The science behind loving music and why it’s such a useful marketing tool

I love music: in fact my Spotify 2020 unwrapped told me I’ve listened to over 87,000 minutes of music this year. I’m not the only one it seems, as it has been shown that time and time again we put music in our top ten things that bring pleasure, usually above money, food, or art [1]. But why do we love music so much? And how can it be used effectively in advertising?


Listening to music has been shown to cause increased brain activity and increased release of dopamine, the reward neurotransmitter, which has been directly linked to why we get pleasure from music in multiple studies [2,3,4]. One study compared the amount of dopamine transmission with pleasure responses when listening to music. Participants were given either the dopamine precursor levodopa to increase their dopamine levels, a placebo so their dopamine levels were normal, or risperidone, a dopamine receptor antagonist, to block the transmission of dopamine. The participants were asked to listen to music for 20 minutes and their pleasure responses were recorded by measuring electrodermal activity, which shows goosebumps and sweating, and they were also asked to answer a questionnaire.  The volunteers who had taken levodopa were more likely to experience pleasure when listening to music and when asked whether they would buy the music, were more likely to say yes and pay a higher price. Conversely, the participants who had taken risperidone were less likely to have pleasure responses and were less likely to buy the music [2,5]. Other studies have used brain imaging to show increased dopamine transmission in the reward system when pleasurable responses were recorded while music was played [3].


There is therefore good evidence that dopamine has an important role in why we get pleasure from music and want to listen to it on repeat and spend money on it [2,5]. So, there’s the molecular reason for why we love music, but how can it influence our mood and how can we use this to tell a story?


Music is so powerful because it can elicit different emotions within us. Just a few notes can fill us with nostalgia, joy or sadness. Studies show that the part of our brain that processes music also processes emotion and memory and if the emotional response to music is strong, so is the memory associated with that music [6]. Feelings of nostalgia may be unique to each person, but studies have shown that music evoking moods such as happiness and sadness are consistent for the majority of people. In one study, it was shown that short and sharp notes in a major key caused happiness and excitement in nearly 90% of respondents while a shift to minor keys caused sadness or melancholy in over 80% [7]. Evoking emotion in an audience is a very useful marketing tool, especially in healthcare communications where a campaign may have to show the positive effects of a new drug or when it has to convey the negative outcomes of a disease. If the audience is more emotionally invested in what they are watching the message will come across more strongly and be more memorable. Music is therefore an extremely useful tool in storytelling, which is what we’re all about at Get Animated Medical. Music can also be used to set the pace of an advert and prime listeners for the key messages in the storyline [8]. In particular, a pause in music can create suspense, while a rapid build-up in speed and volume can create drama and anticipation [9]. Analysis of over 150 TV adverts demonstrated that they were 14% more memorable if they had lyrics or music tempo that matched what was happening on screen [7,10]. Music, therefore, has been shown to be important in storytelling in an advert or campaign and makes it more memorable.


It is likely that dopamine is key to us deriving pleasure from music, and because music is pleasurable and emotive it is an extremely valuable tool in advertising. Music can help create a story to increase audience engagement, as well as make an advert more memorable. The more we learn about the way music affects our brain, the more we can use it to our advantage, and therefore further research on this area will benefit the advertising industry.


Ella White




[1] Dubé L, Le Bel J., 2003. The content and structure of laypeople’s concept of pleasure. Cogn Emot. [online] 17(2), pp.263-295. Available at: <>

[2]  Yirka, B., 2019. Study Shows Dopamine Plays A Role In Musical Pleasure. [online] Available at: <,drugs%20that%20impact%20dopamine%20levels>

[3] Zatorre, R., 2020. Why Do We Love Music?. [online] PubMed Central (PMC). Available at: <>

[4] Moraes, M., Rabelo, P., Pinto, V., Pires, W., Wanner, S., Szawka, R. and Soares, D., 2018. Auditory stimulation by exposure to melodic music increases dopamine and serotonin activities in rat forebrain areas linked to reward and motor control. Neuroscience Letters, [online] 673, pp.73-78. Available at: <>

[5] ScienceDaily. 2019. Dopamine Modulates Reward Experiences Elicited By Music. [online] Available at: <>

[6] Jäncke, L., 2008. Music, memory and emotion. J Biol, [online] 7(6), p.21. Available at: <>

[7] Gilliland, N., 2018. Science Of Sound: How Music Makes Advertising More Memorable – Econsultancy. [online] Econsultancy. Available at: <>

[8] Chatter Buzz. 5 Ways Music Enhances Commercials: Music And Advertising. [online] Available at: <>

[9] 2018. A Sound Presence Boosts Brand Metrics | WARC. [online] Available at: <>

[10] Business Insider. 2016. How To Make The Most Memorable TV Ad, According To Neuroscience. [online] Available at: <>

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