No Escape From The Music: The Modern Shopping Experience:

“Have you noticed: You can never get silence anywhere these days?” If Bryan Ferry, the English songwriter & vocalist, was complaining about the incessant recorded music to which customers are submitted in many shops & supermarkets across the UK, perhaps he’s partly responsible: He’s made at least 15 rock albums during his career. For the poet & playwright William Shakespeare, music was “the food of love”. For the retail outlets, it’s become just another subliminal technique aimed at inducing us all to spend more on their products.

As “Store” has noted, research over the past few years has indicated that “music volume, speed and genre can have significant effects on how long consumers spend in shops and restaurants, how much they purchase and whether they view brands or individual products favourably or unfavourably”.

The “” journalist, Sarah Coles, has echoed Ferry’s view by observing that “Wherever you go, you are subjected to an assault on your senses and forced to listen to tracks you wouldn’t go anywhere near in any other circumstances”. She has quoted several surveys into the way we are all being “manipulated”:  For example, according to Thomas van Straaten, Market Manager at Mood Music, “people stay 15% longer in a shop where soft music is playing and spend up to 33% more”.

If it’s “easy listening”, however, (so “Yalch and Spangenberg” have concluded), the under 25’s will make a quick exit, while those aged over 25 do the same when Top 40 hits are being played. An investigation by retail consultants Immedia Plc, reported in the “Daily Mail”, has revealed that 50% of shoppers will leave a shop if they don’t like the music being played and 23% of them won’t ever go back.

The most famous study of this topic has been conducted by Ronald E Milliman, Professor of Marketing at the University of Western Kentucky. He’s pointed out that “background music is thought to improve store image, makes employees happier and reduces employee turnover”. Particularly good news for supermarkets, it also motivates their customers to spend 34% more time choosing their groceries and so generates “a corresponding increase in sales”.

Furthermore, the type of music being played apparently influences how quickly people eat – so a “fast-food joint” that relies on a constant flow of customers is advised to put on “loud, fast-tempo music” whereas in a restaurant slower music encourages customers to linger 20% longer at their tables and to order more food and drink (especially the latter), thereby often adding around 50% to their final bill. Both “Sage Journal” and Immedia Plc have discovered that people will spend more money and choose more expensive items in stores and restaurants that are playing classical music and thus appear to be more “upmarket”.

The Swedish organization STIM, which “represents music creators & publishers worldwide”, recommends that shops carefully select the right music for their clientele and ensure that it fits in with their “concept”. It should “be heard without being disruptive. Customers may be intimidated by music that is too loud. They should be able to speak to one another in a normal tone of voice”. STIM suggests that music selection should be adapted to the time of day – for instance, it should be slower during the lunch hour “to instil a sense of calmness and make customers want to stay longer”.

In the UK, there are many companies keen to advise shops on the most suitable music for them to play: “Background Music Systems” declare that “whether you are a corner shop, fashion retailer, shoe shop or high street chain, we offer the latest in music profiling and customer interactivity”. Or, for £200 a month, including if you are a hotel or an office, you can select one of the many options offered by “Mood Mixes”, among them: Classy Classical, So Suave Jazz, Very Hip Hop, Chilled Electronica or Serene New Age.

Any business providing music to the public has to have a licence. This can be arranged either through an organization such as “Mood Mixes” or obtained – for a fee – directly from the Performing Rights Society (PRS) or Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL). The playing of music “includes the use of a radio, CDs, jukeboxes, MP3 players, television, video music, DVDs and telephone systems”.The tariff will depend on the size of the area where the music is being played, the context (for example, in a fashion show) and if it’s “on hold” – music being played while the caller is waiting on the telephone.

NHS hospital wards,, religious services or ceremonies and care homes are exempted. The PRS says that, “at its discretion”, it chooses not to charge a licence fee for music played at certain small community events, such as street parties celebrating the Queen’s 90th birthday “if they take place between the 10th -12th June 2016 inclusive.

A poll carried out by “” has nominated the famous traditional English folk song “Greensleeves” as “the most annoying telephone hold music of all time”. Also allegedly featuring in this “top six” are: “Nessun Dorma”, sung by Pavarotti, “Memory” (or anything by Andrew Lloyd-Webber), “The Four Seasons” by Vivaldi, “The Entertainer” (Theme tune to “The Sting” starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford) and “Simply The Best”, sung by Tina Turner.



Filed under: Music & Dance, Society | Posted on May 16th, 2016 by Colin D Gordon

Comments are closed.


Recent Posts


Copyright © 2019 Colin D Gordon. All rights reserved.