This article continues our exploration of creative devices in the work and business contexts, and we turn this time to music. In the realm of creative meaning making, which we have seen is essential for optimal interaction with customers, employees, and other stakeholders, music poses a bit of a puzzle. Unlike words or pictures, the meaning embodied in music is not explicit. And yet, we have only to observe the audience at a popular music event or classical concert, to conclude that we experience music as a deeply meaningful force.
One has a strong sense that music operates at a more primal level and that its impact is somehow closely linked to the fundamental composition of our nervous systems. Music has a direct impact on our emotions. It can sooth, calm, energize, or even heighten anxiety as in the mood music for movies like Psycho or Jaws. Music can conjure up past memories and future visions. It can relax you and put your mind in a creatively generative state, or focus your mind and actions on turning your creative ideas into reality.
Business lessons from music
The book, Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music, by Craig Cortello, a compilation of interviews with 32 business leaders who played music when they were younger, reveals the following nine common business lessons the research participants derived from their experience with music:
- The confidence and self esteem of stepping up to the mic
- The teamwork and collaboration of being in the band
- The leadership of conducting
- Salesmanship and branding of giving the fans what they want
- The creativity and innovation of improvising
- The acceptance of risk from jamming
- The discipline and focus on fundamentals from learning the scales and chords
- The individuality of making the music your own
- The passion of playing with feeling
When the creative meets business
But besides the personal developmental aspects mentioned earlier, why should a CEO or entrepreneur be interested in the creative benefits of musing? Studies conducted in stores and other business premises point to the type, quality, and tempo of music played influencing customer and staff experience in the following ways:
- the creation of atmosphere
- brand perception of the store
- influencing customer behaviour such as the increased purchase of specific products
- Increasing staff morale
- attracting customers and prolonging their visits
- increasing employee productivity
- relaxing customers and staff and reducing anxiety
Certain kinds of music, such as those rich in the higher frequencies produced by stringed instruments, and those which emulate natural sounds like birdsong, have been shown to have beneficial effects for learning and concentration, reducing muscle tension, and promoting good health. It is also important to be aware that prolonged exposure to loud, pounding, and mechanical music can have the opposite effect, and be detrimental to health. Always heed your audience’s response to the music you provide, and provide them, where possible, the opportunity to turn down the volume or turn off the music entirely.
If you play a musical instrument or know someone who does, you can create original music and record. If not, there are several options for obtaining music:
- create it using digital music generation software
- purchase a license to use royalty free music
- use public domain music
- use creative commons music
It is essential to ensure that you are not breaking any copyright laws whenever you use a piece of music. Copyright for music is particularly complex, because there are many parts to a piece of music. For example, a composition by Mozart might no longer be under copyright, but a particular arrangement and recording of that composition could be copyrighted by the performer or recording studio.
Music and your business
In the context of your business, the uses to which you put music are limited only by your imagination, so start brainstorming. Some traditional uses are given below:
- in presentations
- in advertising
- in videos
- in product creation
- to energise workshops
While these are certainly valuable ways of using music, in the spirit of Seth Godin’s call for entrepreneurs to be remarkable, it would benefit you and your business to find other less conventional ways of using this creative resource.