I’ve read a lot lately about the “mere exposure effect.” This is the psychological premise that we are more likely to feel an affinity for something that we have been exposed to multiple times. According to an NPR story  I heard, that’s the reason we see a candidate’s or issue’s political ads over and over and over. Even though we might be sick of the ads, merely being exposed to this person or position multiple times makes us more familiar — and therefore, more favorably inclined — to the candidate or issue.

The mere exposure effect applies to music as well. The more you hear a song, the more you recognize it and feel favorably inclined toward it. In my work, I hear many of the current hits many many times and find myself really liking them, even songs that are not from artists I usually gravitate to. At home, one of these songs pops up on a video or a TV show and I comment to my husband, “Oh, I like this song.” But as I watch and hear the song along with him, putting myself in his shoes and hearing it as a first-timer again, I sometimes think, “Ooo, he’s not going to like this song. And why do I like it?” I have seen the mere exposure effect many times where a song I did not like on first or second listen has become a favorite because of the chorus, the hook, or just a part of the song that I find myself singing along with or hearing in my head. “Unbelievers” by Vampire Weekend is one of those songs.


When designing a music program, we have to be sure our clients understand and are comfortable with a song having a higher level of repetition. While clients often request that there be low repetition in their program, playing certain songs with a higher rotation, for instance the ones that are being played in clubs, on radio, in TV ads, and on YouTube, can be more beneficial and create the desired atmosphere for a brand. Don’t be afraid of hearing a song multiple times during business hours. Are the same customers hearing it? Most likely a different set of customers are in the store and their ears will catch the new popular song and have that favorable response to it. Let your Music Designer focus on the customers and create a sound to exemplify your brand for their ears and minds.

– Submitted by Janice Williams, Music Design