March 16, 2022

How to Use Functional Music to Better Focus Your Writing

How to Use Functional Music to Better Focus Your Writing

Do you want to know how to use functional music to better focus your writing?
Listen as Dan Clark shares how music affects the brain to help focus and concentration.


Do you want to know how to use functional music to better focus your writing?

Listen as Dan Clark, CEO of Brain.fm shares how music affects the brain to help your overall focus and concentration.

In this week's powerful episode "How to Use Functional Music to Better Focus Your Writing" you will discover...

What is functional music and why it's important for better focus and concentration?

How music affects the brain to help you get into the right zone for creative work, taking a break, or for a good night's sleep.

And a whole lot more...

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Transcript

Susan Friedmann:         Welcome to Book Marketing Mentors, the weekly podcast where you learn proven strategies, tools, ideas, and tips from the masters. Every week I introduce you to a marketing master who will share their expertise to help you market and sell more books. Today, my special guest is Dan Clark. Dan is CEO of Brain.fm and the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30. Wow. Dan is excited about how technology can change the world. His company, Brain.fm creates functional music to support you in everyday activities, to get more done, feel more excited, or get better sleep. It's a tool to help bring out the best in everyone. Well, Dan, I am so excited to welcome you to the show and thank you for being this week's guest expert and mentor.

Dan Clark:                     Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Susan Friedmann:         Dan, you know that I am a real fan of Brain.fm and I actually use it every single day, and particularly as background for creative writing, relaxing, and sleeping. Let me tell you, that's an area that I really appreciate. I believe it's an incredibly powerful tool and that's the reason that I brought you on here to talk about this as a tool, how it could help our listeners in terms of their own creativity and how they do their work. So let's start at the very beginning, which is always a great place to start, and talk about what exactly this is and what functional music is and why we need it?

Dan Clark:                     Yeah, of course. Yeah. At Brain.fm, we make functional music to help you focus, relax, and sleep better. What we're doing with functional music is really designing music from the ground up to elicit qualities that help us in the different activities that we're trying to pursue. At Brain.fm, we combine basic science and really in-depth neuroscience to create music that elicit results that can be measured in the brain. And we're doing this through patented processes called neurophase-locking, as well as other kinds of audio techniques that have been tested, and measured, again, to get you in the zone, but then also help you stay there.

Susan Friedmann:         That sounds sort of super technical to me.

Dan Clark:                     Sure. Let's dive in.

Susan Friedmann:         I listen to the music, I'm like, and I know there are things that affects the brain, but how exactly does that happen? I mean, in very simple terms, can you explain some of that neuro, whatever you called it?

Dan Clark:                     Of course. Yeah. So there's two different realms that we're building in music is, one, is more audio acoustic techniques that allow us to have better focus. At the first start of that is music that we're associating with background noise. So when we think about music that helps us relax, for example, we're probably thinking about music that we would listen to at a spa, right? Like running rivers and things like that. So there's a certain association to music. And then there's certain things that we do to music in the very first, which helps people have less distractions. And that could be removing lyrics from music, right? None of our music has lyrics. It's also making sure that music is longer. So when you find a really great piece of music, instead of it ending three minutes and then interrupting you and then switching songs, all of our music is at least 30 minutes, so you can stay in the zone for longer.

                                    And then what we do on top of all these audio techniques is we're actually doing really in-depth neuroscience and inside of the music, we add different rhythmic pulses, which when you listen to these rhythms, they basically align the different networks of your brain to have the same rhythms, too, which helps you sink and switch your state faster. We can go into more in-depth science than that, which I'm happy to, but suffice to say, when you're listening to Brain.fm, it's designed from science, developed with science, and tested with science, to be able to, again, get you in the zone and then stay there for your creative work, or for taking a break, or for getting a better night's sleep.

