The Importance of Music Within Society by Daniel Zambas

Music plays a huge role within everyday society, from the advertising campaigns of corporate businesses, to live performances.  The understanding of the power music holds is vastly recognised and utilised to cause affect to an audience.



For example the recognition of specific melodies to a product becomes a trademark and is often taken from compositions that have already been established. This then creates a new culture of individuals who only recognise the composition in relation to the product, rather than the piece of music on its own merit.


The advertising industry understands this concept and implements it actively in an attempt to enter the social consciousness. This alone proves the merit of how powerful music is.


In an artistic way music is used to further express a piece of work, such as the film industry. The long awaited kiss in a blockbuster movie is accompanied by a crescendo of an orchestra invoking a feeling in the audience; would this scene be as emotionally powerful if the music was absent?


The escapism music provides plays a huge role for the individual within society. A piece of music; or even a repertoire of an artist can ring true with the listener and provide the soundtrack to their lives. Most of us can relate to the statement; ‘That song reminds me of a summer from my youth’. Is there a tangible explanation for this beyond the mystery of music itself?


It is a fair assumption that music communicates with us directly and can influence us in the course of our lives. This can be further assumed that its effect on society as a whole is the same. The music of the present defines the current status of the social collective.


Plato stated ‘Any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole state, and ought to be prohibited. When modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the state always change with them.’


This statement is defined by the control of music that Plato suggests. He recognised that music can alter the social consciousness and this statement points to the negative effect that this can lead to. It can be argued that in the age of consumerism music plays a vital role. Criticism of popular music can be linked directly with the youth perception of sexuality and gender roles.


An article on the media awareness website directed at parents touches on this issue within its conclusion; ‘Rap and hip hop videos reinforce this narrow vision of masculinity: particularly popular with youth, this musical culture – whose origins are broad and diverse – has narrowed to present a single, stereotypical image of masculinity and relations between the sexes.’

Source: 30 April 2011, 12:53:46


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It can be therefore assumed that as a youth (or even an adult) music can influence us in perceived negative and positive ways. The role that education takes is hugely influential in steering these perceptions of the music we create, digest and champion. A large part of the music we create is our journey within life that came before that moment.


It can be argued that a hip-hop artist who has been criticised, for their inclusion of sexually violent lyrics, would not have done so without their prior experiences. This excludes those who use these methods purely to maximise their supposed economic value. By understanding the values of the composer in an educational way these issues can be addressed with discussion and debate.


Christy Barongan and Gordon C. Nagayama Hall of Kent State University published an article to determine the psychology behind the effect of music called ‘The Influence of Misogynous Rap Music on Sexual Aggression Against Women’ 1995.  They determine that the influence of the music is obvious but long lasting effects are difficult to understand. They do empathise that the issue of negative lyrics needs to be taken more seriously than in the past.


They point out that explicit material, in magazines for example are prohibited to under 18’s and that there is no such restriction on music. This can be further argued that there is room for consideration regarding the censorship of music. A counter to this argument would be lyrical content which seeks to question and challenge certain beliefs; for example, Pink Floyd’s ‘In the Flesh’, from the album ‘The Wall’ 1981, directly comments on racism. On first listen it could be interpreted that the lyricist is a racist, but within the context of the work it becomes apparent that this is an extreme character commentary.


Is it possible to determine Irony on the content to avoid censorship or should music be restricted at all? These questions are incredibly difficult to answer.


Frank Zappa appeared on the American TV show Crossfire in 1986 to discuss freedom of expression within music. Frank is asked to make a stand for or against provocative content and he stands firmly with freedom of expression. Frank argues that ‘I don’t think that music qualifies as pornography’. He stands by the American Constitution commenting on freedom of expression and that prohibiting artistic expression at all will cause a negative effect on the music industry.

Source: 30 April 2011, 12:53:46



Music is historically proven to invoke thought in society. In recent times the largest impact can be observed with the Live Aid Festival. According to the Wikipedia article on Live Aid the total money generated for the event stands at £150million. The simple premise of using successful artists as a pretext to raise awareness of global poverty worked remarkably well.  By showing the type of footage that was generally unseen before in social media, the organisers highlighted the issues with dramatic effect which is still felt today.


This was then re-visited with the Live 8 concerts which aimed to tackle the issue in a different way, not by raising money; but by generating support to eliminate debt within the third world. The event was met with a mixture of positive and negative criticism but regardless, the proof that music can influence society is effectively shown here.  Bob Geldof was quoted with this comment whilst talking to Margaret Thatcher’No, Prime Minister, nothing is as simple as dying’


It can be assumed that music, directly or indirectly, is the materialisation of a feeling or belief. Instrumental classical music can be theorised to have many different meanings but ultimately it has different meanings to different people. For one person Heavy Rock can invoke aggression, for others it can be a positive diffusion of that aggression. This makes music hard to quantify with its effects and can only be summarised using statistics which do not truly answer the question – does a piece of music cause a specific effect on an individual?


A statistic that defines the % of consumers in the UK that say music encourages them to stay in stores longer is quoted at 79%

Source: 30 April 2011, 12:53:46
Dan and child


Depending on your interpretation of what caused the consumer to remain in the store determines your understanding of the effect of the music played. Possibly they wanted to listen to the rest of the song before leaving, or they were trying to recognise where they had heard it before. Did it encourage them to spend more money? This is a difficult question to answer.


The only certainty is that music has a huge effect on our everyday lives and it will continue to do so.


This article was written by Daniel Zambas and you can listen to his album Pandora