How Music Affects Emotions (and Sales)
“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” ― Victor Hugo
Mr. Hugo has a point there. We all know that music affects us emotionally because we’ve experienced it for ourselves. We know that when we listen to certain types of music, we can be overcome by feelings of joy, sadness, elation, excitement, anger, and so on.
That’s why, in a way, all music is mood music, because it subtly influences the way that we feel without the need for any effort on our part. It just goes in through our ears and does what it likes in our heads!
Over time we establish more of an emotional connection with some types of music more than others, and it’s these that we’ll return to when we want to evoke or amplify a particular emotion.
Research suggests that music does more than just affect our moods though; it affects us both physiologically and psychologically, so let’s take a look at how music impacts us.
Music and Physical Wellbeing
Surprisingly, music has been shown to have a measurable effect on our brainwaves, which resonate to the tempo of what we are listening to. This means that if you are listening to music that has a regular beat (and isn’t too down-tempo), your brainwaves will actually start to sync with it. Which means you don’t just tap your toes to a tune, your neurons fire in time with it too!
Perhaps this phenomenon is something that we learn in the womb, floating in solitude for months on end with the insistent pulse of a heartbeat for a soundtrack. But whatever the cause of our brain’s strong affinity with rhythm, it works. Faster, stronger beats tune our brainwaves to make us more focused and alert, while slower music takes us into a meditative and relaxed state. A cross-section of 400 studies showed that slower music was better than anti-anxiety medication at calming the nerves of pre-operative patients before they entered surgery.
Another set of studies found that when you play upbeat music, you can process information faster. The same set of studies also revealed that listening to music, in general, helps to improve your memory.
Brainwave activity also stimulates other physical reactions, especially those controlled by the autonomic nervous system—that’s the system in our bodies that regulates involuntary functions such as breathing, heartbeat, digestion and so on.
In this TEDx talk, music researcher Hauke Egermann speaks about the effects of music on human emotion.
So, if music can influence your brainwaves, then that gives you a direct link to the bodily systems you don’t normally have control over. Strong, heart-pounding music will increase your heart rate, your respiratory rate, and your blood flow, etc., making you more excited and ready for action. To put it simply, big beats get the blood pumping.
The people who run cardio workout sessions at your local gym know this. That’s why they will play music that bounces along at the sort of tempo that your hard-working heart should be at—130bpm or so. The music helps get you in the zone and releases those happy hormones (like dopamine) much faster.
When you hear slow, meditative music it will automatically slow down your breathing and heart rate, and your blood pressure drops too. It’s ideal for helping you reach a state of calm—a relaxation response that de-escalates your emotions, taking you from “ready for anything” to “ready for bed.”
Research done in 2009 with people suffering from coronary heart disease found that music therapy sessions were particularly beneficial for them. Their blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate and even their pain levels were markedly reduced after their sessions.
Music and Behavior
We all agree that music can affect our mood, and we have also seen that music can have a lot of therapeutic effects too—both physical and psychological. However, another aspect of music is how it can be used to influence how we shop. According to research, there are 3 aspects of music that can influence your buying behavior—tempo, volume and genre.
- Tempo: Studies have shown that the beat or tempo of a piece of music can have a real impact on how people buy. In 1982, an experiment was carried out in a grocery store in New York. The focus of this experiment was simple enough—to assess whether the tempo of music had any influence on the buying behavior of customers at the store.
The study revealed that when the store played slow music, people lingered for longer in the aisles and ended up spending 32% more than when the store played music with a faster tempo. The suggestion here is that they spent longer in the store because they did not feel rushed. The music made them feel that they had time to browse, time to think, and the result was that they parted with more of their cash than if they’d felt rushed.
A similar experiment was conducted in a restaurant in 1999, and the results were also similar. The study found that people spent a lot more money when the music was slow and soft, in comparison with when the music was loud and fast. That doesn’t mean that it would suit every type of eatery though. Fast food restaurants offer lower-priced food and they rely on a lot of customer turnover, so it makes more sense for them to play the music that encourages patrons to keep moving.
More up-market, fine-dining restaurants want their customers to stay for hours, buying drinks, ordering more courses and virtually becoming part of the furniture. Relaxing, hanging around and feeling happy are great for loosening up wallets. That’s why these establishments often play classical music that signals refinement, sophistication and puts customers at ease. (It probably helps to lower the bill-payer’s pulse rate at the sight of the final bill, too).
- Volume: The volume of music has also been found to affect consumer behavior, but with a slight difference. It is more age-dependent. A 1988 study showed that older shoppers spent more time in a store when the music was soft, less intrusive, and in the background, but less time if the music was loud and in the foreground. For the younger shopper, just the opposite was true! Which is why many stores and restaurants play personalized music for their target customers.