Susan Friedmann:         So I love that, putting you in the zone because I really find that is so true that I put the music on and I start writing. And even if I didn't know what I was going to start writing about, I somehow, as you say, get in that zone and it's almost like the muse is happening. The muse came to visit, things just happen. I mean, it's-

Dan Clark:                     Yeah, let's-

Susan Friedmann:         ... astonishing to me that it does. And I'm always surprised when it does.

Dan Clark:                     So a really simple way, or a simpler way of saying this, is there's something called an optimal stimulation theory. And it's this idea that for us to be in our peak state of productivity, that we need to be between the realms of the perfect mix of being not distracted, but having enough energy. So if we plotted this on a graph, you could think on the left side is actually not motivation or being bored, right? Or procrastinating, in the middle, is that perfect focus. And on the other side is actually too distracted and having too much energy. And what's really unique about these rhythmic pulses and all the stuff that we're creating in our music is it's actually helping, a lot of the time, bringing people up from procrastination or a starting state into that magic zone where you feel like you can just work effortlessly. And that's our goal, especially with our focus music.

Susan Friedmann:         One of the things that you and I talked a little bit about before we jumped on the recording was that I've just come from another very emotional conversation. I had to literally switch gears. It took me maybe 10 minutes I had between that call and coming on and meeting you. And then you talked about, "Well, you could use the music as a way to transition from the one to the other," because I'm in a completely different state of mind now than I was 20 minutes ago, where I was almost in tears. We were reviewing some material with a very intimate group that I'm involved with and then I'm coming on. I've got to be high energy for this. And enthusiastic, which of course I am because I love interviewing people. And this is an exciting subject for me because, as I say, I use it every day. I just don't think about it in terms of the depth, obviously that we're talking about, but you'd mentioned something about content switching; did I get that correct?

Dan Clark:                     Yeah. So I think being able to switch context and being able to syntax switch between different things in the day is something that's, we're not really designed for as humans, but we have to do in our busy days because we are basically having to plug in and then plug out on demand. And especially for switching between busy lives and having our personal lives. It's again, it's switching on when you need to, and then switching off.

                                    But I think another whole thing that we're chatting about here is actually resetting, or rephrasing because personally, we're diving in the use cases of Brain.fm, but another one is besides just getting you in the zone, it's actually resetting your state to be prepared to be there. I think one of the things about having great tools is knowing when and why to use them. And one of the things that I would recommend if people were in meetings, like the one you just have is actually put on some of the relaxed music and put it on for five minutes because the effects that are happening in your brain, it actually takes about five minutes for it to fully ramp up.

                                    And we know this from FMRI and EEG and all this other science testing, which we can dive into, but suffice to say, it's a tool that you can use to really prepare you to take a break, make sure that you're relaxing. It's really hard to just sometimes be like, relax now. You can't just will yourself. You have to help yourself with these tools. And then you could switch into a focus or something else to continue your day.

Susan Friedmann:         One of the things I really like about the program, too, is that you've got these divisions of, if you are doing some deep studying or some deep work, there's a certain music for that. And then there's more of a creative flow music, which I actually like a lot. And then you've got a relaxation music and then you've got the sleep music, which is, that one I really like, too. The difference here, can you give us sort of in very, again, dumb down terms or sorry about that.

Dan Clark:                     Yeah, it's totally fine. Yeah, so-

Susan Friedmann:         I like to keep it simple. I never want to assume people know and understand what all this is about, but how does that vary? What is the variant there between, let's say, a deep studying versus a creative?

Dan Clark:                     Yeah. So there's a few different things. One of those is that brainwave or that brain state that we're trying to help someone achieve. So in science it's very well understood what someone's brain looks like when they're in deep focus or when they're in creative. And you can look at this with measuring the brain in brain scans. There's a lot of literature on that. What we have is this technology, that I was talking about before, that adds these rhythmic pulses to music, which helps you basically change your brain state. When we're making our music, what we're doing is we're first saying, what is the activity or what is the purpose that this person is trying to achieve?

