How Do We Make People Enjoy Our Music More?

Derek is an MBA in entrepreneurship, painter, and bassist for Onward We March, a local progressive metal band. He teaches business skills to artists and writes weekly music business advice for his blog Derek Thinks Music. Got a business question about your art? Shoot him an email at

How do we make people enjoy our music more?

An excerpt from a  thought-provoking article on the psychological effects of price on perception of wine quality reminds us that emotion depends on context.

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.

Which one came from a box?

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.”

The price of a wine (context) influences how much we enjoy it.

Time to pour some box wine into a fancy bottle.

How is this relevant to our music? If the show is sold out and crowded, people will tend to assume your music is better. If someone who cut in front of you in line suggests a band to listen to, you’re less likely to dig on the band.

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

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, add a bit of mystery to your act… Anything that creates a compelling context will improve the quality of your music.

What context are your fans experiencing your music through? How can you improve the context?

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


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