There’s a good reason why composers of operas and musicals have traditionally included an overture intended to precede staged shows–and that reason is now supported by science. The overture and entr-acte, respectively the musical overviews of the first and second halves of a performance, are designed to familiarize the audience with the hooks and choruses of tunes they’re about to hear as the show unfolds. By outlining pivotal musical themes in the overture, composers know their audience is more likely to leave the theatre humming the music to themselves, since they’ve heard it more than once.
An MRI study published in 2011 concluded that familiarity with the music one is listening to is a crucial factor in experiencing emotional rewards from music.
No doubt, advertising companies have honed in on this fact. Haven’t you noticed commercials playing songs that used to be reserved for Sunday afternoons?
Now, a new study published by the journal Marketing Letters entitled ‘The Same Old Song: The Power of Familiarity in Music Choice’ explores this concept further, going so far as to disprove a survey of music listeners who claim they are more interested in sourcing out new music than hearing the albums they already know.
“Our results suggest that the emphasis on novelty in the music domain, by consumers and people often protesting the current state of the music business, is probably misplaced,” says Dr. Joseph K. Goodman, associate professor of marketing at Washington University and one of the study’s authors. “In the marketplace, and in our pilot study, consumers say they want more novelty when in fact their choices suggest they do not.”