How we are literally brainwashed by the music industry

Every summer there is a song on the radio that we all hate. The song drops by so often until we eventually have become used to it. What does this have to do with brainwashing?

Through repeated exposure people will like a particular song rather than you might expect. According to their taste A study from 2011 showed that certain emotional centers of the brain, including the reward centers are more active when people hear songs that they have been previously been exposed to. These centers are even more active than when people hear unfamiliar songs that fit better with their musical preference.

Musically stockholm syndrome

This happens more often than you think. Mike Rugnetta from Idea Channel calls it a musical stockholm syndrome, a term that was originally used by the criminologist Nils Bejerot. The musical stockholm syndrome describes which hostage eventually gets sympathy for the hostage-taker.

Most people assume that when they hear a song everywhere the song is popular, well that's not the case. A song is popular because it is turned over. Major record labels may not pay radio stations to play their tracks. But that doesn't mean that it's not happening.


Payola is the bribe that a DJ or a radio station takes from a plugger to encourage a particular song or artist and awareness and sales. Because some charts are wholly or partly based on airplay they try to influence the charts. Radio Hits usually caused by the result of payola.

Criminal activities

The phenomenon is related to the sixties, seventies and eighties, when the music industry literally was run by the mafia. That also happens today, but less conspicuous. The strategy is based on neuroscience: If you hear something often enough, you start to like it eventually.

In the sixties Robert Zajonc found that people liked the song more enjoyable if they had heard it two or three times, he called it the mere-exposure effect.


The context in which you hear a song is often very important. The more often a song is imposed, the more we have a chance to get us associate it in a positive way. When you hear 'Problem' by Ariane Grande every time when you're out with friends, you'll whatever the lyrics are easily associate it with positive feelings.

Songs that the music industry constantly firing on us therefore have a much better chance to become more popular than tracks that can not count on the support of the machine.

Is pop music holding you hostage?


Like us on Facebook and miss nothing!