Back in the day, listening to your favorite album usually meant playing it for the rest of the house as well, whether they liked it or not. But today's music experience is decidedly more personal: Just pop in your earbuds and the rest of the world's cacophony is drowned out by your favorite jams.
Home audio company Sonos — which, make no bones about it, sells speakers — had a theory about this de-socialization of music. Noting music's well-documented effects on people's health and mood, the Santa Barbara, Calif. firm launched a study investigating what happens when two or more people listen to the same songs together out loud.
Sonos' research began with an international survey of 30,000 people to learn more about their connection between music and relationships. Next, a global, two-week study measured 31 families as they listened to music for one week, then lived in relative silence for another. Finally, a follow-up mood survey sent to those families helped wrap up the research.
Through a partnership with Apple, each participant above age five was furnished with an Apple Watch to measure their heart rate, activity, movement, and calories burned. Apple iBeacons, which follow smartphones' precise movements, were placed around participants' homes to track their location. And Sonos speakers were stationed around participants' houses, pumping out tunes of their choice from Apple Music.
The result? "We find that people who listen to music out loud together report that their relationships are stronger," says Dr. Daniel Levitin, author of This Is Your Brain on Music and a consultant on the research. "They spend more time with loved ones, they spend more time hugging, they have twice as much sex."
To be precise, during their music-on weeks, families spent three hours and 13 minutes more time together, sat or stood 12 percent physically closer to one another, and the parents (or partners) had 67 percent more sex.
The findings weren't confined to love and affection. Music made people hang out in the kitchen 20 percent more, a phenomenon that accounted for 15 percent more meals together. The participants cooked 33 percent more meals together, while 58 percent said they even thought the food they made with music blaring somehow actually tasted better.
Overall happiness was way up when the speakers were pumping out the jams, too. For instance, 62 percent of particiapnts said their favorite songs made them feel happy. (Go figure.) Music also reduced negative emotions, with drops in distress (13 percent), irritability (24 percent), and the jitters (12 percent) during the music-on week.
The research only involved one week with music, so it's possible the test subjects were simply jazzed by having all these great gadgets to play with. But Levitin, who has been studying music's effect on the body for years, is sold. "In medical research, when we find a new treatment that works, we publish the results so that everyone can see the new benefits," he says. "There is an emerging body of evidence that music is medicine, an effective treatment with few or no side effects. So what should you do if you're down? Says Levitin: "Take two Pharrells and call me in the morning."