                                    And what we're doing is we're adding in those as different kinds of rhythms that helps them with that. And then we're also adding in the different kinds of moods or emotional feelings that what's going to help you to be creative. So if you listen to our deep work versus our creative work, you'll find that there's a small, different in the rhythm. If you can hear, it's almost imperceptible, but other things like the brightness of the music, how happy it sounds, versus how maybe darker, these are all different qualities that we're adding to make someone easier to switch into that more creative, that muse as you called it. Does that make sense?

Susan Friedmann:         It does. And thank you for keeping it simple, because I know, I'm sure it's very easy for you to jump into the deep science behind it. And I know on the website that you have a lot of this science, the research into why this works, it's always fascinating to know. Yeah. Well, why does it really work? But I think you explain that really well. Now this isn't new; this isn't something new. So what distinguishes what you do versus the, I don't know, am I allowed to say Insight Timer and some of these other-

Dan Clark:                     Totally.

Susan Friedmann:         ... apps that are out there, the meditation apps, what have you got that they don't have?

Dan Clark:                     Great question. And I love these questions, too, because one quick story that we can talk about on another podcast, another time, is I'm actually not the original founder. I was actually a user first. So I came into the company being very skeptical, my first time being like, what is the difference? And then being able to feel it myself and loving it so much that I ended up working for the company then becoming CEO, but that's a whole 'nother thing. Some of the differences is, and to your point is, functional music has existed forever. Its existed, like lullabies are functional music. They're helping our kids fall asleep or war chance and things like that. There's other tries at this of binaural beats or Isochronic tones, if you've heard them, right? And the main difference between Brain.fm and those other earlier developments is that one, is our science.

                                    So all that science that I was talking about, those different rhythmic pulses, they are patented. It's a breakthrough that we've been able to distinguish in the last few years. It is the hallmark of main scientific differences we can see. So we have funding from the NSF, National Science Foundation to validate, can we help people with focus? We also have papers, as you see on our website, and it's really about us solving this thing of, one, we want to make a product that actually works because it's really easier to make a company around that when you have effects. But two, is the more we invest in our science. The more we can actually invest in making our product better. We do help a lot of people, creatives, people that are working at a desk, be more functional, but we're taking the same exact technology, and actually using this in medical settings.

                                    So we're doing this before and after surgery, for example, and helping people wake up faster with no drugs. It's really important to, I think, always separate between placebo and actual results. So we're always testing control groups and making sure that we're doing things the right way. Because at the end of the day, if we make a better product, we can help more people. But also, too, is there's so many things about the brain that as humans, we don't understand yet. We have neuroscientists that work for us and our lead neuroscientists; he tells me that we know more about Pluto than other parts about our brain, like memory retention and things like that. And I think in addition to making a product that we want to help people, we also want to learn more to help the scientific community and really help people be their best self.

                                    We talked about this a little bit ago, but Brain.fm is a tool. And if you know how to use your tool and it allows you to be your best self on demand, that's really the only difference between us 10,000 years ago, is just the tools that we have. And our quest is really to deliver something where someone can look at our science and say, "Okay, I understand it. Or maybe I don't understand it, but I understand some of it." And really have trust that this is something that's made to make them get into the zone.

Susan Friedmann:         You talk about using the tool and learning how to use the tool. Talk to us a little bit more about that. If I'm coming to you as a complete novice and I say, Dan, well, how do I use this tool? What would you tell me?

Dan Clark:                     Well, you said it very well in the beginning, which is, we are the world's most advanced background noise. If you were coming to us the first time, what I would encourage you to do is get some great headphones and sit in a place that you're going to not be distracted and figure out what you have to do that you can work on for 60 to 90 minutes. So a lot of your audience are writers. So I would say, is put on Brain.fm with some headphones and sit down and start writing. At the end of your 60 minute session, you're going to find a place where you slip into where it starts to feel effortless. People call this as flow state.

