Since the introduction of the fMRI machine, brain scans have identified how music affects people – both positively and negatively.The greatest challenge for event and meeting planners in using music in a conference setting is meeting the requirements of diverse audiences and their variance in music preferences. While some music turns people off, that same music may meet the needs of many others. Some music will assist audiences to tune in to the message or theme of the conference. For meeting planners and presenters it is critical to be mindful to how music functions and the impact it has on the intended audience and the meeting.
Here are 7 primary considerations when using music with any group:
1. Music Aids in Learning – Music relaxes the mind and lowers stress levels that can inhibit learning. Music stimulates creativity by boosting blood and oxygen flow to the brain – going from sleepy brain to teachable brain. Heart rate speed of music (60 beats per minute) is ideal during small group discussions and other activities requiring focus and thought. While this is different for everyone, the following range of pieces from different genres are known to relax people and are in the range of 60-70 beats per minute and include:
- Someone Like You – Adele
- Orinoco Flow (Sail Away) – Enya
- Piano on The Beach – Liborio Conti
- Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major (“Elvira Madigan”) K. 467 — Mozart
- Better Together – Jack Johnson
- Pure Shores — All Saints
- Buffalo Soldier — Bob Marley
- Scar Tissue — Red Hot Chilli Peppers
- As I Lay Me Down — Sophie B. Hawkins
- Inside Out — Britney Spears
- Ignition — R Kelly
- Flaws and All — Beyoncé
- The Christmas song — Nat King Cole
- Space Oddity — David Bowie
2. Music Makes Moments Memorable – Music can trigger powerful recollections, and now brain-scan studies show us what is really happening, and why. Music quickly calls back memories of a particular person or experience, as if it is happening again right before their eyes. This information is important because conference organizers want to have their important content retained. During a presentation, music can help solidify new memories – anchoring a person to a particular point or theme.
3. Music Influences Mood – Changing a negative or resistant emotional state is at the root of getting into a positive learning state. Music can help here, however, it can also do the exact opposite – the wrong song can distract an audience member and even send them into a deep funk for many minutes afterwards. This could be in due part to their personal associations to the song. Not every person is tolerant of pop, new age, jazz, rock, rap, or classical.
4. Music Can Trigger What’s Next – Just as game shows use music to tell the contestants when their time is up, and directors use music to create and aura of mystery or suspense, music can cue us for what is about to happen. During a conference music can create a flow-like state from seminar to seminar or introduce an important presentation.
5. In Music, Silence is as Important as Sound – Just as you must know valleys to appreciate mountains, silence helps people focus the nuances in the music. Sound, continuously made, and sustained without break, can become drone. For music to have the greatest effect it is best to select musical moments for specific reasons. While (obviously), you cannot know every cultural and personal factor concerning your audience, you can ensure the music you select fits the tone of your conference. It should match so seamlessly, that your audience’s focus stays on the message/theme/feeling of the conference.
6. Music Acts like a Drug – We take music in by choice and at our own risk. Music can open doors to communication but it can also shut them out just as fast. Just some of the hormones affected during music experiences includes oxytocin, (the transmitter associated with pleasure, love and bonding), dopamine (the feel good hormone) and serotonin (a mood booster by day and a sleep aide at night). The levels increase at different rates for different people and the examples of genres and music provided earlier in this article will relate to the production of these hormones as well.
7. Music, just like real estate, is owned. You are required to pay “rent” to use it – Whenever using music, it is wise to know your permission rights. The best way to do this is to look to organizations in your home country that regulate music licenses. There is a whole genre of music that can be easily used without legal problems. Royalty free, or buy out – all you need is to search on your browser “Royalty Free Music.”Remember that music is not always a substitute for insightful content, inspiring activities and engaging facilitation. It is, when used with the right intention and knowledge, a wonderful communication tool to support everything else being done, and in helping you establish the right mood, anchor memories and more deeply connect your audience with your event.
For most presenters, music is not a suitable substitute for insightful content, inspiring activities and engaging facilitation. It is, when used with the right intention and knowledge, a wonderful communication tool to support everything else you are doing, and in helping you establish the right mood, anchor memories and more deeply connect with your audience.
To consult with Jennifer further, attend one of her keynotes or workshops or to learn more about how music affects health and learning contact:
Jennifer Buchanan, Accredited Music Therapist, Author of TUNE IN (where much of the above information is taken from) and Owner of JB Music Therapy www.jbmusictherapy.com in Calgary, Alberta. All significant references to this article can be found at: www.jbmusictherapy.com/research.