Well now, this explains a few things. Always interested in carrying science forward, I read with interest the article on Gawker which cites a study from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. The gist of the article states that we seek out music we enjoy because of a chemical reaction in our brains:
Ever had goosebumps or felt euphoric chills when listening to a piece of music? If so, your brain is reacting to the music in the same way as it would to some delicious food or a psychoactive drug such as cocaine, according to scientists.
The experience of pleasure is mediated in all these situations by the release of the brain’s reward chemical, dopamine, according to results of experiments carried out by a team led by Valorie Salimpoor of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, which are published today in Nature Neuroscience.
Music seems to tap into the circuitry in the brain that has evolved to drive human motivation – any time we do something our brains want us to do again, dopamine is released into these circuits. “Now we’re showing that this ancient reward system that’s involved in biologically adaptive behaviours is being tapped into by a cognitive reward,” said Salimpoor.
If music-induced emotional states can lead to dopamine release, as our findings indicate, it may begin to explain why musical experiences are so valued. These results further speak to why music can be effectively used in rituals, marketing or film to manipulate hedonistic states. Our findings provide neurochemical evidence that intense emotional responses to music involve ancient reward circuitry and serve as a starting point for more detailed investigations of the biological substrates that underlie abstract forms of pleasure.
By extension, radio has previously been the venue for most new music discovery. Although this continues today, it is being supplanted by “new media” sources such as youtube. As a point of reference, studies on cocaine addiction show that dopamine levels increase by about 22% during use. When a listener is exposed to what is perceived as good music (a subjective term), average dopamine levels increased by about 21%.