Blurring The Lines Between Music And Investing

Quick, what tune comes to mind when you think of mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or investing in general?

Nothing, nothing at all? Me either.

In a sound-filled, even noisy world, investing (not trading) is distinguished by its hush. Walk into a mutual fund company, or a financial advisor’s office for that matter, and you’re likelier to “hear” silence than music.

While other businesses use music to communicate energy, optimism or whatever, music is not in the investment firm’s communications toolbox. Too bad, really. Music can add another dimension to an experience. (Not to mention its effect on productivity. If you take a closer look in investment offices, you'll see plenty of people wearing earbuds while they work.)

In the last few months, I’ve collected a few examples of efforts to pair music with investment topics. Is this the start of anything, do you think?

Shelter From The Bonds?

Let’s start with a marketing example—a Bob Dylan-inspired video on an unlikely topic. It’s entertaining, although TastyTrade was probably hoping for more than 60 views.

Branded Playlists

In August it was revealed that Spotify, the music streaming service, was beta-testing a follow feature so marketers could promote branded playlists. 

Ordinarily, the announcement might have fostered just more other-industry envy. Except that Morningstar’s Editor-In-Chief Jerry Kerns has already been doing something like that on Spotify. He’s been creating playlists to accompany issues of Morningstar Advisor.

Issue No. 36_Fund Distribution may be more relevant, but the tracks from Issue No. 35_Bonds will give you a better idea of how the playlist syncs with the focus.

To listen, log in to Spotify and find the jerrykerns account. According to the published numbers, there has been almost zero uptake on this, too. (To be fair, there's been zero promotion—I just happened to see a tweet from Kerns about it.)

The Rhythm Of The Data

Here’s what started me thinking about beats and financial data. The FMS Symphony created a “house-trance,” selecting chords based on the derivative of federal account balance data and a melody based on the federal interest rate data. For more, see this Revolutions post.

Just a warning, when you click on this link or on the image above, you may not love the “cheesy synth” and the volume is set high. But try to hang in there long enough to experience February through October 2008, at least. It’s a soundtrack for the financial crisis.

We have personal life tickers, is it so far-fetched to imagine an asset manager introducing soundtracks for investing over a lifetime? 

Music To Browse By

Do you remember when some early Websites experimented with audio files that auto-launched when visitors landed? There was a bit of a blowback and random Web browsing today is largely free of surprise sounds, including from ads.

Here's one business in private beta,, that believes that background music can aid in achieving Website goals. You set the mood and they pick the background music. To my knowledge, this isn't being directed at investing sites. I mention it as an example of more music headed the Web user's way. I'll try to keep an open mind on this one.

Music and investing—do they have a future together?