordinates volunteers to perform music to hospital patients. Huge names such as Ellie Goulding, Kelly Clarkson, Ed Sheeran, and more have participated in Musicians On Call. It is a way in which the scientific power of music can benefit another, decreasing worry and infiltrating a room with happiness. This is just one organization who is using the positive effects to enact change.
3. Listening to music improves athletic performance.
“That, that don’t kill me; can only make me stronger…” Kanye West‘s well-known “Stronger” is a common track found on any Spotify workout playlist. Many pump-up songs blast from speakers at practices, in headphones at gyms, or anytime that a workout needs a little edge. Music has become the new coach of exercise. In fact, it has scientifically been proven to increase athletic performance.
Costas Karageorghis, author of Applying Music in Exercise and Sport, explains how syncing music tempo to an athlete’s heart rate can produce improved stamina, speed, and athletic performance. However, anything over 140 beats per minute (BPM) will not continue to increase activity. Furthermore, Karageorghis argues that songs with lyrics that discuss physical movement can create muscle memory. Lyrics that assert a physical goal can reinforce the actual performance of the physical motion. Therefore, it is a fascinating way to trick your brain into asking more from your body. A better workout is something anyone desires to create more happiness within exercise. PBS NewsHour covered Karageorghis’ work in “Can music make you a better athlete?” The article’s graphic above demonstrates a visual representation of the brain’s stimulation to hearing music.
4. Spending money on experiences, like concerts, is better for you.
San Francisco State University Study
San Francisco State University conducted a study in 2014, analyzing the relationship between spending and happiness. “Those surveyed after making a purchase rate life experiences both making them happier and as a better use of their money.” SFSU Associated Professor of Psychology Ryan Howell, co-author of the study, argues that many continue to spend more on material items because “we have a hard time estimating the economic value we would place on our memories.”
However, life experiences consistently outweigh the temporary and long-term happiness of material purchases. Therefore, music’s great ability to give life experience through performance creates another positive. Concerts are frankly unlike any other live performance available. Whether it’s a stadium arena tour or a back room of a dive bar, concerts create this powerful connection between whoever is witnessing the performance. In addition, there is no feeling like the first few moments of headliner – when the darkness is replaced by light production and the first few notes echo in the audience. There is a stark contrast to the way that an opener and headliner begin their sets, naturally so, so witnessing an excited crowd come together is truly fantastic.
Cornell University Study
Those are the memory moments that Howell is talking about. This is an extremely important concept to keep in mind near the holidays when gift-giving and consumerism peaks, and Black Friday is filled with scenes out of Kill Bill. Many major publications have drawn from similar scientific studies and discussed the same conclusion, including Forbes and The Atlantic. Another popular, 20-year study by Cornell’s Dr. Thomas Gilovich arrived at the same conclusion. What about material items draws us away from happiness?
Well, for one, even bad experiences turn into good memories or stories. A short Yeezy concert is a good anecdote (as well as a social media goldmine), whereas a new iPhone that’s suddenly not working is merely a frustration. Furthermore, anticipation is vital to the purchasing process; however, anticipation of an experience causes excitement while anticipation for a material item causes impatience.
5. You can learn about other people’s lives without travelling.
Music’s ability to story-tell creates a vehicle to learn and experience without even leaving your house. This is because listeners can explore someone’s life that is vastly different from theirs through lyrical stories in songwriting. Though stories can be fabrications or exaggerations, they still have the power to inform another about diversity. This diversity can be lifestyle, location, race, sexual orientation, or any other factor that a listener might not be informed about beforehand. Through this, music can enact change.
Many say that the way to learn about others is to travel. This is true, but the big catch is that travelling is expensive. Hearing others’ stories through music is a cheap way to taste other cultures without getting on a plane. For example, an up-and-coming artist from New Zealand can shed light on his or her life through song, and an American teenager can listen to the song and gain a broader, deeper understanding of human diversity. That’s asking a lot from the listener. Not all music is meant to have a narrative, and not all music-lovers enjoy music to “understand” more. However, it is possible.
This also includes the ability to time travel without a time machine. I can listen to Bruce Springsteen‘s “Born in the U.S.A.” or Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” and gain knowledge about the Vietnam War’s effect on America and the Army draft during that time. I can certainly open up a history book and discover similar information, but music’s creative twist on a history lesson is a fascinating positive to its art. Happiness can be derived from the experience of understanding others, and lyrical “handshakes” help push open-mindedness to the forefront.
6. Music boosts memory.
Music has been shown to better peoples’ memories, creating a deeper ability to memorize and quickly retrieve information. In fact, music can even boost the memories of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Rhythm is usually responsible for this connection. When set to a beat, words are easier to recall. It is because music stimulates parts of the brain. Therefore, it can help with recollection through holding attention, evoking emotion, and stimulating visuals.
