Since a 1997 review by Karageorghis and Terry, which highlighted the state of knowledge and methodological weaknesses, the number of studies investigating musical reactivity in relation to exercise has swelled considerably. In this two-part review paper, the development of conceptual approaches and mechanisms underlying the effects of music are explicated (Part I), followed by a critical review and synthesis of empirical work (spread over Parts I and II). Pre-task music has been shown to optimise arousal, facilitate task-relevant imagery and improve performance in simple motoric tasks. During repetitive, endurance-type activities, self-selected, motivational and stimulative music has been shown to enhance affect, reduce ratings of perceived exertion, improve energy efficiency and lead to increased work output. There is evidence to suggest that carefully selected music can promote ergogenic and psychological benefits during high-intensity exercise, although it appears to be ineffective in reducing perceptions of exertion beyond the anaerobic threshold. The effects of music appear to be at their most potent when it is used to accompany self-paced exercise or in externally valid conditions. When selected according to its motivational qualities, the positive impact of music on both psychological state and performance is magnified. Guidelines are provided for future research and exercise practitioners.