June 3, 2016

How to Choose the Right Music for Your Retail Store


The following article is a guest post by Nicholas Rubright and our good friends at Dozmia.

Music is an important part of any business. It enhances the customer experience, reflects the brand’s personality, and can even help increase sales if used correctly. However, many business owners make the mistake of choosing music that they like instead of music that provides results for the retail store. Just like making an online schedule for employees, creating a playlist is not difficult, but you need to know a few things before you start.

There are many services that offer licensed music for business use, and these services can create playlists tailored for your business. But if you would prefer to build your own playlist for your retail store, you may find the following information helpful.

Are You’re Doing Things Legally?

Many business owners are unaware that you do have to pay for licenses to BMI, the ASCAP, and SESAC for the rights to play music at the retail store. There are exceptions, but they’re few and don’t apply to most businesses.

If a songwriter is represented by one of the companies above, you are legally required to pay for the license to use that song in your store. However, it’s not too difficult to find out which songwriters unassociated with these companies. SESAC only represents about 30,000 songwriters, so it may be possible to avoid paying a licensing fee to that company.

It’s also important to note that consumer-faced streaming services are not intended for commercial use. Using one of these services, even when you have the licenses from BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC, may put you at risk of breaching that streaming service’s terms of use. To make sure you’re in compliance with copyright law, and not under violation of any usage agreements avoid this, make sure you sign up with a background music service or purchase the music you wish to use in your business from that service.

retail store

What Types of Songs Should You Choose?

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.

It’s clearly important that the right music be played in your store to produce the best result. So how do you pick the right songs for your business?

retail store music

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.

One study tested the difference in consumer spending in a wine store when classical music was being played versus pop music. The study found that with the presence of classical music, customers chose more expensive bottles of wine, which resulted in greater overall sales for the wine store. Classical music coordinates perfectly with a wine store because of its inherent association with quality and sophistication. These are traits that you’d want to reflect in this kind of business. If you’re selling expensive, high-class products, classical music might make sense for your store.

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.

retail store

How Loud Should the Music Be?

In the survey mentioned above, 82% of the respondents thought it was important that music in a shop has the right volume. If music is played too loudly, it can reduce the time people want to spend in a store, and even cause them to leave without buying anything.

While it’s important that your customers hear the music because of its psychological benefits, the volume shouldn’t be so high that it chases them out of the store. Older customers are more sensitive to volume than younger customers, so if your typical customer is older, you might want to crank down the volume a few notches; but if you draw a younger crowd, you may be able to get away with slightly higher levels of volume.

retail store

Choosing the Right Tempo and Key

Music tempo and key can affect how much time customers spend in your retail store.

Tempo refers to the speed of the song. Faster music is shown to increase psychological variables such as heart rate and breathing rate.

Musical tempo also the affects perception of time. Slower music typically makes a span of time feel shorter than faster music. Because of this, slow music can decrease the pace of in-store traffic, which can increase sales since customers will spend more time in the store. Fast paced music, on the other hand, can increase the pace of in-store traffic. While fast paced music can decrease sales, increasing the traffic speeds of your store during high traffic hours may improve the overall customer experience.

The key of a song has to do with its tonality. To keep things simple, songs in a major key usually have a happy sound, while songs with a minor key have a sad sound.

A song’s key can have a positive or negative affect on our mood. Major key songs usually encourage a good, lighter mood, while minor key songs can encourage a more dismal mood. Choosing major key songs is often a better choice in a retail setting because it puts your customers in a positive mood, resulting in higher sales.


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 retail 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.