In addition, memories can also be associated with music: a first dance at a wedding, a couple’s “song,” and many more events relate to specific music. Hearing a song can bring back a wave of memories, which is another reason music aids memory. This is because of the emotional connection humans create with certain songs, cementing a life-lasting recollection. Artistic aid to memory boosting is another positive effect that can further one’s happiness.
7. Music gives artists a public platform through their fan base.
Part of the strength of America shines through in our ability to speak freely without governmental repercussions. If an artist has a fan base, no matter how big or small, they are reaching a target audience and can discuss topics that’ll reach that audience. Particularly in the social media age, artists are more accessible than ever. This is for better and for worse – many famous artists complain about lack of privacy and paparazzi aggression.
However, there is also a powerful recipe to artistic stardom and the public platform. With a society so heavily involved in social issues (nationally and globally), artists have the ability to air out issues with their fan bases and even educate those who are less aware. This does not mean every artists’ opinion is intelligently formed or that every fan agrees with an artist. It does mean that artists have the power to influence, sometimes even more than politicians themselves, as artist have a good reputation with their fans. In this past election, the American people saw many famous musicians speak out about their opinion or even join the campaign trail. The number of vocal celebrities was unprecedented. Owning your opinion and intellectually speaking on it is a strong tool.
Even if an artist doesn’t have a Taylor-Swift-sized audience, the ability to influence still persists. Any public speaker who can vocalize his or her opinion to a crowd has the power to affect change. Nowadays, a microphone and a physical crowd aren’t even always necessary. Musicians can use their online following as a target audience to explain an opinion and receive immediate reactions via comments or likes.
8. Upbeat music literally can improve your mood.
According to a University of Missouri study, actively listening to cheery music can indeed lift one’s mood. The study provided support for what people already use music for – as a mood booster. Lead author Yuna Ferguson proved that there is a short term and longer term positive effect of upbeat music. Through this research, it is proven that humans can seek changes to make their happiness increase; it is something that people have control over. Whether it is as simple as putting on a great playlist may differ from person to person. However, music’s ability to lift up people’s emotions makes it a natural drug – with a power to change a mental state at the push of “PLAY.”
9. Music creates socialization.
Due to the public performative aspect of music, it creates a social atmosphere that can bring people together. When everyone in a venue focuses on a headlining act, the effect is borderline magical. There is a connection between every crowd member who gathered to watch a performance. That in itself creates an immediate topic to bond people together. The classic “You love that band, too?!” is a conversation starter and a mode of socialization through music. Concert experiences are not only a setting for a good night out; they also bring together people who enjoy the same performer.
Music sometimes acts as an intangible support system or friend, but even so, listening to music alone only has a certain affect that cannot match a live concert experience. Whether you go to a show with friends or meet people there, the industry brings out happy gatherings in a time when positivity is sometimes harder to find. The unifying feeling of music but particularly live music creates a platform to socialize. Socialization is linked to people’s overall happiness. Though not everyone is extrovert, human relationships are important to foster for one’s overall contentment. Concerts are hopefully, if nothing else, fun. Live music really gives another level that cannot be accomplishment through recordings. In the video below, Taylor Swift fans demonstrate the sense of community stemming from their mutual love of the pop star, cultivating a social atmosphere for one of the biggest tours in recent years (“1989 World Tour”).
10. Studying music develops language and IQ.
Music can function as a training tool to improve language skills. Studies show that musical training can train the brain to handle ‘complex auditory input’ and a longer brain development time period. In addition, learning an instrument can improve spatial reasoning and promote creativity. The ability to distinguish between certain sounds can translate to literacy betterment; therefore, academic improvement can be linked to musical teaching.
Vocabulary builds as one listens to music, as well, due to the assortment of words within one song alone. Song lyrics are a new source of vocabulary especially for children, and much like reading, they gain understanding through their interaction with language.
All of these connections build a base for the argument that studying and listening to music helps develop language and IQ. Whether or not a creative focus is something that is important to you, the ability to expand one’s personal vocabulary skills or intelligence without even cracking a textbook is a fascinating perk to music training. The musician and the listener both benefit from an intellectual boost – it’s a win-win situation for an organic way to develop communicative skills.
Through these reasons above and more, there is an absolute impact of music that goes beyond the confines of art appreciation. Though not everyone relies or enjoys it the same, the value of the art in addition to other forms of creativity is evermore necessary to a technologically advancing society. With people honed into devices instead of communicating with each other, the community benefits that music forms are increasingly important. No matter the artist, genre, performance style, or tour size, musicians truly bring good into the world.