The Psychology of Live Music and Why You Should Partake
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or some other ungodly obstruction), you have, at some point in your life—in your pre-pubescent awkwardness, high school day angst, college nights or in adulthood—heard and listened to a song that moved you. That is, if you are human to any minimal degree, you understand the power that music has over the soul, spirit, psyche or whatever noun you choose to prescribe to it. The point is, we all know it in an intuitive level: music is profoundly affecting to us. Live music has a similar effect and is a major part of the music industry as a whole. A lot has changed in the music industry since the days the Beatles discovered just how powerful a live performance could be by inadvertently arousing some hidden madness in all of their listeners. Yet, a lot of these effects continue to be an important part of the culture and thus have been studied in detail in order to learn more about its physiological effects. Let’s take a look at music, the brain, and why keeping live music in your life can be just as beneficial as that low carb diet someone talked you into trying.
Music and the Brain
Let’s start with the brain. The interest in how music affects the brain spawned its own field of science called neuromusicology—which explores how the nervous system reacts to music. There is good news! The evidence seems to suggest that music activates EVERY part of the brain. When scientists observed the brains of professional musicians, for example, they have found that they have a superior working memory, auditory skills, and cognitive flexibility.
Dopamine and Emotional Memories
As far as listening, the benefits are similar. First off, music helps induce the production of certain brain chemicals like dopamine. And dopamine is an important neurotransmitter which helps in the regulation of emotion, movement, and attention.
You may have heard, at some point, that it was only classical music that increased brain activity—something often referred to as the Mozart effect. While it’s true that learning a classical tune or two might make you more cultured and is probably far more thought-provoking than say, Justin Bieber— the truth is that your gray matter loves the same music you do and so whether it is Britney Spears, Ariana Grande, or Beethoven, your brain reacts in much the same way.
Music activates the emotional memories of your brain, which are long-lasting and powerful. It’s why when you hear that Green Day song you think of your terribly dull and confusing high school years. Listening to music can actually enhance the functions of your frontal lobe as well, which means that it can improve the part of the brain that leads to thinking, planning, and decision-making.
Live Music and Its Benefits
The effects of live music enhance the experience over music listened to via headphones or speakers. Researchers have studied the psychophysiological effects of music. There are visual aspects of a live performance and all kinds of other external stimuli that add to the overall enjoyment of a musical event. In fact, researchers believe that having studied these effects they discovered a biological aspect of a performer-to-audience communication. In other words, people often embark on road trips to see their favorite bands on the next town over because they want MORE than simply listening to the songs on the record. They want that communication with the performer. If you’ve ever seen the footage of a great performance by a great band, you’ve seen that the audience is often in a kind of mesmerized and fully engaged state. Well, until cell phones ruined that anyway.
It is arguable that today many people attend concerts merely to show their friends and social media followers that they were, in fact, at that concert. Look at me, I’m here! It earns them a kind of ‘self-actualization through cultural consumption’ as it’s put in the National Institute of Health study. In other words, if you have your cell phone out at a concert, you’re taking all the good benefits and tossing them in the trash. So stop it!
Other researchers in Australia discovered that these live performances often increase people’s subjective feeling of well being. To put it in layman’s terms, if the performer is having a good time, if they are honest in their musical performance, then it might very well move you and inspire you in a positive way.
The Changing Music Industry
When The Beatles were drawing manic crowds of young women screaming and crying into stadiums and running onto the fields unafraid of being chased by police, the music industry discovered something. And even though much of that is still to be nailed down, we know that people love attending live music concerts for various reasons and at least one of those reasons is the emotional connection that a person has with the performers. If you are limiting yourself to just the music on your ipod or Spotify or whatever it is these days, then you might be missing out on some really good health benefits.
In other words, get thee to some live music!!!
And if you’re looking to rock out those neurons in your brain, come by Crown and Eagle Bar and Grill and get a natural dopamine rush. Couple that with a few good drinks, delicious food, and low prices and you have yourself the kind of night that reminds us that life is oh so sweet and yes we only get one.