Posted on October 7, 2019 10:59 am

Can music influence sales?

Have you ever been influenced by music when buying something? Presumably most of us would like to think we’re more independently minded than that, but music and its influence over our buying decisions has long been known to be extremely influential.

It’s actually become something of a science and there is currently an industry worth millions, with agencies set up specifically to design playlists for restaurants, bars, supermarkets and shops.

A study by Curtin University in Australia found that the type of music played in a store can affect what you buy, time spent in a store, and spending total. Given what we might be tempted to think of as a small part of the shopping experience, the evidence is surprising in revealing just how influential music can be.

A study in 1982 also found that playing slow music in shops increases shopping time significantly whilst sales increased by over 30% when compared to the effects of playing fast music instead. It was found that slow music, or classical music, affects people by making them want to spend more time in the store.

The volume of the music, however, had no direct impact on sales, but when music was played too loud it had a significant impact on the amount of people spent in the store, reducing it markedly.


One of the biggest challenges for supermarket marketing teams is getting shoppers more engaged with the process of buying food as it tends to be a tedious task that nobody looks forward to.

Trying to improve your mood whilst wandering the supermarket aisles is their biggest challenge, and one of their best weapons is the music they select for it. That lulling slow music in the background is selected specifically and purposely to chill you out and allow your mind to wander off because research shows that the less attention we pay, the more we are then controlled by our subconscious, which is much easier to influence with offers, labels and bright colours.

The music adds to an overall atmosphere and environment, one where the marketers want you to switch off and allow your subconscious mind to take over, so with that in mind you’re likely to notice that supermarket music is quieter, slower paced and you’re often not even paying attention to it.

Why play music at all? Without music there is research to suggest the brand would suffer and the shop would be seen as cold and desolate, hence why supermarkets attempt to keep things as bright, colourful, and relaxing as possible, which in turn means you’re likely to hear slower melodic music.


In a specific guide to choosing your restaurant music, Soundtrack your brand suggest that one key to picking the right music is having a rock solid idea of your business concept.

One thing that tends to lead to failure is muddled thinking from bars and restaurants that don’t have the specific concept of who they want to be or represent. When you walk through the door of a successful restaurant you should almost immediately understand the cuisine, the branding and the style. Menus, branding, furniture and music are all key to achieving this.

If you don’t even know the average age of your clients then there’s little point in selecting music, as tastes vary enormously based on age.

One surprising research statistic is that playing chart music can decrease your sales by nearly 10% as it takes away from the overall experience of eating out. Much like supermarkets, the music needs to be relaxing enough to sit in the background and enjoyed, but not recognisable enough to pull your attention too much.

You need an extraordinarily long playlist that can last you at least a week without repeats. Research suggests most guests won’t hear a repeat on a 50 song playlist, but your staff will, and it will start to drive them crazy if you’re not careful.

One last tip is to organise these playlists by intensity and tempo to represent the mood you’re looking for. Starting out with your fastest music right at opening time is unlikely to have the desired effect, compared to playing it in the busy part of the night to make people feel more of a buzz, and similarly you want slower music towards the quieter parts of the night to encourage people to stay for longer and buy more.

All in all, although it’s easy to miss sometimes, music has a huge effect over your buying behaviour, and you may just notice it next time you’re out and about or choosing the music for your own store.