Consumption and Effects of Music in the Media

By Schramm, Holger | Communication Research Trends, December 2006 | Go to article overview

Consumption and Effects of Music in the Media

Schramm, Holger, Communication Research Trends

1. Introduction

Music surrounds us; we listen to it in the most varied forms and contexts. Whether heard on sound recordings or through sources like the radio, television, or the Internet; in supermarkets, waiting rooms, restaurants, at the hairdresser's, religious services, concert-halls, the opera, the work place, or sporting events; or during meals or while listening devotedly to music at home, music forms an important part in every day life (DeNora, 2000). We listen to it in varying quantities and qualities: transmitted through loudspeakers and distributed through the media, as live performances, and as music people make on their own. However, the overwhelming quantity of music reaches us through the media. Interestingly, though, subjective appraisal stands inversely proportionate to quantity. Quite frequently people rate music they make themselves higher than a concert or music presented by the media (Rosing, 1993, p. 114). People experience music they produce themselves or in live performances more intensely, leaving a longer lasting impression on them.

Most research findings, however, pertain to music distributed through the media. Media distribution determines the largest part of daily music consumption and, because of its significance, remains the focus of scientists. Knowledge about the reception, consumption, and impact of music transmitted through the media is generated by quite different scholarly disciplines. First of all stand the humanities which, most of the time, investigate the use and effect of music by analyzing the musical subject; then come the social sciences, which contribute the bulk of theory and empirical findings but quite frequently neglect the musical subject. This review, then, not only follows the media studies and communication studies approach, but also looks to disciplines that contain both paradigms: music psychology and music sociology as well as empirical music pedagogy.

2. Music listening under cultural, technical, situational, and individual influences

The consumption and effects of music occur in an "area of tension" between different factors that Palmgreen, Wenner and Rosengren (1985) examined in their "general media gratification model." First of all, one should not consider music consumption independently from the respective society and cultural system (Adorno, 1962; Heister, 1993; Rosing & Oerter, 1993). For example, the Western music culture of central Europe differs considerably from that of Asia or Africa. Not only do different cultures use dissimilar tone scales, rhythms, and beats; they attach differing significance to music parameters--in Africa rhythm is the highest priority. The function of music is also determined to a large extent by the general behavior and attitude of a society (Brandl & Rosing, 1993; Heister, 1993).

Secondly, the society in which people live shapes media structure and technology. Even among the Western industrial nations there are noticeable differences. The German media system differs in structure from American media (for example, its dual broadcast system vs. a private broadcast system) and it received or adopted certain technologies later than the U.S. Only with the introduction of digital TV are Germans able to select from more than 50 TV channels, a choice Americans have had since the '80s (Zillmann & Bryant, 1998). The number and type of musical offerings are influenced by these structures and technologies (which, in turn, are influenced by social and cultural systems, i.e., the demand for specific types of music). For example, MTV appeared in the United States in 1981; however, MTV started broadcasting in Germany only after the introduction of the binary broadcast system, in 1987 (Schmidt, 1999).

Even more significant for inter- and intra-individual differences in music consumption are individual habits in the use of music, general and situational expectations of music, and the person's situational needs and general attitudes and dispositions (Schramm, 2005a). …

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