Heavy Metal, Teens & Marketing

You know that jingle you’ll never get out of your head? Mine is “588-2300…EMPIRE!” It’s ingrained in my brain cells from years of waking up to WBBM-AM in Chicago after college. I know you have one, too, and so do your teenage kids.

Apparently, there’s a new study by Emory University scientists and neuro-economists (have you ever heard of a professional with these creds before?) showing the correlation to new music (read that metal) and brain response. Teen brains react positively to various tunes they hear, and according to the study, the popularity and commercial success of a song can be predicted. The study story appeared in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Songs Stick in Teens’ Heads; Research Shows Hit Songs Activate Pleasure, Reward Centers in Adolescent Brains.”

Get this:

* “The researchers usually could tell from the strength of brain activity alone which songs would later sell at least 20,000 copies.

* Five songs in the teens’ neural top 10 sold more than 50,000 copies each.

* Three songs that were not among the top 10 eventually became gold records selling more than 500,000  copies.”

Apparently, there’s a burgeoning field “in which psychologists and economists are using fMRI medical scanners and EEG brain-wave monitors to probe the automatic judgments people make below the surface of awareness that help shape decisions including purchasing and political choices.”


Not so sure this research is akin to why the Empire carpet jingle will forever be engraved in my brain; however, it certainly gives one pause when you associate the ability to predict commercial popularity with the synapse of a teen’s brain.

  • As parents, we ought to be careful about how our kids are used as guinea pigs in science projects, especially if your kid’s brain becomes tapped as a major predictor of product success.
  • As marketers of music (could the science of scent be that far behind?), run to Emory University and engage their team of neuro-economists (how do you earn that title, anyway) to learn how you can predict the next gold record.
  • As advertisers, get the list of top 10 new bands and songs that elicit the strongest brain response (here are five) and get those tunes incorporated into all the interactive ads you can produce:
  1. Job for a Cowboy, “Knee Deep” (metal)
  2. Lucky Boys Confusion “Atari” (alternative)
  3. Underminded, “Bring on the Flood” (metal)
  4. Tricosta/Fat Joe, “Make it Rain”  (hip hop/rap)
  5. Locash Cowboys, “Boom Boom” (country)
  • As public relations professionals, can’t you just see the possibilities with this? The marriage of technology and science is producing a scourge of opportunity for everyone in our profession. The only way you can ignore it is to unplug, and that still means making music.

Whaddya think?

(image: zazzle)