Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

You need music to work to.

Just ask the hordes of wise tech people who sit all day at work with their headphones masking their personality.

You also need music to sell.

How often, indeed, do stores and restaurants spend hours contemplating what sort of music will get people's credit cards to feel looser?

And then there's the ads that plague TV with seemingly every hit song ever created.

Surely, then, it would be good to know precisely what it is that makes a song popular. 

Popular everywhere, that is. All brands want to be global, don't they?

Naturally, some extremely erudite types decided to discover just what makes certain types of music cross boundaries.

Even more naturally, the idea to do it came from Harvard types. Specifically, from a fellow of the Harvard Data Science Initiative, a graduate student in Harvard's Department of Human Evolutionary Biology and a professor of anthropology at Pennsylvania State University -- who used to attend Harvard.

It's the very assumption that music is universal that these scientists wanted to question.

How, though, to make such a study unbiased? 

Well, they persuaded 30,000 listeners -- found by crowdsourcing -- to participate.

They used an algorithm -- because of course all algorithms are unbiased -- to find notable patterns in different types of music.

They limited themselves to six questions: 

Does music appear universally? What kinds of behavior are associated with song, and how do they vary among societies? Are the musical features of a song indicative of its behavioral context (e.g., infant care)? Do the melodic and rhythmic patterns of songs vary systematically, like those patterns found in language? And how prevalent is tonality across musical idioms?

Their conclusions were, perhaps, reassuring. Or, depending on your level of self-confidence, obvious.

Across the 60 societies they studied, they concluded that lullabies, healing songs, dance songs, and love songs share the same fundamental patterns.

As the researchers put it: 

For songs specifically, three dimensions characterize more than 25 percent of the performances studied: formality of the performance, arousal level, and religiosity. There is more variation in musical behavior within societies than between societies, and societies show similar levels of within-society variation in musical behavior.

There's surely something soothing about knowing that, all over the world, people are merely human and have many of the same creative triggers and responses.

There's something uplifting to learn that we're all just humans trying to get by.

It would truly be bizarre to encounter a society that managed to do without music.

Still, now you can feel sure that the music in your your ads will likely work around the world.

You also have scientific permission to enjoy the most obscure music you can find on YouTube.

It may be K-Pop. It may be the classic Welsh stylings of Edward H. Dafis. It may be Mongolian throat singing or Indonesian Pop Minahasa.

Know that you are not alone.

In essence, if you're in a certain mood but in an unfamiliar place, you can still find music that'll harmonize perfectly.

Now, if only science could solve some of the world's other problems.

Published on: Dec 1, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.