5 Playlists That Make Amazing Coffee Shop Music

When was the last time you sat at a coffee shop and sipped on a steaming latte surrounded by utter silence? Probably never, right?

Good coffee shops are synonymous with sound. Over the years, the coffeehouse genre has developed into a combination of music for business that is conducive to this type of setting. Ensuring your coffee shop's unique sound matches your business goals and overall ambiance is crucial to developing a sustainable and cohesive brand.

Finding the right music — that doesn't sound exactly the same as your competition — isn't easy. But the right background music partner can help.

Companies like Pandora CloudCover can curate playlists that are just right for your brand, and they can arm you with tools to help you control the sound in your facility. Your partnership ensures all the music you play is legal too.

The Psychology of Music on the Brain

Picking the Right Music for Your Coffee House

  1. Modern Folk
  2. Alternative Rock
  3. Electronica/Chillwave
  4. Classical
  5. Classic Rock
  6. Jazz

We curate stations with the best coffee shop songs!

  1. Coffee Shop
  2. Coffeehouse Neo-Soul
  3. Folk Modern
  4. Classical Mornings
  5. Electronica Chillwave

The Psychology of Music on the Brain

people with coffee

Various studies have found that playing in-house music set to a carefully considered tempo, volume, genre, and valence can influence behavior and decision-making.

  • One study found that music at a slower tempo encourages customers to linger and spend more money. Conversely, fast-paced music led to a quicker exit.
  • According to a study from Texas Tech, customers want the genre of music to “fit” the context. By playing music for business that complements other elements of your establishment, customers will value your efforts and be willing to spend more money.
  • Studies show that background music may benefit learning, potentially improving memory and cognitive performance. Since so many people frequent coffee shops to work on their computers, this could be an added benefit for clientele.

Now that the benefits of overhead music are abundantly clear, it’s time to dive into the type of music you should play in your coffeehouse.

​​Music for Different Types of Coffee Shops

As you consider the right playlists for your coffee shop, think about the overall aesthetic and clientele. Write down some adjectives to describe your frequent customers. As you do, an overall picture will become clear.

For example, if your coffee shop is in a busy metro area with executives buzzing through for their regular morning cup on the go, you might choose a playlist full of classic rock or top 40 hits. If your coffee shop draws more of an offbeat, chill crowd, you might opt for indie songs or modern folk music.

Brunch cafés might boast a trendier feel, and some electronic or chillwave music can fit this crowd well. For upscale coffee houses or tea shops, classical or jazz music might be a pleasing choice for customers.    

Picking the Right Music for Your Coffee House

While there are many factors to consider when selecting your coffeehouse playlist, the style of music you play is paramount to success. (Rage Against the Machine? At a coffee shop? At 8am? We think not…)

Here are six common genres that are best suited for java-fueled overhead listening.

1. Modern Folk

person strumming a guitar

What: Anything from Americana and acoustic to folk-rock and alternative styles

Popular artists/bands: Amos Lee, Iron & Wine, Mumford & Sons, Xavier Rudd, Bon Iver, The Head and the Heart, Joshua Radin

2. Alternative rock

person playing an electric guitar

What: Blending elements of conventional rock with influences from other musical styles

Popular artists/bands: Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Foster the People, Cold War Kids, Young the Giant, Arcade Fire, Grouplove, Muse, Death Cab for Cutie

3. Electronica/Chillwave

music studio equipment

What: Low-to-moderate tempo music characterized by mellow vocals or ambient sounds

Popular artists/bands: Bonobo, Royksopp, Massive Attack, Jon Hopkins, Carbon Based Lifeforms, Flying Lotus, M83, Tycho, Washed Out, Sigur Ros

4. Classical

people playing violins

What: Peaceful piano ballads, lush symphonies, relaxing instrumentals

Popular artists/bands: Bach, Chopin, Mozart, Brahms, Debussy, Khatia Buniatishvili, Yo-Yo Ma, Glenn Gould, Isaac Stern

5. Classic rock

person playing an electric guitar

What: Psychedelic rock, funk, soul, and pop tunes of the 1960’s and 1970’s

Popular artists/bands: Creedence Clearwater Revival, Pink Floyd, The Eagles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Supremes, Led Zeppelin, The Ventures, The Rolling Stones

6. Jazz

a cello and a person playing the drums

What: Classics of the 1920’s swing era to contemporary songs of the 2000’s

Popular artists/bands: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Sade, Kenny G, Dexter Gordon

We curate stations with the best coffee shop songs!

