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  • Writer's pictureElaine Ulrich

Music Consumerism

“I just need to listen to that song right now” – “Why does this song always make me cry?” – “SSHHH… why is everyone so noisy” – “Wow, people just can’t leave me alone anymore!” – “Thank goodness for noise cancelling headsets so I can listen to my music without being interrupted” – “I love how this song always reminds me of that wonderful day with my friends” – “Did you hear that last chord? It was amazing!”

In the article, “Using Music as an Escape”, Melissa Rosman writes, “Music has a way of seeping into every inch of you, dredging up lost memories and molding your emotions. We consciously choose to play music that compliments the way we feel. There is a song that hits every emotion on key and allows melodies to eclipse our thoughts, even if it’s only momentary. Music is something that we not only hear, it’s something we feel. Each syllable is strung together with the instrumental track accompanying it to create a connection with the listener. Especially if the track is a live recording, the sound of the active audience, the distinctive differences in the singer’s voice and the raw music allow you to close your eyes, lay back and float away into your own private concert. (

I believe that each one of you can escape the danger of becoming a music consumerist by following these three guidelines, 1) “Avoid using music as your drug” 2) “Produce as much as you consume" and 3) “Recognize the power of music.” If you do not have boundaries set for when and why you listen to music, it has a strong potential to becoming a drug in your life. You will eventually begin using music as your drug to help you cope with things such as anxiety or depression, to block out life, and sometimes just to make it through another day.

  • The first guideline is to AVOID USING MUSIC AS YOUR DRUG

You become acquainted with the idea of using music to relax and calm you. There is a right time and place for that, but use it moderately. Is music the only way you find yourself being able to relax and calm down? Is music becoming your primary “go to” and distraction from facing reality?

There are some benefits in listening to music. Music can help people with cognitive development, reducing stress, improving your memory, managing pain, increasing motivation, reducing some symptoms of depression, and possibly even improving your mood. But is music becoming your “fix” to problems in life?

Using music in these ways is not entirely wrong, but more a question of: “Is this really what I need right now?” It is so easy to abuse this thing of music “helping” us, even though it does have some decently good benefits. For example, a few years ago, I spent most of the summer playing piano. Sometimes up to 4 hours a day was spent playing through familiar and new pieces, as well as listening to music when I worked in the kitchen or garden. While this could have been a good thing, I found it extremely difficult to cope with life if I did not get more than 2 hours of playing piano in. this became my way of processing life and blocking out the things that were difficult. Music became my drug. I allowed it to control me and with this significant amount of time spent playing almost every day, I found it very helpful to us as a “cop out” for things I did not want to do. Because I “needed” to get my hours in for the day.

Though you can use music to help you in healthy ways. Sometimes that is the only thing we use then to cope with life. Consequently, we end up avoiding the deeper and more serious issues. Music has a nice way of being able to change our moods for the good, worse, or maintain whatever mood we wish to be in. Music gives us a means to escape, thus giving us a better understanding of feelings and emotions. ( The music you pick up and listen to when you are feeling happy about something will usually be quite different than that which you will listen to when you are feeling angry. In listening to music when you are experiencing something such as grief, most likely your music will embrace those sad emotions. This may be okay for a while, but my dear friends, you cannot keep on avoiding life and using music as your drug.

There needs to be limits here in how much and when you listen to music. We should not allow emotions to overrule us, which often keep us in a mental rut with the music we choose to listen to. We need to set boundaries with our values in mind, and be mindful of those boundaries when we are tempted to listen to music, and consume it at insane rates and relying on using music as a drug.

  • This moves us to our second guideline which is to PRODUCE AS MUCH AS YOU CONSUME

First of all, I encourage you to dedicate specific times to listening to music. Spend time actively listening to the beauty of it. I encourage you to take note of how often you listen to music versus the amount of time you spend in producing music in any form. I suggest that your amount in consuming versus producing should be fairly balanced. A few suggestions of how you can start doing this is by joining in with the small group singings or a local choir, or singing with your family. Maybe, you want to begin learning an instrument, such as: piano, guitar, cello, or violin. As you can see there is a wide range of possibilities in beginning to produce music.

Producing music does not mean that you will instantly begin writing songs, even though for some it may lead to that. In taking this step to producing music as much as you listen to, you are engaging with music in a different way. For example, let’s say you join the local choir, you’re given a stack of sheet music to learn. You are frantically searching YouTube for a video or soundtrack of the piece you were given, which in fact, could look like Greek depending on your past introduction to sight-reading music. Hopefully, in all these heroic attempts to learn the music and finally presenting it, your eyes are opened to the quite difficult work and effort that goes into producing some of the music you listen to.

With this introduction to the mindset of a producer in music, you as a consumer will most likely become a lot more aware of what is happening in a recording of a song like “Stille Nacht.” Yes, it sounds very beautiful on recording, but when you are given the sheet music for it, I am guessing your first reaction is, “How will I ever learn this piece? It is way too complicated for me, plus they wrote in German!” I encourage you to move away from being just a music consumer, but join in producing it as well. Allow that which you consume inspire you to produce and through that bless others.

  • Moving on to our third point of how to escape becoming a music consumerist is to RECOGNIZE THE POWER OF MUSIC

Music has a unique way of helping create strong communities. In listening to a certain genre of music, you are associating with a certain type of community. Also, along these lines, the community that you are a part of will tend to largely shape the music that you tend to listen to.

According to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” Each human culture has music, just as they have their own language. So, in some ways it would be more accurate to say that “Music is a universal feature of the human experience.” Music then can be a universal system for communicating emotion. Music has the power to affect our emotions on a deeper level than even words sometimes. (

We need to be respectful to the production of the composers, in trying to understand why they as a composer want others to listen to their music. An example of doing this is to simply take the time to look up the background of one of your top songs. Find out why the composer wrote it, what his context was for writing it. Is there a story behind it? Be interested in what the composer was trying to communicate, and does it align with what your reality is and what you believe?

Someone once wrote, “Music is incredible in its ability to be able to have so many sounds, emotions, instruments, beats, genres, and people who listen to the millions of different types every day. Music is global for a reason. It reaches every part of us, because music is a form of expression. Music is one of the many things that makes us human. It's true that you cannot have a conversation using music, music is not technically not an actual language, but you connect with people on such a high level that sometimes words cannot even take you to that place of connection.” ( idea of connecting with people through music is a strange, yet wonderful thing. In some ways, music can help us understand what the other culture sees as being valuable and an example of how they express themselves.

Even in this area, you need to set boundaries. As much as music can help shape a culture, how much more can it shape individuals’ lives? What music do you listen to in relation to who your close friends and community are? Ask yourself, “Does the music I am consuming align with reality and my beliefs?

I encourage you to continue discovering more about how you personally are interacting with music. With these three guidelines I have given you of: 1) “Avoid using music as your drug” 2) “Produce as much as you consume" and 3) “Recognize the power of music.” I hope that you have been inspired to find out where you are on the spectrum of being/becoming a music consumerist.

In setting boundaries in music, you are preparing yourself to interact with music in a potentially healthy way. Music does have its benefits but they can be abused if we are not intentional in our own lives about why and when we listen to music.



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