We all know that music influences our actions.  There is endless research on the way music is used in sports psychology and there can’t be any fitness centres of gyms where music isn’t a constant feature.  There are also reams of papers by retailers revealing the impact that in-store radio has had on their business.

Retailers are old hands at this and apart from the in-store radio and TV of the larger multiples, retailers of all types and sizes have used music, in it’s simplest form, for many years to create atmosphere that entices customers to a store and creates an atmosphere where shoppers will linger longer, and we all know the longer people stay in a store the more they spend.

However, anybody who has worked in the in-store music arena will also be familiar with the complaints of shop workers who have to listen to it for the entire day, not just a few minutes that a customer spends in a store.  This is where the error of buying into cheap in-store music. with its loops, repeats and sound-alike bands, is highlighted, but it’s also an indicator of how music can be applied in other situations to`improve employee performance.

Because I have spent so many years advising retailers around the world I’m at home with the role of in-store music, ratio and TV, but I’ve also worked with businesses in corporate TV and spent time in offices like that of Sky TV in London, where music is a constant factor of office life so I have first-hand experience of the motivating power of workplace music. Like anything else, there’s good and bad in this field and while the muzac that so many stores and hotels opt for can ruin a business by frightening customers away and making an employees day a real drag, great music can make retail tills ring and boost energy levels.  However, this music thing isn’t as simple  as a lot of people think.  Anybody who really knows the subject will appreciate the psychology that goes into matching music types to audiences, moods and brand character.

In retailing there are both customer and employee profiles to consider, regional differences, business types and the variety of day-part patterns to be accommodated in any music strategy.  Fail to do this and your workplace music could literally be doing more harm than good.  There are three ways in which workplace broadcasting of one type or another can increase the profitability of a business.

In its simplest form music will create or enhance an atmosphere that strengthens a brand, provides an inviting atmosphere or increases productivity by motivating staff.  Get it right and even om this most basic level any business can achieve all three.

On the next level up, music, even by itself, can be used to prompt retail sales.  A UK supermarket played Spanish music in its wine department and significantly increased sales of Spanish wine.  However, with announcements or commercials that effect can be massively increased.  Another specialist UK retailer I know of achieved a 600% uplift in sales of one line in tests.

On the third level, in-store radio is already being used by many businesses not only to motivate employees, but to train them with product information, procedural updates and training modules transmitted out of retail opening or during office hours.

No business can afford to ignore or take this music thing lightly. It’s a legitimate business tool and increasingly scientific in its approach.  You are unlikely to get it right without help.  On the most basic level there are business out there playing radios, CDs and MP3s, oblivious to the fact that to do so in the UK requires licenses that costs upwards of £350 every year.  Avoidance could cost a whole lot more – I saw a post on a forum last week by a Chinese restaurant owner who was facing a bill for thousands of pounds!  My advice, don’t risk it and don’t try to avoid the fees by using non-licensed music – everyone hates it so it won’t bring any benefits. Bring in experts instead and profit from a well, thought out and executed workplace music strategy.

Michael Weaver
August 9, 2010

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