Music Markets for Medical Patients?

If we look into the idea of music information retrieval (MIR), it quickly becomes clear that streaming sites, such as Spotify, Pandora, or Apple Music use a variety of listener demographics and information as well as music content and context to suggest the “right” songs, artists, or albums to a listener dependent on his/her habits, activities, moods, or characteristics. MIR has exploded for the general population, whether listeners know it or not, but I wonder if there is a market to use MIR technologies to bring music to hospital patients.

Research by Jennifer J. Nicol showed that women living with chronic illnesses found music “spatially freeing and comforting, [having] positive experiential meanings in terms of living with chronic illness” (Body, time, space and relationship in the music listening experiences of women with chronic illness). Previous research also acknowledges the effect of music on the brain. These studies make me wonder if the music industry is ignoring a major benefit of music through sound healing. No, music would not physically heal patients of chronic illnesses, but it may help make life a little more comforting or motivate the patient to keep working hard to fight their illness.

Being a biologist and not in the field of musicology, I am not certain on how to start collecting the data to develop streaming services geared toward patients. However, I think the most important aspect will be creating both peaceful and motivational playlists available to the patients: one for rest and renewal and the other for the hard walks around the hospital wing. Of course, adding a celebratory playlist for the great moments would not be bad, either, but I digress. Additionally, the playlists should continue to cater toward the listener’s habits, since not every patient is not the same, but it should harness the concepts of rest and renewal, motivation, and celebration.

Music information retrieval opens a lot of doors for streaming services to continue suggesting music to listeners, finding that perfect playlist for each occasion. However, I think MIR still has uses that have not quite been tapped into, such as those in the medical and health fields. Over the years, I look forward to seeing where MIR takes music, streaming, and listeners.


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