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What Does Enjoyment of Music Come From?

Making science accessable to a layperson is a gift. And once again, Jonah Lehrer delivers in this thought-provoking article on the psychological effects of price on perception of wine quality.

Individuals who are unaware of the price do not derive more enjoyment from more expensive wine. In a sample of more than 6,000 blind tastings, we find that the correlation between price and overall rating is small and negative, suggesting that individuals on average enjoy more expensive wines slightly less. Our results indicate that both the prices of wines and wine recommendations by experts may be poor guides for non-expert wine consumers.
The taste of a wine, like the taste of everything, is not merely the sum of that alcoholic liquid in the glass. It cannot be deduced by beginning with our sensations and extrapolating upwards. This is because what we experience is not what we sense. Rather, experience is what happens when our senses are interpreted by our subjective brain, which brings to the moment its entire library of personal memories, wine shop factoids and idiosyncratic desires. As the philosopher Wilfrid Sellars pointed out, there is no reasonable way to divide sensory experience into what is “given to the mind” and what is “added by the mind.”

Emotion depends on context.

Your music can be brilliant, but if it sounds like it was recorded in a garbage can, less people will like it.

If the show is sold out and crowded, people will tend to assume your music is better.

If someone you loathe trys getting you to listen to their favorite band, you're probably not going to like the band.

Lesson: The better you craft the emotional context that people experience your music through, the better people will pecieve your music.

Ways to do this: Genuinely engage with fans (live show, twitter, website, merch booth etc), explain stories behind your songs, build a band mythology, play with bands that fit your sound, etc.

(Previous posts on this topic here, here, and here.)

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