Music considered harmful

By dkl9, written 2023-130, revised 2024-002 (2 revisions)


Music is more harmful than commonly estimated. I often summarise this as "music is harmful!", and suggest that it should be avoided under most circumstances, but this exaggerates my actual position.

Music is extremely memorable, a trait which transfers to any lyrics embedded in it. The effect is a double-edged sword: if a song's lyrics encode useful information, it provides an easy way to learn, but the songs will easily "replay" in the mind at other times as earworms. Most songs do not have useful lyrics, so memorability is usually a net-negative. Ubiquitous and repetitive music (common these days) amplifies these memories.

What do I mean by "useful lyrics"? Moffit (2018) and Blais (2017) give good examples.

Listening to music, especially lyrical, has a neutral to negative effect on other activities, sith it distracts minds from what else they may be doing. This problem does not apply to activities that explicitly rely on music, such as dance. Earworms make the negative effects persist beyond when actively listening.

Music manipulates emotions. Sometimes this is exactly what we want, but this is dangerous if used in excess or in the wrong direction.

Lyrics in contemporary popular music give undue weight to harmful or unimportant topics. Listeners often ignore the meaning of lyrics, so this may not be a great issue.

Music production is a contagious, oversupplied career with a low success rate. The ubiquity of music diverts society's resources from more useful jobs.

Based on these concerns, I suggest that you