Where functional music finds its home: a literature review

Where functional music finds its home: a literature review


Download Outcome Paper (.pdf) (287 KB)

Download Reflection Paper (.pdf) (143 KB)


The 21st century has seen the proliferation of music as a utilitarian tool that can alter, regulate, and observe mood. Functional music takes on many definitions—from musique d’ameublement, Muzak, film scores, to MTV and brand sponsored media. Today, functional music (a mood stabilizer) is the biggest economic driver for user choice. “When presented with a large array of affordable or free options, consumers can be mentally paralyzed by the worry that they aren’t making the most efficacious and fulfilling choice,” (Schwartz, 2005). Spotify and other DSPs help alleviate the strain of choice by providing preset and often branded playlists fit for any mood or occasion. At the same time, smart speakers are a fast-growing piece of the music listening market. According to Music Ally, smart speaker sales grew 169% in 2018 with over 80 million units sold. The global market is expected to reach 200 million by 2019. Smart speakers are inherently functional given their hands-off approach. They provide an intimate space for an often-dissociated listener. “Ethnomusicologists have told us, the functions of music can be described in almost exclusively social terms,” (Frith, 2012). There are still unknown implications of how smart speakers will integrate with functional music—especially as it pertains to places of work and social gatherings.

Publication Date



Valencia (Spain) Campus


Project Components: one outcome paper, one reflection paper.

Where functional music finds its home: a literature review