We have already established that the days of “In-Store Radio” and “Background Music” have largely been consigned to history. So where are we headed?
Pavia University in Lombardy, Northern Italy has done extensive research into how humans respond to music. This seat of learning is one of the oldest in the world and is well respected for the high quality of its research. Their project showed that people are very affected by music. It can have an impact on heart rate, blood pressure and obviously, mood.
It is this type of research that drives us in our choice of music for our clients. We focus as much as possible on the response we want from customers. Challenges can be intense. Take for example a café or restaurant environment. During a trading day it can change from a quiet personal space to a raucous conversation pit full of patrons, eating, drinking, laughing. Include as well the kitchen sounds, coffee grinding, coffee making, pots, pans, crockery and cutlery all being crashed about in this hive of activity.
Firstly, you need to consult on the finishes. I have sat in environments where the hard surfaces of the ceilings are so reflective that when the place is full the volumes of people speaking and laughing have been so loud that it’s hard to even think. That makes for a very unpleasant and uncomfortable experience. So be sure to break up the ceiling finishes to make sure that the sound waves are also broken down into manageable portions. We use a combination of speaker power and direction and would prefer to use some form of AGC or automatic gain control. This reads the ambient noise levels and adjusts the music level accordingly. The AGC filter attempts to make the audio level constant, without causing noticeable changes in the sound.
A day in a café, coffee shop or restaurant should start with bright, toe tapping sounds to get patrons and staff to get the dopamine levels increased. Happy yet relaxed. And a quality speaker installation that includes a three-way system (tweeter, mid-range and woofer) is the way to go as it produces a much more pleasing quality of sound and as we have discussed previously, this reduces listener fatigue in a big way.
By mid-morning the music can be more mellow and relaxed so as not to impinge on those patrons who are either working their lap tops or just chilling for a mid-morning coffee break. Lunch is a busy time and again the music needs to drive the mood – busy, excited, happy! Mid-afternoon is back down to more mellow moods and then picks up the pace again towards closing time.
We think it important that the style of music matches the brand. When the brand is Chinese or Japanese cuisine then the music should complement it. When it’s French or Italian the same applies. But not the complete play list; just a flavour of tunes to create the desired atmosphere.
Check out the effective use of music in the various zones of the Woolworths mega-store at the Mall of Africa and it will assist you in understanding the philosophy.
And going forward we shall be creating very specific soundscapes for particular display areas. Jeans, fragrances, foods, fashion, homeware to name just a few.

About the author: Dalene Haugh