March 3, 2012Do You Hear What I Hear?

Music choices in public places can make you stay-or stray
By Staff
As published in: Franchise Times – March 2012

When you enter a hotel lounge, you may use your eyes to check out the furnishings and ambiance—but the background music is a better test of the place’s vibe. If the background music is Sinatra crooning love songs or a string quartet—and you’re in your 30s—you won’t stay long enough to finish your drink, according to Allen Klevens, founder of Prescriptive Music.

Klevens has built his career on matching music to the environs. Studies show people see first, then hear, then smell the perfume, in the case of a women’s store, or the freshly baked bread in a restaurant, he says. All those elements together affect your buy-in of the concept and what you buy.

When the surroundings and the music don’t match, you confuse the customer. For instance, when he visited the Lego Store in the Mall of America in Minnesota, he heard a disconnect in the music being played in the toy store. “It was music for parents, not kids,” he says. “You want those kids to stay in there.” Rather than classic rock, he would play a sound track with, yes, Disney songs, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. Parents won’t mind listening to their children’s music because, “When you’re around your kids, you want them to know you’re in tune with them,” he explains.

Trendy sour-yogurt franchisor, Pinkberry, one of his clients, helps Klevens’ crew procure music tracks especially for their brand. They want the next big band coming down the pipeline, not the one already overexposed, he says. Another way to find fresh tracks, but familiar artists, he adds, is to play secondary tracks from a popular singer’s album that are not being overexposed on the radio.

The hip Lululemon Athletica retailer also wants “the big, up-and-coming artists you don’t know (now), but are amazing,” he says. The retailer wants its customers to like the music so much, they’ll ask where they can get it. It’s all about creating a brand your customers can relate to. A big no-no is to have one track that plays over and over again, so that a hotel guest, for instance, will complain that it’s “8:30 and I’m hearing Bette Midler again.”

Playlists can also be customized to locations. Marriott, another client, will vary its playlists to fit the mood of the property, as well as the location within the property. Robert Thomas, general manager of the San Jose Marriott, has seen an appropriately matched soundtrack translate into a 50 percent increase in bar sales in January over last January. The bar now plays high-energy dance music and remixes, something the hotel’s convention guest appreciates, as well as the Silicone Valley locals.

Soundtracks are best left up to the pros—the businesses that pay the royalties to music companies.

You don’t want your music to get someone in the mood to sue you.