Often, when you are deciding what to do when you meet up with your friends, for a family gathering, or a festival, the first thought is to get together and listen to some music and too often, have a few drinks. Enjoying music goes as far back in human history as we have been recording it. And, anyone who travels the world will inevitably discover that in every culture on earth, humans often seek to consume alcoholic beverages.

First, the benefits of music:

All humans have a penchant for music. From folk songs to pop, you will find music everywhere, on most smartphones, and broadcast across the airwaves. Whether by divine intervention or evolution, music is an integral part of human learning and enjoyment. Modern research shows significant benefits of early and lifelong exposure to music:

  • Improved ability to focus.
  • Improved spatial skills, including math, science, and reasoning.
  • Improved auditory skills that enhance language learning throughout your life.
  • Improved motor skills.
  • Better memory.
  • Slightly better IQ.
  • Better language processing even into your senior adult life.

In short, music should be a part of your life from childhood onwards. And for virtually everyone, music is a pleasure.

Now, on to the drinks:

Though the research is overwhelmingly conclusive that alcohol does more harm than good (mostly because we humans don’t know when to stop), there are some health benefits to booze.People who drink moderately outlive both those who drink excessively and those who don’t drink at all. A small amount of alcohol reduces heart disease, may help prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia, and boosts mental health. Both beer and wine help with weight loss, lower cholesterol, and reduce your chances of certain cancers. Beer also helps with eyesight, and red wine can act similar to that little blue pill. So men, wine is not just for the ladies…

And we have to be honest that getting a little buzzed is kinda fun for most people.  And, whether true or not, a few drinks at least makes you feel like you are a better dancer. That said, anymore than about one drink a day (maybe two-ish for men), and all of those benefits go away, reversing to increased health risks. 

So, it is no small wonder that bars and restaurants frequently offer music in order to entice you to come to their establishment, hopefully stay longer…and drink more.  As a savvy consumer, you should be aware of how music affects us, so you can make better choices, as commercial businesses exploit our human tendencies to increase their bottom lines.

Eons of studies confirm that people will stay longer if music is playing. But, depending on the style and loudness of the music, it can also change your drinking habits.First, louder music makes you drink more. You may notice that, the later you stay at the venue, the louder the music gets. It turns out that some music makes you stay, and as a result of staying longer, you may drink more. But, once the music gets to 80+dB, the consumption increases.

At this loudness, similar to a large truck driving by you on the street, it becomes more difficult to talk, and alcohol consumption rises notably. They theorize that, when people are not able to talk as easily, it causes the increase in drinking. But, truthfully, anyone who has been to a concert (where the music tends to be the loudest) is aware that getting caught up in the music and dance, and partying (i.e. drinking) with friends becomes the focus.If you don’t want to over-consume, perhaps a quieter venue might be the better choice for the evening.

Further researches show that music style also has an effect. Electronic, base heavy, music also makes you drink more. So, if you are headed to the club where the melody changes, but beat stays the same for four hours, the bar owner has wisely set the stage for better beer/cocktail sales. Rap music has a similar effect. However, the researchers think it may be due to the lyrics that promote alcohol, drugs, and permissive behaviors.

The most surprising conclusion of the research is that, classical music makes you drink the most. It is not completely understood why, but researchers think it may be due to boredom that makes people drink more. Fortunately, for the party crowd, few (if any) clubs pump out classical music for the fan base!

It is worth noting that music, and loud music, makes drinks taste sweeter, and makes us more susceptible to alcohol. The combination of music on our brain chemistry and the human tendency to want sweeter, and sometimes, boozier drinks, also contributes to more drinking. Incidentally, this is also the reason that designer cocktails tend to be on the sweet side, and bartenders tend to short you more on the alcohol in the mixed drink later in the evening. Being slightly drunk, with the crazy beats blasting, makes our brains less able to tell the difference.

When planning your next gathering, be better aware of your environment. If you want a more relaxed experience, and don’t want to get drunk, perhaps the concert venue is not the best choice.Music and social activity should be a part of your life, but if you are headed to hear your favorite band or DJ mix, be aware of how the environment affects you. Otherwise, you might end up with a bigger headache and thinner wallet the next day.

Jim Jones is an American craft beer, wine, and spirits importer/exporter operating in Kathmandu. He can be reached at jimjonesdenver@gmail.com.