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Music Market Research: A Brief History

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Music Market Research: A Brief History

Music market research is a relatively new category under the large umbrella that is music research. Music research has, for the last 200 years, been an important part of psychological and developmental sciences. The importance and universality of music to humanity makes it an incredibly rich and fascinating field to study, and as such has been the focus of many different academic endeavors. But just like with any burgeoning field of research, there will always be those who try and monetize it. Just as advertising did with behavioral psychology, the music industry adapted the scientific method to analyze and compartmentalize music for monetary gain. Here’s how they did it.

Music research began as early as the 19th century. The first example of music research in the USA came from Connecticut in 1838. A questionnaire was distributed to a selection of Connecticut public schools to be answered by students. Eight of the questions on the survey were specifically about music and music education. Since then there have been a multitude of surveys and studies to determine how music affects the mind and what those specific effects are.

With psychology becoming increasingly popular through the 19th and 20th centuries, the expansion and detail of studies increased. Behavioral and cognitive psychology dominated early investigations until the 1960s when the field of psychology blew wide open, encompassing every facet of human interest – including music.

Psychologists began by studying the effects of music on the human mind. Everything from genre-specific studies to the study of notes and acoustics were taken into account for these psychological investigations. Most importantly, psychologists found that the application of certain notes and keys could affect human emotion, memory, and problem solving skills. For example, researchers found a positive correlation for learning a new language while listening to Baroque music. Further studies showed more links between certain genres of music and different tasks, including memory. This kind of information is what finally piqued the interest of the music and advertising industries.

Music and memory recall had shown positive correlations across the board. This meant that, when someone listened to a specific song while experiencing a physical event, that person could hear the song and remember, in detail, the event. For advertisers this created a new outlet for their products, a new way to get into the mind of the consumer. For the music industry it meant new ways to sell music. This new music market created a whole new subsection of music research that we know today as music market research.

The music industry would use music market research to determine popularity of songs, musicians, even individual notes in order to create a market dominating formula. Out of this kind of music market research came modern pop music. Just about any pop artist you know of today is molded by a specific market formula based on this music market research.

Now we are on the precipice of a new phase in music market research. It is no longer limited to academic or industrial scale research. Now, with the help of the internet, individual musicians can do their own music market research. The kind of data they could get out of this research would be invaluable to improving their sound, reaching new audiences, and ultimately getting a record deal or touring contract. Thanks to the internet and music market research, musicians can finally build a career without the help of big business.