We all know how it feels to go to a concert of your favorite artist. The exhilarating sensation of not just hearing, but also seeing and feeling the music is like nothing else. This points to the fact that hearing live music can be “therapeutic” (not to be mistaken with actual “therapy”).
In fact, a study by O2 and Patrick Fagan, an expert in behavioral science and Associate Lecturer at Goldsmith’s University, showed that gig-going can increase wellbeing and lead to longer lives. According to that study, “the gig experience increased participants feelings of wellbeing by 21% – with key markers across the happiness spectrum showing increases, including feelings of self-worth (+25%) and closeness to others (+25%) whilst mental stimulation climbed by an impressive 75%.”
Why is Live Music Therapeutic?
The reasons for this incredible effect of live music are many. One reason is that listening to live music has a social component. Going to a live concert of a favorite artist can be a catalyst for meaningful relationships to arise and to develop. Everybody is gathered in one place for a common cause which gives a sense of cohesion and belonging to a group. Along with that, there is also a physical aspect of live music. Music moves us. Dancing and moving to the same rhythm with others can be a powerful social activity. And yet, even when there is no dancing involved, we feel the music resonating through us and making us move.
Thomas Beaudoin, an associate professor of religion at Fordham University, says that going to a concert is “an opportunity to revisit something inside of you and think about where you are with that [emotion] now… It’s almost like what you’d do in therapy.” Concerts are a great opportunity to reflect on what certain songs mean to you and how that relates to certain moments of your life.
Study on Listening to Music
And really, we don’t have to look for anything else than the music itself. Listening to music reduces cortisol levels leading to less stress. A study from the Imperial College London published in the journal Public Health found that that the cortisol level of 117 participants dropped after going to a concert. Recorded music also produces changes in stress hormones, and yet I think we all agree that there is a big difference between listening to recorded music and listening to music live. When you listen to music live you receive and feel the vibrations all over your body. The music and the sound envelop you completely. This is an energy that you only get from listening to music live!
Other Thoughts About Live Music
But, is it just when you go see your favorite artists that there is an impact on your wellbeing? From a music therapy perspective, I would argue that your preferred music will definitely be the most impactful, but I would also say that it doesn’t necessarily have to be the only music you listen to live. After all, listening to your favorite artists live every couple of weeks might be impossible or really expensive! Obviously, listening to your favorite type of music will have a bigger impact, but you should also try different things. Who knows, maybe you will find some new band or genre that you really like! The important part is that you listen to music live often.
Update September 2020
I am revisiting this blog post in the midst of a global pandemic that has canceled so many concerts. If live music can have these effects on people, then what does it mean that most of us have not listened to live music in so many months? As the situation develops, we must all remain safe and follow official guidelines. Yet, I sincerely hope that when concerts and gigs resume, that you will strongly consider supporting your local artists! And, while doing so, your body and mind might thank you.
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