There are many theories that explain why we listen to music. From an evolutionary biological perspective, in order for it to have evolved, it must have provided a distinct advantage for survival. Those that were involved with music lived to pass on their genes, while others perished. Music has existed in every single human culture today and in the past.
There is much theorizing about why we listen to music. Some believe it is a reflection of our inner selves. It’s also believed to be closely related to language. Both lyrical and instrumental music are categorized into different semi-tones, and affect similar neurological systems.
A large portion of the recording industry involves knowing when to promote an artist. In order to have a hit song, you need to not only have one-in-a-million talent, but also marketing, financial support and most importantly, timing.
There are many reasons why we listen to music, and the same song can mean entirely different things to different people. Music is definitely a way of portraying and spreading emotion. It has the power to link hundreds of thousands of people at music festivals around the world- a feat not easily accomplished by many other products.
If we can understand the causal factors involved with why we listen to music, it may shed some insight onto both its purpose in our lives as well as provide obvious implications for music marketing in the future.
RESEARCH & DESIGN
I took a database of every song that has ever touched ground on the billboard top 100 charts since 1955-2009. Songs were analyzed and sorted in terms of two important characteristics; (i) tempo and (ii) modality. Tempo is measured in beats-per-minute, and is the general speed of the song. Modality or mode refers to whether or not the song is in a Major or Minor key. Major keys sound happy, and Minor keys sound sad- even an untrained ear is able to easily detect this.
I have graphed what I believe to be two of the most emotional aspects of music, with something that affects the emotions of countless individuals- the stock market. The results are listed below, and they were astounding.
Dow Jones 1955 – 2009 plotted against beat per minute
Linear correlation (r) is strong at -0.675 and negative
Very strong positive correlation (r) = 0.792
The higher the Down Jones average, the more top songs are in a minor key. Booms are associated with slower music in a minor key while busts are associated with faster music in a major key. The higher the stock market, the lower the beats per minute. People use music to calm down in boom times and excite themselves during slumps. The strength of the relationship is too large to disregard. In the past, individuals in finance have used trends in music to try and predict the stock market. The relationship I have uncovered is significantly stronger.
This means that the stock market sets the mood, which primes us with regards to what music we listen to- not vice-versa.
There were a few noticeable points in history that we would have expected to see changes in the data. In 1955, Billboard was in control of the charts and it was uncovered that they actually were tweaking the data for personal profit. Shortly after the announcement of SoundScan going live in 1991, the data shows that they got nervous and tried to cover up their tracks. Additionally, the coming of the digital age with the mp3 in roughly 2000, all the way up to what I now call the “super mp3” when it is by far and wide the dominant form of digital music. Last but not least, there are the payola scandals of 2004.
It would appear that no matter how much corporations might try to taint the data for personal profit, if it’s not the right time for a track it’s simply not the right time. I believe that you can pour money into marketing for an artist, but if it’s not their time then it won’t be enough for them to break in the long term.
There are obvious implications to how this can be used for Artists, Record Labels, and virtually anything involving the music industry. I will be withholding some of this information instead of putting it online. If you would like to discuss this in further, please contact me via the online form.
This is a small portion of a larger paper with much more data and graphs. Additionally, the causality behind how music can affect a nation psychologically and influence music sales will be released shortly.