Music Sets The Mood

When I was sixteen, and still working my second job* at the sign of the big red K, I would go in to work each day and be greeted with the best forty years of pop, soft rock, and country had to offer. Fortunately, I had spent a lot of my formative years experimenting with music. While most kids were listening to nothing, or pablum, I would play with my parent’s console stereo listening to their albums: The Doors, Sly & The Family Stone, Three Dog Night, Jim Croce, and on and on. I learned from an early age to appreciate music. By the age of eight, my Grandfather had introduced me to classical music, so I gained an appreciation for Ravel, Mozart, Bach, Dvorak, and Chopin at a time when most kids couldn’t spell their names.

*(I started working when I was twelve, in a wood shop owned by a family friend, until I could get a real job, in case you were wondering. There, I was exposed to the likes of Jethro Tull, The Who, R.E.O. Speedwagon, Styx, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd.)

So where am I going with this? Well, instead of tuning the music out, I listened. I would find myself hoping to hear a certain song, and would get a cheap thrill when it arrived over the satellite feed of “The K-Mart Radio Network” (it was, in fact, called that.) I learned a lot about those genres in those few years that I remained there. I also found that many other places offered music to their shoppers. Borders Books brought me in touch with Pulp, Half-Price Books with Beth Orton, and a number of other places and songs began to mount up. Today, I have a collection of music that about 82,000 songs strong, and I treasure them.

So, what does this have to do with your business? I’m finally there! Being young and inquisitive, I entered a conversation with one of the sextogenarian managers in the store about the concept of music within the confines. I was surprised to learn that it was a psychological issue and that, in fact, studies had been done. Apparently, some years ago, he had taken the time to avail himself of this knowledge when presented in written form, where he could not recall. What he told me, however, was fascinating.

Specifically, he spouted some haphazardly recalled numbers about the average number of minutes folks spent in a store with, and without, music. I really wish that he, and subsequently I, could recall the specifics.

I did a little research, and in a nutshell, here’s what I came up with:

In retail settings, there are two schools of thought: to play – or not to play – really popular songs. In the past, hits of times past were chosen so as to give the shopper something familiar to listen to, but not too familiar. This is in contrast to some stores who, now, play top pop hits, even though the psychology once indicated that it distracted the buyer from shopping, and browsing, by making the song more prominent in their mind (I agree with this – I’m looking at you, Wal-Mart). It also has a similar effect on employee’s work habits. If the music doesn’t blend pleasantly into the background, they’re more likely to focus on the music as well, leading to decreased productivity and focus.

For my money? I can see both schools of thought, but I’m on board with the prior theory. The only potential exception is that folks may tend to see this as less ‘trendy’. It’s a trade off.

Then, there’s the classical music theory. Every time I visited a Barnes & Noble, I found myself immersed in the exquisite choices in classical fare on offer. I relaxed, I took my time, I was fluid. And you know what? Studies have indicated that classical music provides a medium for shoppers to shop for a more protracted period of time, and also to be more open to purchasing items of higher cost. I, personally, concur, based solely on my own personal experiences.

Then again, a lot of folks think classical music is ‘icky’. But, in the case above, those folks ALSO won’t tend to be in the target demographic of that particular establishment, so it still makes sense to move forward with that music of choice.

And then, there’s the Groceteria (a word I made up, that I’ve been trying to get established for about fifteen years now. I’m still deluded enough to believe that it might happen.) Grocery stores use slower-paced music in an effort to get patrons to move – and shop – more slowly. The slower the movement, the more time the eyes have to take in the offerings on the shelves. It’s all about eyeball time. It’s hard to recall that you DID just run out of canola oil, if it isn’t on your list. It’s easier, if you’re scanning the aisles, and your eyes hit upon it. And studies have shown a whopping 38% increase in sales in grocery stores when slower music was applied to the patrons.

Own a restaurant? If so, then you have the opposite problem. In the words of Ed Debevic, you want your customers to ‘Eat it, then beat it.’ Table turnover is important to keep waits down, keep wait staff happy and well-tipped, and to promote the most revenue in your proverbial till at the end of each evening. Part of the reason trendy restaurants are expensive (aside from the chefs, the quality foodstuffs provided, and the complex recipes) is that they’re designed to be low-turnover. Part of that cost is built into the sometimes staggering price of said foodstuffs provided.

So, if you own a non-high-end restaurant, your best choice it to play fast-paced, energetic, music. This keeps the old juices a-flowin’ in the patrons, making them less logy and lethargic. An energized patron is less likely to park his or her hiney in your precious booth or seat for too long.

Most important of all, regardless of what sort of establishment that you own, is to know your customer. Play music that meets both your needs, and theirs. And, if you’re a trendy, hip place to shop, make REALLY certain that if you are playing something new, awesome, and obscure, that  you consider having copies of the CD playing for sale. I can’t tell you how often I’ve wanted to purchase what a store who actually sells CD’s was playing, only to find that it was not for sale there.


~ by digitalninjasmedia on October 23, 2012.

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