- Genre: According to yet another study, it was found that playing a particular genre of music also had an impact on buying behavior. The experiment was conducted in a wine store, and it revealed that when classical music was played in the background, people tended to buy more expensive wines. Not only that, but when regional music was played, more customers bought wine from that country.
While none of these studies was conducted in a perfect experimental setting, they did gather enough data to at least give credence to the idea that music can and does influence buyer behavior. And the more personalized the music is, the better the buyer response. Which is why stores that are targeted at certain demographics play specific types of music at certain volume levels.
The Impact of Music Videos on Emotions and Behavior
In today’s world, it’s becoming harder to talk about music as a distinct entity, because so much of it is delivered to us in the form of videos. There was a time when everyone got their music via the radio, vinyl or cassette tapes. They listened in their cars, at home, through headphones on a Walkman. The only time it was partnered with moving images was on TV (and daily viewing hours were much lower than they are now) and at the movie theaters, so the majority of music consumption was just music.
Now, however, most music comes attached to the video, so the impact for the consumer is both auditory and visual. The other thing to remember is that all this video music is now freely available online, and that this is only a very recent innovation. People of all ages today are exposed to music videos on YouTube, Facebook, and other social media platforms. YouTube is massively popular, and obscure albums of yesteryear that could previously only be found in dusty record shops are probably going to be there if you search for them. Anyone with an internet connection now has access to almost the entire history of modern music, instantly, at little or no cost.
From one perspective, this suggests that we are living in a fantastically liberating era, where unprecedented access to music means that any and all tastes can be explored and indulged with little effort and almost no financial cost. That’s great for the listener, but it can make it difficult for marketers to choose the right kind of music to appeal to a particular demographic. This used to be a lot simpler, but the fragmentation of genres has made this something of a guessing game compared to how it used to be.
Music videos can be divided into two types—performance and concept. A performance video is a recording of a stage performance, usually a concert, of an artist or a group. Concept videos usually have a storyline that may or may not have evolved out of the song. This storyline sometimes gives an interpretation of the lyrics of the song. This interpretation is reinforced every time a person listens to that song.
Research shows that not all genres of music are equal. Some genres are really good for you—they enhance your mood, your ability to regulate your emotions effectively and make you feel generally good. Conversely, there are other genres of music that can hurt you— in the sense that they will darken your outlook, make you more negative, and make it difficult to beat depression, anxiety or other mood disorders.
Now, you may be thinking of dark, gothic heavy metal at this point, but think again! Fans of this kind of music often find it cathartic—a way of releasing negative emotions rather than encouraging them, so beware of judging every book by its cover, or every doom-laden guitar riff by its equally-gloomy album art. When we talk about music that hurts you, we’re not generalizing. We’re saying that it’s unique to every individual, so you need to find what doesn’t work for you.
How Can You Choose the Best Music for your Business Video?
As a business owner, by this point you might be feeling a little confused about how to choose the right music for your promotional or informational video. You may have invested a good deal of time, money and effort in getting an animated explainer just right, but how do you choose the right kind of music is going to accompany it?
This can be a really daunting task because just as with all the music available on sharing platforms, there is also a huge amount of library music to choose from. Choice can be as much a blessing as a curse. That glut of options can end up feeling paralyzing rather than liberating.
But don’t despair. There is no need to overthink it. You don’t need to be an expert in the psychology of influence to choose the right music, because you’re already as qualified as you need to be. You have spent your entire life listening to music, and, as we’ve said, you already know the emotional buttons that it pushes. As a lifetime consumer, you are already equipped to make a good guess at what kind of music is going to leave your viewers with the impression you want.
One of the benefits of using an online music library is that you can preview your video with selected music. This is a really useful tool because it means you can audition many different soundtracks until you find the one that fits your video perfectly. Another of the benefits is cost. Try to choose royalty-free music, because you only pay a one-off fee for the right to use it. As the name suggests, you don’t need to keep paying royalties to its publisher, you just pay once, which takes the guesswork out of budgeting for it.
If you have the budget, then feel free to consider using original music—but be prepared to pay a composer (a lot) for the privilege.
Pro tip! Test your hunches on someone who is similar to your target audience. They can probably get you much closer to the final choice than you could on your own.
There is no doubt that music plays a key role in our lives and that there’s more of it available to us for free now than ever before. It can influence our emotions for better or worse and even influence our buying behavior. We can use music to help improve our mood and productivity, and as marketers, we can use it to enhance the experience of the viewers who watch our marketing and informational videos.
This post was written by a guest contributor. Mony Raanan, founder and CEO of Voice Crafters and Audio Buzz.
Mony is a musician and entrepreneur. His journey began in Los Angeles, where he released an album and toured with his band Eye Twenty. Ultimately he got into studio and audio post-production work. In 2008 he founded Voice Crafters, a multilingual voice over agency and audio production house servicing hundreds of clients worldwide.
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