For serious musicians, it’s tempting to obsess over perfecting a specific song and miss the big picture of how the world interacts with music. Music is one of humanity’s most ubiquitous and impactful artforms. Think about it for a second. As humans, we rely on an endless combination of sounds and silences to celebrate weddings, mourn the deaths of loved ones, pump ourselves up for competitions, and help us cope with the pangs of unrequited love. This is why for countless people music is an essential part of life. Since it helps to remember how our audiences relate to the music we make, here are five ways music makes life better for your listeners:
When your listeners are filled with despair, chances are they turn to music in some way to help them make sense of things. It’s not just that there are countless songs out there with lyrical narratives centered around tales of things like breakups, but that the emotional potency of certain pieces of instrumental music is strong enough to deliver real comfort to a listener when they need it. It’s easy for us to forget, but the songs that we write out of grief or longing or severe pain can go on to make other people feel better about their unique challenges. That’s one of the most rewarding parts of making music.
It makes listeners feel understood
Music is an essential part of making people feel understood. This is especially true for listeners of all ages going through major life transitions––teenagers getting ready to go to college, a person going through a divorce, etc. Specific pieces of music have the power to deeply relate to people when they need to feel known. When this happens, lifelong relationships get formed with songs and the artists who create them. If you’ve ever noticed how music acts as a sonic placeholder for your memories, this is why.
It creates distinct moods
One of the most important ways music makes life better for audiences is by helping to shape specific moods. Imagine dance parties, athletic competitions, and dramatic movies without music, and what you’re left with is the stuff that lacks emotion and purpose. Music is crucial for helping to enhance the moods and settings in the daily lives of your audience. As musicians, we understand that music surrounds us almost constantly, whether we’re watching our favorite shows or are shopping for groceries. Though the average non-musician may not realize it, musicians have the power to bring out powerful emotions and moods in people.
It marks specific occasions
From holiday music to funerals, music has a profound knack for marking important occasions in the life of a listener. It’s probably hard to imagine while writing new music that songwriters in your exact same position have created work that’s so powerful that it’s now forever associated with some of the most important occasions in a person’s life. When we’re tempted to chase trends and mindlessly release music, it’s important to remember this fact and think about what exactly we owe our listeners as musicians. What you say through your music matters. So much so, in fact, that it could help highlight specific events in the lives of your listeners for the rest of their lives.
It gives them permission to feel
Musicians carry around the stereotype of being deep-feeling people for a reason. Emotion is essential for creating and performing work that actually resonates with other human beings. As you’ve probably already noticed, most people don’t approach the world with the same depth of emotion as we do. This is one of the reasons why music is so important. It gives normal people a space to truly feel their feelings. Most of us take for granted our ability to be open with our feelings, but for lots of the non-musical world, songs, orchestral worlds, and movie soundtracks are rare opportunities to feel important things they might not have experienced otherwise. This is why music is considered therapeutic for so many people.
The main takeaway from thinking about how important music is in the life of your listeners is recognizing that who you are and what you do is important, whether you’re a bedroom musician just getting started or are loved by millions of adoring fans. Every time we put new music out into the world, we have a chance to make our audience’s lives better.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.