Experts have discovered why live music gives you goosebumps and it’s partly to do with the meaning of a song

Experts have discovered why live music gives you goosebumps and it’s partly to do with the meaning of a song – and the volume.

Harvard researcher Matthew Sachs came to the conclusion after combining the results of his experiment with that of existing studies into the same subject.

Sachs monitored the heart rates and skin conductance of subjects who listened to three of their favourite pieces of music.

Intensity of lyrics, rising pitch, harmonic intervals and collective crowd singing emerged as the key factors in delivering the shivers.

Using the information Sachs created an equation: Pgoosebumps = CF (Sc + Id+Ap). CF recognises the cognitive factors and Sc is the social and environmental context such as the collective experience.

Id stands for the individual differences such as the engagement with the music and Ap is the music’s acoustic properties, or the rapid increase or decrease in volume.

Pgoosebumps is the percentage chance of getting goosebumps.

Sachs’ study was carried out to mark the launch of Barclaycard’s Entertainment partnership with Live Nation, which sees sponsorship of eight festivals across the summer and exclusive event perks for cardholders including 10 per cent back on festival pre-sales and many other benefits.

Sachs said: ‘’Many studies have attempted to investigate what causes the emotion we feel while listening to music, but these have typically taken place in a lab setting.

‘’We’ve never before been able to explore how multiple factors influence the likelihood of experiencing goosebumps in a real-world context.

‘’It’s hugely exciting to be able to explore the physiological correlates of aesthetic emotions for the first time during live performances this summer.”

Barclaycard also carried out a survey to accompany the study.

The results show seven in 10 Brits think goosebumps are a marker of great live entertainment, but only 16 per cent of us understand where the physiological phenomenon comes from.

But the majority of Brits (71 per cent) think getting goosebumps is the top sign of a great live entertainment experience.

It also emerged the emotional effect of a live music experience is also enhanced by being among friends (41 per cent), singing along with the crowd (41 per cent) and watching your favourite artist perform (40 per cent).

The research also revealed while 71 per cent of Brits have experienced the chills during live entertainment, 13 per cent incorrectly believe that romantic attraction is actually the key cause of goosebumps – with almost one in 10 putting the sensation down to simply feeling cold (nine per cent).

Although 60 per cent of Brits associate goosebumps with the feeling of excitement, the new theory suggests that a personal relevance to the song, collective crowd experience and a rapid increase or decrease in volume are more important when it comes to delivering the shivers.

Time of day is also a significant factor, with over half (56 per cent) of respondents feeling more goosebumps after 5pm than at any other time during a live music performance, with the optimum time for a goosebump moment identified as 6.37pm.

Rock music was voted the genre most expected to cause goosebumps (31 per cent), followed by pop (29 per cent) and Indie (seven per cent).

House tunes (six per cent) and classical symphonies (five per cent) complete the top five.

What’s more, Brits believe that watching their favourite band perform (28 per cent) is more likely to deliver the shivers than getting married (27 per cent), with only the sight of their new born child expected to create a greater goosebump-inducing moment (40 per cent).

And it appears old flames burn the brightest for Brits, as over a tenth of respondents admit their most treasured memory of a great live music experience includes their ex or someone they used to date (11 per cent).

Die-hard fans don’t need anyone by their side, with five per cent enjoying their best live music experience while on their own.

Daniel Mathieson of Barclaycard, said: “Most people can identify with getting the chills while enjoying live entertainment, but very few actually understand the theory behind it.

‘’In just the first phase of our study, our goosebumps theory will finally provide some understanding of what causes the incredible phenomenon and makes live music so captivating.”

With a long history of supporting live entertainment, Barclaycard will help customers get more from their experience this summer.

The Barclaycard Entertainment Live Nation Partnership kicked off with Download Festival on the 8th of June, with the Isle of Wight Festival, Latitude, Lovebox, Citadel, RiZE Festival, Creamfields and Reading & Leeds Festival to follow.

This summer, Matthew Sachs, alongside a team of researchers, will conduct a physiological study on-site at two UK music festivals.

The test will monitor and evaluate fans’ physiological responses to music in a live festival setting, while qualitative metrics will also measure emotional responses.

The results will be revealed by Barclaycard at a later date.

  • Mat is a writer with an interest in public opinion research. He has a passion for stories covering lifestyle, travel and technology.

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