Background Music

Does music increase sales?

Much research has shown that background music causes increased sales.

A famous study by Milliman (1982) found a staggering 34% increase in time spent in a supermarket when background music was played, with a corresponding increase in sales.

Many other studies have confirmed Milliman’s initial results, which is a significant reason why music is usually found is retail environments.

Hit songs or unknown music?

In retail and business environments, well known music tends to be too distracting, taking people away from the task at hand, and instead making them focus on the music.

You want the music to “disappear” in an environment, lending a feeling of calm or energy, but not grabbing people’s attention.

“Hit” music is too catchy, and tends to cause decreased purchasing in retail environments and diminished productivity in offices.

A study by Yalch and Spangenberg (2000) found that:

“Analyses revealed that individuals reported themselves as shopping longer when exposed to familiar music but actually shopped longer when exposed to unfamiliar music. Shorter actual shopping times in the familiar music condition were related to increased arousal.”

The music you play has to be similar enough to popular music that people enjoy it, but it must not be too distracting.

Classical or Chillout?

Classical music has been found to increase the amount of money people are willing to spend. Generally, people will choose more expensive goods when classical music is playing.

For example, one study found:

“Classical music, pop music, and no music were played in a British restaurant over the course of 18 evenings. … analysis revealed that there was an overall significant difference between the conditions with classical music leading to higher spending than both no music and pop music. … there were differences between the conditions on mean spend per head on starters, coffee, total spend on food, and overall spend.

These findings were consistent with the limited previous research, which indicated that the playing of background classical music led to (a) people reporting that they were prepared to spend more and (b) higher actual spending. The results indicate that restaurant managers can use classical music to increase customer spending.”

We believe that the effect is one of cultural association, and that the same effect should be caused by other “classy” musical genres, such as Jazz and Chillout Electronica.

Fast or slow music in a retail environment?

Research has found that people move slower when slow tempo music is played.

A study conducted in two supermarkets found a massive increase in sales when slow tempo music was played:

“In this study the average gross sales increased from $12,112 for the fast tempo music to $16,740 for the slow tempo music.  This is an average increase of 38%.”

Furthermore:

    “Customers moved slower when slow music was played, taking 128 seconds, and  faster when fast music was played, taking 109 seconds.”

The same effect has been observed in restaurants: clients tend to linger when the music is slow and soft.

If you run a fast-moving restaurant where you don’t want people to linger, you could be better off playing loud, fast tempo music.

However, retail environments often prefer customers to stay longer in their stores, so slower, softer music is more appropriate.

A study found that customer spent 23% more money in a restaurant when slow music was played. Interestingly, most of the increase in spending came on the drinks bill (which grew by 51% on average), which is a high margin item in most restaurants.

 Fast or slow music in an office?

In offices, fast tempo music should be used when dull and repetitive tasks are being carried out. the music should match the employees energy level. In general, slower paced music in the morning is best, with the tempo increasing in the afternoon, to help counter the post-lunch slump.

One study concretely measured the productivity effects of music in an office that processed forms, and found that fast music caused a 12% productivity gain compared to no music, and a 22% increase compared to slow music. In this repetitious, non-creative-work office situation, slow music actually lowered productivity, while fast music increased it. In this same study, employees completed a questionnaire at the end of each day to determine if playing music within the workplace affected their morale. The results showed that playing music in this workplace had a positive effect on levels of morale, with typical comments being:

  • When fast music was played:“The music was very motivating” “The music was really lively and improved work” “There was a good atmosphere”
  • When no music was played:“It was boring” “I felt lethargic” “Bring back the music”

Loud or soft?

Generally, people spend less time in louder music environments.

One article on the topic wrote:

“a person is likely to stay in a restaurant playing soft music 20% longer than if the music is loud, with a slight increase in the amount of money spent on food and drinks. For grocery stores, it was found that the volume made no difference on how much money was spent. Another study by Caldwell and Hibbert (2002) found that when slow music was played, patrons stayed for 20% longer but also spent more on food and drink – in fact, up to 50% more. In other words, to keep your customers, keep it soft and slow. And likewise, if you want quick turnover, speed things up and keep it loud.”

In bars, where music is so loud that it inhibits conversation, people drink more and drink faster: An academic study found:

    “environmental music was associated with an increase in alcohol consumption. … Forty male beer drinkers were observed in a bar. … The results show that high level volume led to increased alcohol consumption and reduced the average amount of time spent by the patrons to drink their glass.”
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