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How a live show affects you

Ever wondered how live music affects you? I’ll share a story at the end of this blog, but I also asked some folks on my social media channels a little while ago the same question. What was their favourite live show of all time? Unsurprisingly, the question yielded diverse and interesting responses.

There’s an area of research that suggests strongly that individuals instinctively know what kind of music they need. The study was all about using music as pre-med for surgery as opposed to stuff like valium. The study found that if patients chose their own music to listen to prior to surgery, it actually worked better than medicinal drugs. Crazy huh?

But for the purposes of this blog, I’m interested in the social phenomenon of music in relation to live performance.

Let me put it simply: I feel like a psychologist with every gig I play at the moment.

It’s organic and unpredictable in the year 2022, and in this season I am in I can confidently say that every audience teaches me something about the field of the music cognition and psychology.

There are many reasons to not go out and attend a concert or live show. I talk to so many people who say things like: “I saw you were playing this weekend – how did it go?”

Inevitably this is followed up with the reasons that they couldn’t attend the shows themselves.

“We had another dinner party on” or “I only finished work late” or “I was just so exhausted that evening…” or “My friends asked me to pull into their place instead”. Occasionally people tell you they don’t have money.

Of course, nowadays, everyone just blames the pandemic for not going out – “I was going to, but then Covid…” – and we all nod, like we care and we know what that means.

But far more interesting than the reasons people don’t attend live shows are the reasons that people do. The growing body of research is interesting.

A key factor I’ve been interested in is the relationship between the audience and the performer.

One study reported greater relaxation in an audience that had a live performer as opposed to an audience that merely listened to a live recording. (Also interesting is that the heartbeats of audience members at the live performance exhibited greater entrainment with the musical rhythm at the live show.)

I said I would share story…

A family arrived at a venue I was performing at one evening. Each of them looked agitated on arrival, as though it appeared to have been a loooong day. They sat down for dinner around the corner from me at a table and every so often I caught a glimpse of them.

By the end of the evening, they approached me at the microphone. They all thanked me for turning their mood around. What was really interesting was the circumstances surrounding their family’s agitation on arrival:

  • Dad had lost his job and salary the week before
  • Mom was suffering with prolonged periods of anxiety
  • One of the children had suffered a sports injury that day, crippling the bank balance and leaving all of them wondering about the meaning of life

They came to that venue that evening to “get out the house”. And straight off the cuff, the dad’s words were: “Your music made our problems seem small in the bigger picture of things.”

It’s worth noting that the venue was a restaurant. I wonder what would have happened if there was just background music playing that evening. Would the same songs as background music have achieved the same result? The research says no.

It’s all an interesting area of exploration for me.

As I said, I feel like a psychologist when I’m playing gigs. I’m just cheaper.

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2 thoughts on “How a live show affects you

  1. Beautiful thoughts Ry… Completely agree that there is an element of fun, spontaneity when a live muso is in a restaurant or when we are out enjoying live music.
    It must be the joy of remembering a song sung and that time in your life… That seemed like just the other day.
    Perhaps the beauty of music that seems to strum at one’s heart strings. I don’t know… It’s just lekker!

    Well done for stewarding your gift. Just beautiful to sing along. 🎶🎉

    1. Thank you Rashieda!

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