Can Music Increase Your Sales? Absolutely!

The music a business plays can have a dramatic affect on its sales. Being a musician, I’ve become very adept at ignoring and filtering out music that doe not interest me. When I enter retail stores, restaurants and coffee shops I am pretty much resigned to hearing music I don’t love. While there’s little music that I actually dislike most of what I encounter fails to engage my interest. So I just tune it out. But that music I am tuning out still affects my actions and choices by impacting me on a subconscious level and it does the same for most other people regardless of their musical tastes. So how does music which can evoke responses anywhere between total disinterest to complete adoration affect sales. I’ll get to that in a moment.

Another issue is businesses that play music too loudly. There’s a point where music becomes intrusive because you can’t have a basic conversation without shouting or you can’t hear what someone is saying without a lot of effort. For some reason, there is a practice in many stores, restaurants and coffee shops of playing lively music at a very loud volume. If the music is too loud, many people simply leave the premises. Those who stick it out often do their business as quickly as possible because – surprise, surprise – it’s been established through studies that fast lively music induces customers to do things quickly and loud music encourages them to leave quickly. This is okay if you’re in a business that desires fast turnover such as a fast food restaurant. However, a huge number of retail businesses, supermarkets and of high-end service industries enjoy an increase in sales if clients dwell in their establishments for longer periods of time. So why on earth are they playing lively and loud music? They are essentially driving customers out the door and losing sales opportunities.

In his book Sound Business Julian Treasure discusses a study by Milliman (1982)* that illustrates music’s powerful impact on customer behaviours and actions. The aspect of music being explored was “Tempo” or speed. Milliman tested 3 soundscapes in a medium-sized US supermarket. Soundscape 1 featured no music. Soundscape 2 featured slow music with a tempo of less than 73 beats per minute. Soundscape  3 featured music with tempos faster than 93 beats per minute. The result was that the rate at which people moved through the store correlated to the music’s tempo. More significantly, people spent 38% more in the slow music soundscape than they did in the fast music soundscape.

If you own a business or know someone who owns a business that can benefit by increasing customer dwell times, something as simple as selecting music that has a slower tempo of 73 beats per minute or less and managing the volume of the music will likely result in an increase in your bottom line.

* Milliman, R. E., (1982) Using background music to affect the behavior of supermarket shoppers, published in Journal of Marketing, 46, pp 86-91.

3 thoughts on “Can Music Increase Your Sales? Absolutely!

  1. HI Craig,
    Interesting post. I imagine retail stores play music to suit their demographic also. Some clothing stores I walk into only to about-face and walk out of are playing music one could encounter at a rave! I assume the management allows its employees to play the music of their choice. Perhaps they should reconsider their policy!

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