How to Choose the Right Music for Your Café


Music, specifically the tempo, has been found to influence the amount of time customers spend at a café.

A fast tempo generally has the corresponding effect that is compelling customers to grab whatever it is they wish and head out. Music at a slower tempo, on the other hand, brings an absolute relaxation to your customers. This translates to more time – and money – spent in your café.

The point here?

You should treat background music as part and parcel of your business. It’s not just a nice-to-have addition to muffle the low murmurs. When used right, it has the potential of impacting your bottom line, in a good way.

And that calls for thought in the kind of music you put on in your café. Read on to find out how to go about it (and all the important finer details).

Why background music in a café matters

You’ve already seen above how the right type of music can influence the amount of time a customer stays at your café. But there is more to what music can do.

Here’s a short checklist of different benefits.

1. Increases customer satisfaction

This has to do with your servings. Depending on the pitch of the music that is playing, customers can find the servings top grade or whack. A high pitch, for instance, will amplify sweet flavors.

The volume also plays a significant role here. Blasting away at maximum volume will lead to customers perceiving your servings as not particularly up to the best taste. This is because of the negative effect the loud music (or any background music for that matter) has on our sense of taste. The solution here is to keep the volume medium if you want to reap this benefit.

We all know what customer satisfaction does to any business. And, of course, your offerings have to be good. Less than stellar ones won’t be sanitized by good music.

2. Creates the desired mood

Songs determine the kind of brand perception customers will have of your café. Emotional ones, though satisfying, to a certain extent, will evoke a negative brand outlook. For a larger part, these are songs in minor keys.

So to set the correct brand mood for your café, it’s better to go with songs in major keys. And while at it, remember the volume. Going too high or too low will have the opposite effect of what you intend to achieve.

3. Influences expenditure 

People use the genre of music played at an establishment in classifying the place as affluent or otherwise. It’s all about perception. Knowing this, you can play select genres depending on the type of crowd you wish to attract.

Generally, classical music is viewed as being of the high-end type. Therefore, it will work best if you’re looking to attract big spenders in your café. Jazz can also fit here quite well.

For the average customer base, rock and pop are the go-to genres.

4. Increases customer patience

No one likes spending time in the queue, but then it’s inevitable to find yourself on one. Introducing music makes the wait a bit bearable since it gives the mind something different to focus on. Just make sure the queues aren’t due to laxity on your staff’s part.

What about royalties?

Benefits of background music aside, it’s only natural that you’ll be using someone else’s intellectual property. And that puts you in the direct way of a lawsuit if you miss one critical step – licensing.

That means for every single song you queue on your playlist, you should have obtained explicit permission to do so. Paying for royalties is how you get this permission.

To do this, you’ll have to liaise with one or more PRO (Performing Rights Organizations). Primarily, there are three of these organizations that you can go with:

  • The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) – 725, 000 members and a collection of more than 10 million songs.
  • The Society of Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC) – over 30, 000 creatives and 400, 000 songs.
  • Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) – according to their website, they’re the largest music rights organization in the United States and even extend to over 90 countries. 800, 000 members account for their collection of more than 13 million songs.

Depending on your needs, you can choose to get licenses from any of these bodies – or all of them. The finer details are on each of the organization’s website.

Popular music choices for cafes

Looking to cultivate a better customer experience at your café? Then you might want to avoid the two common mistakes café owners make when choosing the type of songs to play:

  • Going with the current trends
  • Depending on their tastes and preferences (or whoever is in control of controlling the playlist).

As much they two seem logical enough, they have little to no contribution to what you’re looking to achieve. Remember you’re not looking to create a different kind of noise but rather to boost your business.

So what options do you have as far as café background music is concerned?

The type of music you settle on will depend on the mood you’re trying to establish in your café. Aiming for a relaxed/chilled is a good option. Remember, this is not like a nightclub where everyone is looking to let their wild side loose.

Your customers are seeking a place where they can talk over stuff as they enjoy their coffee and snacks. Therefore, you must have genres that promote this kind of setting.

A few options to pick include:

  • Nu jazz
  • Deep house
  • Lounge
  • Bossa nova

You can mix up things a little. If you don’t trust your blending skills, then playing songs from each one of these genres independently should suffice. In that case, allowing a brief moment of silence will work well for transitioning.

Final thoughts: Music for your café

Background music is a vital component of your café. You can achieve so much more as far as with a couple of songs playing as your customers get on with their business. But that’s only possible if you do it right.

Not every genre is going to have the desired outcome. You have to pick them out carefully. And remember to steer clear of copyright infringement by getting a license.

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