The Business Owner's Guide to Coffee Shop Music

There are three things that make a great coffee shop experience: the beans, the service, and the vibes.

And while big, cozy couches and community board game collections speak volumes in the ambiance department, the background melodies are what make a coffee shop truly memorable.

The Psychology of Music on the Brain

people working with notebook and laptop

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.

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.

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 playing 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

The atmospheric quality of modern folk can range from comforting to melancholic, but it's always intimate. This genre promotes a casual and relaxed atmosphere where patrons feel welcome to linger, often inspiring introspective or deep conversations. It's a perfect fit for cozy, rustic cafes that promote a sense of community and authenticity.

2. Alternative rock

person playing guitar on stage

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

This genre brings a sense of energy and vivacity to the coffee shop, making it an ideal choice for shops located in bustling, urban areas. The variety within the genre can create different moods, from invigorating to reflective, making it suitable for both morning wake-ups and late-afternoon meet-ups.

3. Electronica/Chillwave

DJ mixing 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

With its ambient undertones, this genre sets a modern, trendy vibe. It's great for creating an atmosphere that's simultaneously energetic and calm, inviting customers to either work with focus or enjoy their coffee in a chill, unhurried manner. Best suited for minimalist or contemporary-styled cafes.

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

Nothing says sophistication and elegance quite like classical music. This genre creates a calm, cultured atmosphere that encourages patrons to unwind and enjoy their visit at a leisurely pace. It's an excellent choice for more upscale, traditional cafes and during times of the day when a quiet, contemplative ambiance is desired.

5. Classic rock

playing 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

This genre adds a dose of nostalgia and exuberance to the atmosphere, making the coffee shop feel lively and engaging. It's perfect for shops that want to cultivate a fun, friendly environment that caters to a diverse age group. It can encourage lively conversations and a sense of camaraderie among customers.

6. Jazz

violin and 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,

Jazz gives off an aura of sophistication while remaining casual and inviting. From smooth jazz that creates a laid-back atmosphere to upbeat swing that injects energy, this genre is versatile and pairs well with a range of coffee shop styles. Its timeless appeal can attract patrons from different age groups, making it a perfect choice for coffee shops aiming for a wide demographic appeal.

Looking for traditional coffee shop playlists? Our Coffee Shop and Coffeehouse Neo-Soul stations provide an eclectic mix of indie-pop, contemporary rock, chill hip-hop, and R&B tracks from your favorite modern and classic coffee house artists. Sample our stations for free today.

If you’re looking to compete with top national coffee brands such as Starbucks, Seattle’s Best, and Peet’s Coffee, Cloud Cover can help you take your in-store business music strategy to the next level. Get started with a free 14-Day trial today. Terms and conditions apply.


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