Live Music – A Raw Experience
The feeling of bass in your chest, the sound of everyone singing to the same song, a shared sense of community amongst the crowd – these are all things society has taken for granted for the past year due to the worldwide pandemic. Now, to claim that your favorite song has some sort of “power” may seem abstract at first, but the truth is that the experience of live music provides limitless benefits to everyone involved – the artist(s), the venue, and especially the audience – the listener.
Expansion of Music in the Digital Age
Up until the recent and rapid expansion of technology in the last century, music has always been a live, visceral experience. Now, in the age of streaming services, nearly any and all music ever recorded is easily accessible at our fingertips, via one of the many popular music streaming platforms (Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, etc.). On a coexisting parallel – the global use of social media has become one of the primary catalysts for the expansion of music to new listeners.
A survey by MusicWatch found that 90% of social media users perform music-related activities on their social media – liking, sharing, checking for updates from artists, and more. On top of this, musicians are the most followed celebrities across all social media platforms – ahead of politicians, actors, and professional athletes. This behavior in social media users reaps massive benefits for music artists, but amidst the popularity, likes, and shares, how effectively are these artists actually connecting to the listener?
Social Effects of Social Media
Although the concept of the internet as it pertains to ‘social technology’ spans for just 25 years, the use of the internet and mainstream social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube have always been under the scope of psychiatric medical professionals due to reports of increased anxiety and depression from excessive interaction with the internet and these platforms.
In fact, a study conducted by the US National Library of Medicine cites that not only does internet usage decrease one’s tendency to communicate with their family and close ‘social circle’ but results indicated that, “‘users’ subjective perception of well-being and life satisfaction felt undermined.”. It goes without saying that while social media can expand the outreach of music (new and old) – these platforms do not create a deeper sense of social connectivity across communities. After all, great music is often found to be relatable across a widespread audience through a shared interest in sound or lyrical content – music is meant to connect people, not fuel solemn individuality.
On top of all this, forced spatial restrictions from COVID-19 over the past year have prevented in-person social interaction and further driven social media use – deepening the lack of social connectivity within each community.
Live Music as a Remedy for Social Disconnect
When friends get together and say, “let’s do something” or “let’s go out”, this often indicates going to a restaurant, a bar, or some social venue. The majority of the time, and regardless of the establishment, there is one commonality serving as the ‘social glue’ for these venues’ patrons – music.
While many venues utilize background music to combat crowd noise and awkward silence, other venues choose to hire a band or DJ. These venues choose to hire live performers because they know the impact of a live music experience.
On a physical level, music is sound, and sound is vibration. Experiencing live music allows the listener to experience vibrations from the music that cannot be felt otherwise by headphones or speakers, which are limited to the quality of speakers and the audio mix’s quality.
Why is it Important to FEEL the Sound?
While it may seem insignificant, experiencing vibrations with musical qualities inhibits a plethora of natural biological responses that not only benefit the individual listener but inhibit synergistic biological responses when experienced in crowd settings. One study by the American Psychological Association titled, Music as Medicine, shows some of the profound effects music can have on chronically affected individuals, such as those with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. The steady rhythm of musical vibrations has been shown to create drastic changes in both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients – two diseases that are affected through disoriented neurological/physiological connections. In a separate study provided by the USNLM, results show that experiencing music in a live setting, especially with ‘participating’ audience members (i.e., drumming along, singing, playing air guitar, etc.), has been linked (but not limited) to:
- Decreased stress, anxiety, and/or depression
- Willingness to be more socially active/increased self-esteem
- Increased energy / awareness / mental clarity
- Increased overall quality of life
- One of the greatest contributing factors to each of these benefits is the release of Oxytocin when experiencing music in a live setting. Oxytocin is a key hormone to vitality and sense of companionship in humans. Oxytocin increases social adaptability, sense of trust, and even physical muscle relaxation.
An additional study provided by the US National Library of Medicine observed neurochemical relation between social musical experiences and the release of oxytocin – results show that social musical experiences increased oxytocin levels, therefore inhibiting positive feelings from relieving stress/anxiety to literal arousal.
It is important to note that while every audience member in a live music setting may not have the same experience, there are undeniable positive qualities of live music beyond the individual:
- Social gatherings can lead to the creation of new friends and beneficial social connections.
- Crowds at venues require the purchase of food, drinks, and other products – creating a short-term stimulation in the local economy.
- Consumers and social media users in attendance create an increase in brand awareness for favorable products/brands.
Life Cycle of Art and Music
Alongside the limitless benefits proven from experiencing live music, one of the greatest benefits is to spread the sense of creativity, art, and inspiration amongst the community. Millions of anecdotal claims could be made about how one musician became inspired after seeing a live performance of his / her favorite band, first concert, or music festival, taking them to new creative heights and allowing them to be inspired and create new art. Live music, just like any other form of art, requires listeners or observers – an audience – in order to create an impactful performance. Members of the audience become engaged and interact when they enjoy the music, and experience positive energy and emotions through the sound. This positive energy can manifest into limitless bounds in their lives after their musical experience. At the end of the show, those audience members impacted most could be the ones who aim to be performing at a later point in time. All in all, the creation and performance of art inspires the creation, innovation, and performance of new art.
The Power of Live Music
Through scientific and anecdotal claims, it is evident that not just music, but live music, as a social experience amongst a community, is beneficial to all of those involved. From tangible qualities such as dollars earned and new friends made, to intangible qualities such as relieved anxiety and feeling of loneliness, live music should be commended as one of the most impactful experiences humans can undergo without having to inhibit drastic lifestyle changes, and often while remaining within their own community. As it pertains to social integrity within a community, live music has been and always will be one of the staples to a peaceful society on a worldwide scale.