                                    And we're really trying to trigger that flow state so that you can get past that writer's block and get right into the zone of writing. And then at the end of that 60 minute session, you can look at the time and you're going to find these really cool properties of a lot more energy at the end and a slight time dilation effect where it's going to feel like you were writing way longer, because you've got so much stuff done. And then, based on your effects from that is I would experiment different session lengths, different types of focus, and then even exploring relaxation or sleep and figuring out how to use the tool best for you.

Susan Friedmann:         Yeah. That's super that you mentioned that whole idea of, yes, people. I mean, I don't believe in the writer's block I used to, but then I got taught how to overcome that whole thinking, but people still feel... They sit down in front of a sheet of paper on the blank screen. And it's like, okay, now what?

Dan Clark:                     Yeah.

Susan Friedmann:         And nothing happens. So putting just this music on and maybe just closing your eyes and seeing what comes up.

Dan Clark:                     Yeah. And I think it's about how you use the tool. One of the things that I always encourage people to do is build a habit out of it, because if you were to use this only when you need it, then it's not as effective as starting your time when you do this. So, for example, we're the results of our habits. So for me, and how I use the product is I sit down and I start every single day with an ice coffee. And I turn on Brain.fm and I open a piece of paper.

                                    And on that piece of paper, I write down what are the top things I need to do today to make today successful? And I do a brain dump. I put everything on my mind, everything at all. And then I sit down and I do a 90 minute session of Brain.fm. And at the end of that, I find this great breakthrough of, oh, wow. I was actually working there for the past 90 minutes. And it's not about that one session. It's actually about doing that consistently, which is how you get effects or how you end up finishing your book or whatever you're writing.

Susan Friedmann:         So it goes into this whole, you are training your brain to do something different. Was it that neuroplasticity it's linked to that I'm assuming, am I correct with that or am I going down a whole different avenue here?

Dan Clark:                     It's close. It's in the right block, right? So one of the things that we're trying to do is create physical effects in our brain, but we're also trying to do psychological things, right? So while Brain.fm and the results that I'm saying is without that habits are helping prime our brain into getting into work mode. If you have Brain.fm, as one of those cues, that this is your work time, this is what you're always listening to when you do your work music, you're going to find a easier way to slip into that work zone. And people see this a lot in other things. A lot of people, they can't start working without coffee. I'm one of those, right? Other people, especially from working from home, they find that when they get dressed, when they don't stay in pajamas all day, it helps them get into that zone. It's combining the better tools with also the better psychological triggers and different kinds of habits. And when you do those together, and you find out which ones work for you, that's truly when you unlock yourself and being unstoppable.

Susan Friedmann:         I love it. I really love it. It's giving me a better appreciation for using it and thinking, oh, I could be using it more to get myself in the zone. And I don't always think about it. At the moment, I'm currently relating it to certain activities. However, now I'm thinking, oh my goodness, I could be using it for more and hopefully get better results. So, yay.

Dan Clark:                     Totally. Yeah, I think it's just about finding what results you're looking for. And then how much time do you need to start creating that in your day to get that result? One of the biggest lessons I would say that I've learned personally is creating the intentional space, blocking off your calendar and saying, Hey, I'm committed to work on this project for two hours and nothing's going to interrupt me. And finding those times and creating that, well, I think it's a really healthy way to make work enjoyable because that's why we're all working. That's why we're all writers in certain capacities, because deep down we really enjoy it. And how do you keep that enjoyment up and make yourself the most successful at it?

Susan Friedmann:         Yes. I remember that my first book, I set the side two hours, whether I wrote one page or 20 pages in that time that was dedicated, bum in seat.

Dan Clark:                     Yeah.

Susan Friedmann:         And just, that was it. And I didn't beat myself up if I couldn't write that day, but now I'm thinking if I had had.

Dan Clark:                     And that's the goal, that's what Brain.fm is for. So if your bum is in your seat and you're playing Brain.fm, then it's one step closer to get you into the mode and the energy. And again, you don't have to worry about the science or anything like that because every single track that you're listening to has been specifically designed and then served for you to help you get in the zone and start with writing.

