The Why #50:“Why do bands always leave their best song ’til last?”

4 min readSep 8, 2022


Dan Monheit 9.8.22

Question submitted by Bernie, Redfern

We know it. They know it. Sure, they pretend they don’t know it. And then we pretend that we don’t know that they’re pretending. Like somehow they’ve actually forgotten to play ‘the one’. The main one. The one that was the soundtrack to your European summer in 2014 or pretty much defined your upbringing. Your song. Our song. The song that made you think paying $245 for a partially obstructed view from a balcony seat in row GG was a good idea.

You know the one. It’s a hit. A certified banger. And you’re counting down the moments until Bruce Springsteen, Dua Lipa, Jay Z, The Wiggles or whoever you’re there to see step up and belt it out. But alas, you’re 90 minutes in and all you’re getting are lukewarm tunes from the new album (the first one was so much better), mixed in with a couple of ‘I think I know this one’ tracks.

It’s not until they take a bow and walk off stage that panic sets in. Are they really not going to play it? The tension is high. The lights go dim. And then… ENCORE! They run back out, the crowd goes wild, the song kicks in and finally, all is right in the world.

Did they just want us to stay until the end? Are they getting paid by the minute? Maybe they really weren’t going to play it? Or maybe there’s something more Behaviourally Scientific at play…

Peak End Rule

Refers to the way we remember experiences based on the peaks (ie the emotional high or low points) and the endings, rather than the average of how we felt throughout them. In other words, not all parts of an experience are created equal when it comes to shaping memories.

In a study by Kahneman and Schreiber (2000) participants were asked to listen to audio tracks comprised of irritating sounds of varying loudness and frequency. At the end of the track, participants were asked to rate the overall ‘annoyance’ of what they’d just heard.

What the pair found was that rather than participant’s answers being correlated to the track’s average level of annoyance, the answers were far more in line with the peak levels of annoyance, as well as how the tracks ended.

This Peak End Rule explains why a horrific flight home can ruin an otherwise perfect holiday; why an amazing dessert can save an otherwise terrible meal; and why every band on earth plays their greatest hit in the final encore…

When it comes to experiencing your product or service, it’s worth asking what we think people will remember. Rather than spreading your efforts thinly across the entire customer journey, look for ways to focus in on creating one or two peaks, preferably towards the end. If you can do this, it will have a far greater impact on the way people remember, talk about and recommend their experience with you, than creating a smooth — but ultimately forgettable — end to end experience.

Behaviourally Yours,

Dan Monheit

PS If you missed the last edition, you can still check out why we always go for the medium sized popcorn here.

Bad Decisions Podcast
Learn more about Peak End Rule in episode 12 of the Bad Decisions podcast.

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