How to Choose Overhead Background Music for Your Store

How to Choose Overhead Background Music for Your Store

How to Choose Overhead Background Music for Your Store


They say music soothes the savage beast, but it can also heavily influence customer mood, and buying decisions while in your store. Businesses spend quite a bit on lights, furnishings, signage, etc to create a positive visual brand appeal for shoppers, but don’t overlook what your brand sounds like when it comes to the in-store customer experience.

Whether you run a retail store, a dining establishment, medical office, or some other kind of brick-and-mortar place, playing the right background music will help consumers feel comfortable and engaged. Overhead music plays an important role in keeping shoppers in a store. When it’s bad, it sends customers running. That’s easy to avoid. But, you need more than music that “isn’t bad” when it comes to your retail store.

You need music that not only keep shoppers in your store, but enhances the customer experience and increases sales.

There are many benefits here, and they all come about through the use of music. But choosing the right overhead music is absolutely crucial. Research suggests that music can also enhance the experience your consumers have while they’re spending time with you.

The right overhead background music can:

  • Entice consumers to spend more money.
  • Influence the interactions your customers have with your staff.
  • Help to soothe a customer who has to wait for service.
  • Change perceptions about your brand.
  • Enhance the productivity of your employees.

Background music is more than filling an awkward silence, it’s a tool for improving the performance of your store and the experience of everyone who steps inside.


What types of music should you choose?

Tempo, genre and volume all play a significant role when it comes to considering the right background music choice. Choosing the wrong music for your business can result in customer dissatisfaction — it can cause people to leave your store with no desire to come back, which would result in fewer sales. The right music, however, can encourage people to not only stay longer at your retail store but also to come back. Check out these results from a survey on music’s impact in public spaces, Uncovering a Musical Myth.

The same survey also shows that the absence of music in a business can produce negative effects. 32-41% of respondents to this survey said they would react negatively or very negatively to silence in a business such as a retail store.


Studies have shown that slow music causes customers to relax and spend more time in the store, while music with a fast tempo causes customers to move more quickly throughout a store and decreases the time they spend shopping.  Brands must consider the desired speed they want a visitor to traverse their retail space when choosing a music playlist. So as you select music for your store, consider your audience and the type of shopping experience you want them to have and choose the sound that matches.


The type of music being played is one of the first things shoppers will notice when entering a retail space. This music must not be chosen based on what employees want to hear, but rather on what lifestyle image a brand wants to portray in the minds of their shoppers. Additionally, brands should chose a genre that fits its category and inspires patrons to make a purchase decision.


There’s no set rule when it comes to how loud the music in your store should be – it depends on your customer’s preferences. However, science can help you to make an informed decision.  Smith and Curnow conducted a field experiment in 1966, measuring the impact of music volume on the amount of time people spent in stores. The results showed that loud music led to less time spent shopping, compared to softer music. With that said, for a niche market like skateboarders or other extreme sports would probably choose a louder genre like punk rock or hip-hop.


It’s NOT your personal playlist!

Rather than picking songs that you like, pick songs that compliment the atmosphere that you’re trying to reflect in your retail store. What if Starbucks played heavy metal? It just wouldn’t work.

It’s very important to know your customers; but it’s just as important to know what kind of atmosphere you’re trying to establish. If your retail store is selling items made by local businesses, or if you’re going for a “hipster” vibe, it makes sense to play music from local or indie artists. If you’re looking to create an upbeat atmosphere that resonates with teens, pop and hip-hop styles are more relevant.


What about adding marketing messages to your audio?

Overhead sounds in your store aren’t restricted to just music. In fact, one of the ways in which you can make the most out of your background music system is to incorporate strategic overhead messaging.

Customers in your store are an engaged audience, so you can effectively use overhead messaging to connect with them and:

  • Direct them to specific departments
  • Alert them of sales and specials
  • Promote products and services
  • Share event announcements
  • And more


Make sure your music is legal.

Playing unlicensed music in your business can be an expensive mistake to make. One of the most important factors in selecting the best background music for shopping is often one that businesses overlook (or choose to look the other way) and that is — choosing music that is legal to play.

There are complicated legalities when it comes to playing music in a business. You could be breaking those rules if you are playing songs through:

  • The radio
  • CDs
  • Streaming services like Pandora or Spotify

Many businesses make this error without even realizing it. But this isn’t a mistake that is easy to walk away from if you are caught. In Tampa, FL, 25 businesses were sued after it was discovered that they were playing copyright without a license. Eleven of the reported settlements in Tampa ranged from $10,200 to $62,000. So when selecting music, make sure you know the rules and use only licensed music and playlists.

And more recently, Peloton known for its at-home exercise bikes and streaming workout videos, is being sued by 10 music publishing companies from the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) for illegally using more than 1,000 musical works to the tune of $150 million dollars.


Final Thoughts…

No matter which way you slice it, music is a powerful tool. You can encourage customers to feel positive, confident and happy in their purchases just by understanding the psychology behind the background music that you’re playing.

Choosing music for your business can be time consuming, but it’s worth taking the time to get right. Most business owners don’t realize the importance of music in their  stores and therefore don’t take the time to get the music right; but if you do take time to choose your music thoughtfully, you’ll have an advantage over your competitors.

If you want to be sure that your music is properly guiding customers, not annoying your staff, matching your branding, and legal to use — we can help. Contact Us and receive a free consultation with one of Original On Hold’s in-store customer experience experts.



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