Susan Friedmann:         So we've been through a very challenging time this last couple of years or year and a half and a lot of depression, and we know teen suicides and other suicides. I mean, it's horrible. I don't want to go that far, but just even feeling depressed. How would you recommend, for instance, that we might use Brain.fm to help us here?

Dan Clark:                     Yeah. So I want to be careful. Depression is, a lot of factors contribute to that. And I want to say that Brain.fm, while can help, it's definitely not a cure-all for anything. However, I think one of the major things with depression is really just feeling like you're in a rut, right? It's getting to a place where you're not really moving, right? And again, this is maybe one of the factors. So one of the things I would encourage people able to do, if they are looking to get out of that rut is just start accomplishing things, right?

                                    And it could be looking and not seeing the whole staircase, but just taking one step and then taking a step again and a step again. And again, Brain.fm is that tool that can help you get into the zone, to get you start writing, to build a habit out of it. And before long you're like, "Wow, I've actually made progress here." And I think when you start looking at progress and you start looking at momentum, that helps people push to the next level of bettering themselves and then hopefully helping with other effects of that.

Susan Friedmann:         This just came into my mind. So I feel, I got to ask it, putting a baby to sleep. You're not going to put headphones on them. So could you just play the music and allow them to absorb it that way? Would it have the same effect?

Dan Clark:                     Great question. So the differences between our mental states, those rhythmic pulses are actually different speeds. So you can think of it, and I'll get back to the baby thing in a second. But if you think about your brain and how it communicates with itself, it makes sense that for you to think faster, right, your brain has to be moving faster. And those are the rhythms that we're putting into the music. So if you're in a resting state, there's rhythms that are faster.

                                    And if we're trying to relax you, we're actually trying to slow your brain down, right? This isn't exact neuroscience, but we're trying to slow your brain down. And those rhythms are slower. So actually inter-relaxed music or sleep music, you can actually listen to us off of speakers. And in the same case, we actually have a bunch of our users that use this for their kids, for relaxing, or for sleeping, for babies or kids. They use it and they self-report some really great results. We do have future plans on helping people make specific apps for them. But for right now we're targeted on other goals. But yeah, it's certainly something people do use. And if you find results, I'd love to hear that.

Susan Friedmann:         This is a great segue into telling our listeners how they can find out more about it. We've mentioned this so many times. It's like, okay, tell us more. So, Dan, how can our listeners find out more about it? What should they be doing?

Dan Clark:                     Yeah, of course. So they can go to Brain.fm or they can go onto the app store and search Brain.fm. We have an iOS and an Android app. When you download us, we give everyone three days free, no credit card required for you to give it a shot yourself. I think it's really an experiential product that you should try to see and believe because it is something more than just music you can get off YouTube. Feel free to do that. And then if you go into the show notes, I'll make sure I set out for everyone, but we'll give a special offer for anyone that clicks that link in your show notes.

Susan Friedmann:         Oh, that's very generous. Yeah, and listeners, you know that I don't normally talk about products. We talk to our experts, but I see this as such an incredible tool for you. Dan's offer, they'll be in the show notes, some links for you. And so do give it a try. Hey, what the heck? Nothing you can lose, but maybe a lot you can gain. Dan, we always end off with leaving our listeners with golden nuggets. What would you like to leave our listeners with?

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Dan Clark:                     Ooh, so many. I would say that one of my favorite sayings is, "If it was easy, everyone would do it." Right, and I think a lot of the things and the pursuits that the listeners hear are focused on, are challenging things. Writing about something that hasn't been written before or written in the way that you're writing it can sometimes be challenging, but usually the pursuits that are challenging are the ones worth doing.

Susan Friedmann:         Great, super way to close. And I thank you for sharing this wisdom with us, for your generous offer. And thank you all for taking time out of your precious day to listen to this interview. And I sincerely hope that it sparks some ideas you can use to sell more books. Here's wishing you much book and author marketing success.