Whether you’re just opening a coffee shop or you’re ready to make a change to your current café music selection, we’ve got you covered with these top five coffeehouse-inspired Pandora CloudCover stations.

coffee shop album cover

1. Coffee Shop

Cater to a wide demographic? Our original Coffee Shop playlist has a little something for everyone, for every cup of coffee. You’ll encounter only the best coffee shop music – indie tunes like “Marathon” by Tennis, singer-songwriter sounds like “Young” by The Paper Kites and soulful pop tracks like “Strawberry Bubblegum” by Justin Timberlake.

coffeehouse neo-soul album cover

2. Coffeehouse Neo-Soul

Laidback rhythms and soulful lyrics make for calming coffeehouse music. Groove to slow to medium tempo sounds by contemporary soul and R&B artists such as Alicia Keys, Jamie Lidell, Jordan Rakei, Beyoncé, Leon Bridges, and more.

folk modern album cover

3. Folk Modern

Folk Modern is guaranteed to have both patrons and staff humming along. Blending the latest and greatest of acoustic, folk-rock, Americana, and alternative bands, you’ll hear introspective tunes and mesmerizing vocals from the likes of Amos Lee, Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, Xavier Rudd, and Bon Iver. These coffee shop bands won't disappoint.

classical mornings album cover

4. Classical Mornings

Let’s face it: coffee shop businesses and relaxing instrumentals go hand in hand. If you want to bring a peaceful atmosphere to your business, our Classical Morning playlist boasts soothing sounds from renowned composers like Bach, Chopin, Mozart, Brahms, and Debussy.

electronica chillwave album cover

5. Electronica Chillwave

Hipster crowd frequent your establishment? Our Electronica Chillwave playlist is exactly what you need. Patrons can relax to a soothing combination of ambient and chillwave electronic tracks such as “Emkay” by Bonobo, “A Walk” by Tycho, and “Fantasy” by DyE. Your mornings will be better with coffee and music.

Legal Implications of Playing Unlicensed Music in Your Coffee Shop

You can’t just plug in your phone and play songs from your personal Apple Music, Spotify, or SiriusXM account in your coffee shop. You can only play licensed music since this is considered a public performance. While you can contact performing rights organizations (PROs) to get annual licenses to play songs in their libraries, it’s much easier to use a commercial streaming account, like what we offer here at CloudCover.

If you get caught playing unlicensed music in your coffee shop, the penalties can be severe. Federal fines range from $750 to $30,000 or even more per song. If you did so willfully, and this can be proven, fines can go up to $150,000. It’s just not worth the risk.

Ready to create the ultimate coffee shop music playlist?

Cloud Cover boasts over 100+ curated stations so you can create the atmosphere and songs you want. Try us for free today and see why thousands of businesses trust us for their streaming business music solution. Terms and conditions appyly.

Frequently Asked Questions

These are some of the questions we hear most about music for coffee shops:

Can I play music from Spotify or Pandora in my coffee shop?

Not without a public performance license. You can’t use your personal streaming accounts to play music in a business setting, like a coffee shop. You need a dedicated commercial music streaming account, like what we offer here at CloudCover.

What happens if I play unlicensed music in my business?

You can face steep fines, up to tens of thousands of dollars per song played. If it can be proven that you played the music willfully, meaning you knew what you were doing when you played it, fines can quickly get astronomical.

What is the best music to play in a coffee shop?

It depends on the overall vibe of your shop. Indie, alternative rock, classic rock, and modern folk music are popular genres for coffee shops. More upscale coffee houses might choose classical or jazz music.




Using Background Music to Affect the Behavior of Supermarket Shoppers. (July 1982). Journal of Marketing.


The Influence of Background Music on Shopping Behavior: Classical Versus Top-Forty Music in a Wine Store. (January 1993). International Journal of Research in Marketing.


The Influence of Background Music on Learning in the Light of Different Theoretical Perspectives and the Role of Working Memory Capacity. (October 2017). Frontiers in Psychology.


17.35 Copyright—Damages—Statutory Damages (17 U.S.C. § 504(c)). United States Court for the Ninth Circuit.


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