Superstar DJ and all-round nice guy Norman Cook aka Fatboy Slim has been running DJ workshops for people with severe mental health problems. Cook has long been aware of how music can help us mentally, from seeing the effect his sets have on thousands of fans to how it has soothed him at times when he was feeling low.
Is there another art form that can move our moods so quickly and predictably as music? I can’t think of one.
When I’m feeling low, singing along to some upbeat tunes in the car can make me feel more positive. If I feel anxious, then some laid-back sounds help still my mind.
On a wider scale, look at boxers using their walk on music to get themselves and their fans into the zone ahead of a fight. I’m not a Liverpool fan, but the hairs on my neck stand up when I’m at Anfield and the crowd sing You’ll Never Walk Alone.
What is fascinating about how music affects our minds is that it works on two levels.
The sound of music, that is the tune and the instruments, can release the chemical dopamine into our brains. Dopamine makes us feel good and is associated with all kinds of positive stimuli from food to being in love.
Then there is the lyrical factor and how our association with the words in the song can make us feel differently as we connect those lyrics to emotions we’ve previously experienced.
When the AVC Immedia team are programming music for our clients we’re not just thinking if a song sounds right. We’re thinking about how it will make the audience feel.
Our music is heard by millions of people each week. We want all of them to come away feeling more positive than if they didn’t hear it. That means analysing every track we consider and putting ourselves in the audience’s shoes.
Does the track have a brightness that will lift the atmosphere? Are the lyrics positive and empowering? How will the audience feel when they hear this song?
Musically, Adele songs are easy to listen to. However, when she sings about breaking up with a partner, we know millions can identify with her lyrics. Do you want to be thinking about one of the saddest times of your life when you’re doing a quick shop?
How about a dance track that makes you feel euphoric? You know the throbbing feeling of the bass in your chest, the one you have to move to. Would you want it playing whilst you’re waiting to discuss a mortgage in your bank or queuing to speak to the pharmacist about your prescription?
Our audiences understand music instinctively. Our workplace radio channels get frequent requests in the early morning for songs “to get us motivated for the day ahead”. Other regular requests come in for tunes that will transport the listener, mentally, back to a significant time in their life.
What a song sounds like will always be important, but it’s how the music makes us feel that is the ultimate test.
Written by Euan McMorrow, Content Director at AVC Immedia.