The Amygdala – Fear, Pleasure, and Rock and Roll

 

In my post Herd Mentality in Entertainment, I discuss how a small piece of our brain called The amygdala (what some call the old mammalian brain) is responsible for our natural mental reflexes to evade predators. This is a key component to my overall concert consumer behavior thesis as it is my belief that this piece of our brain is hard-wired for us to seek out the pack. Ultimately, leading us to copy their behaviors. Regardless if those behaviors are to group together, disperse, or buy another beer.

 

In his book, This is Your Brain on Music, neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin, Ph.D. goes into depth regarding how our brain is hardwired with (on average) one hundred billion neurons. Each neuron is connected to other neurons—usually one thousand to ten thousand others. Just four neurons can be connected in sixty-three ways, or not at all, for a total of sixty-four possibilities. As the number of neurons increases, the number of possible connections grows exponentially to the point that we will never fully understand what our brains are truly capable of.

 

For us to process a thought, memory, or even the color red the respective neurons need to fire and create that connection to pull the respective data from other areas of our brain. A great example of how this happens musically is when that song (or more likely just a part of it) gets stuck in your head – aka the “earworm.” Scientists believe this could happen because you hear the song and it triggers a set of neurons that continue to fire and get stuck in playback mode. This demonstrates to us that if a certain part of the brain becomes activated it can lead to repeat fire in the neuro-circuitry of that area, which brings me to our good ol’ friend – the amygdala.

 

You see, the amygdala is not just responsible for those survival instincts. According to Levitin, “it sits adjacent to the hippocampus, long considered the crucial structure for memory storage, if not memory retrieval. And experiments over the past decades have shown that it is highly activated by any experience or memory that has a strong emotional component.” You know…like live music.

 

So when you are at a concert your amygdala is fully powered up. Its circuits are firing and with it the likelihood that your need to connect with the pack is increased. You are biologically primed to fit into the crowd and more likely to follow their cues. This is a great plus for ancillary sales such as alcohol and food and probably explains why we all accept the overpriced beer and food while at a concert – especially if those in our row have a beer in hand.

 

However, the neuro-firing of the amygdala doesn’t stop with ancillary sales. Sponsorships benefit from this priming as well. For one, that charged-up amygdala rests near your memory storage so you are more likely to store and later recall brands you see while at a show. Second, as our earworm scenario showed us, all it takes is a piece of one song from that event to trigger those neurons and create an infinite feedback loop that could easily trigger memories of that night including the weather, smells, and advertisements you came across. Furthermore, your brain will likely categorize those brands with the positive emotions that are generated from music consumption – a huge win for advertisers.

 

Live music ignites nearly all areas of our brain. However, the amygdala carries special weight because it also drives us to instinctively follow the pack. In addition, its location near our hippocampus aids memory storage and recall, which is powerful biology that fuels concert consumer behavior.

 

Judge Judy – A Demo in Audience Compounding

 

My mom is a HUGE Judge Judy fan and I will admit it, so am I.  However, we are fans for different reasons. My mom likes seeing someone her height take control of a situation. While I admire what the 5′ 1″ judge has done in creating a powerful global brand through the concept of audience compounding.

 

In fact, I admire her so much that I have created the Judge Judy Principle in regard to how venues can craft a loyal customer following. It works like this.

 

People are creatures of habit. Our brains have to process so much data each day, that the organ is constantly looking for things it can place on autopilot. This is where habits kick in. We habitually take the same route to work. We instinctively pick-up the same toothpaste without considering dozens of other brands. And for many of us, like Pavlov’s dog, we instantly check our messages when we hear that “ding” from our phones. This is a core part of consumer behavior and many of the top brands seek to utilize it to get their products and services into our auto-consumption routines.

 

Basically, brands need two things to break into our habits. One, they must always be where we would expect them to be and two, they need to give us the same quality product every time. Judge Judy has been doing this since 1996 and is reaping the rewards.

 

She has been on the air for 23 seasons and has remained in the same afternoon slot (roughly 3 pm – 5 pm) for that entire time. This is key to habit-forming because her fans know where they can get their Judy fix anywhere in the country with little effort. Second, her product is always the same. Her intro music and logo don’t change. She wears the same robe. The program is always filmed in the same courtroom – they never go anywhere special. Her bailiff, Byrd, always announces her and the case before jumping into a crossword puzzle. This is the second key to her success – she gives her audience the same quality product at each interaction. This prevents people from becoming confused and continually reinforces their positive stimuli response, which strengthens their tie to the habit and feeds the viewership cycle. It also explains why Judge Judy has a fan base of 10 million-plus every weekday and has been the number one syndicated daytime show since 1998. So, how does this apply to the booking of entertainment venues?

 

Judge Judy’s success is a testament to the importance of establishing a long-term booking strategy and sticking with it. Before the internet, iPhones, social media and streaming, entertainment consumers had fewer options so the onus was on them to seek out their choice of leisure. Technology has shifted this behavior. Consumers now have access to countless opportunities with little cost of engagement such as streaming music on Spotify, viewing videos on TikTok, or binging a whole TV season on Netflix.

 

Talent buyers and venue bookers must consider consistency in their programming as a way to counteract this challenge. Since the consumer’s cost to see live entertainment is more than, say, streaming Hulu at home, they are in a vulnerable position. And if you operate in a highly competitive live market these “on the fence” consumers have a multitude of options at their disposal as well. This means that anything you do that confuses them could become detrimental to your operations.

 

This doesn’t mean you need to book the same act each night, but your calendar should be consistent in one way or another. You can hold tight to theme nights such as Latin on Sundays, Karaoke on Wednesdays, and Pop on Fridays. Or you can book one style of entertainment such as an open format DJ regularly. The key is sticking with your decision once your A/B booking testing is complete (more on that later). This will mitigate the fan’s choice apprehension.

 

It will also fuel an audience compounding strategy that works like this. A customer arrives and digs your vibe, so they come back. If you are consistent and reinforce their stimuli response, they will stay along with the next patron who visits, likes what they see, and decides to come back a second time as well. Over time you will build a core group of promoters for the brand. This will lead to an adoption tipping point that is regularly hit, which will speed the time it takes to fill the venue.

 

However, if you change your entertainment too often you risk confusing and alienating the customers you have gained. In essence, you will start the whole process over and it will take longer for you to pack the house. Think of it like your 401(k). You put in money consistently every month. Later, you reap rewards with very little effort on your part. However, if you pull money out early it takes longer for those checks to cash. This is why Judge Judy is so successful. She has a solid brand that has delivered a similar quality product consistently for 23 seasons and has reaped the benefits of audience compounding in the process.

 

If you would like to learn more please reach out to me at info@jeremylarochelle.com or call me at ‭(602) 842-2050‬.

 

 

 

 

Using Venue Math to Find Your Baseline

I wanted to demonstrate how data, research, and math can help venue managers and marketers book concerts.

 

 

To do that, I took research on music adoption from The Verge and consumer behavior experts. Then, applied some rudimentary math skills to demonstrate how one could likely pinpoint eras of music that would better align with a concert venue’s marketing strategy.

 

Works Cited:

Ong, T. (2018, February 12). Our musical tastes peak as teens, says study. Retrieved from https://www.theverge.com/2018/2/12/17003076/spotify-data-shows-songs-teens-adult-taste-music

Solomon, M. R. (2019). Consumer Behavior: Buying, Having, and Being (12th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Pearson.