"It's just sound. One sound leads to another." That is how jazz great Miles Davis described his music in an interview republished by The Guardian.
Under this definition almost anything could be considered a jazz song. Birds in the trees, doors squeaking in the wind, and flutes tooting melodies could all be considered jazz.
Most casual music listeners have a tighter definition of jazz music. To them, jazz is associated with a sense of improvisation and freedom, and it might even be associated with a specific point in time.
Researchers debate about the age of the modern jazz fan. According to National Public Radio, some researchers suggest that true fans — defined as people who buy tickets to jazz concerts — are typically older than 45. But a separate study quoted in this same article found that about half of ticket buyers are younger than 46.
Conflicting studies like this can make it hard for you to understand how many of your target consumers listen to jazz in their spare time. But digging into different research could help you understand why jazz might be right for your business, whether your consumers listen to the same music in their spare time or not.
Jazz at Work
When it comes to music for businesses, it is hard to beat the popularity of jazz. As a music historian writing for The Daily Beast points out, jazz has become the standard soundtrack for coffee shops and other eating establishments all across the country. When you open up the doors to these shops, sounds of John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, and Jason Moran come spilling out.
Restaurant, café, and bar owners may choose to play jazz because studies suggest that this soundtrack has the potential to enhance the dining experience. For example, in a study in the journal Appetite, researchers found that people listening to jazz liked their food more than they did when they listened to hip hop. The sounds they heard seemed to make the food taste better.
Studies like this show just why pairing food and jazz can be smart. But jazz is also found in non-eating shops, such as salons, offices, and studios. It shows up here, in part, because some types of jazz make for perfect background music.
Many forms of jazz have no vocal component. That means the sounds can simply wash over the listener without triggering portions of the brain associated with speech and speech recognition. That allows people to focus on other activities, such as shopping, talking, or walking. They may hear the music without feeling the need to focus on it intently.
Jazz can also work a bit like an equalizer. People may know what jazz is, but they may not be so fully invested in the genre that they have favorite songs or artists. They may be able to listen to it and enjoy it without feeling the need to pick a favorite song and sing along. That can make the communal experience of the music a little less jarring. Everyone may come to the music with the same level of familiarity.
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What Jazz Says About Your Business
We have explained how jazz can benefit your consumers. Jazz has similar benefits in terms of your business.
A musical soundtrack can work like shorthand for your brand, explaining to your customers what you offer, how you operate, and the service you provide.
Since music works at a subconscious level, you can offer a great deal of information through the music you choose without saying a single word out loud.
Research suggests that people make snap decisions about personality based on the music they hear. For example, in a study by the University of Cambridge, researchers found that jazz fans were considered friendly and emotionally stable, while rap fans were viewed as hostile, energetic, and athletic.
You want your customers to think of your business as friendly, and you want your employees to be considered reliable. If you are running a community bank, a hair salon, a spa, or another business that runs on trust and calm, this could be an exceptional choice. You are showcasing your values from the moment customers walk in.
However, if you are running a company that is based on athleticism and youthful energy, jazz may be the wrong choice. Even an upbeat jazz soundtrack in a gym, a sporting goods store, or a childhood clothing store may seem unusual or even disconcerting to customers.
Choosing Your Jazz
Traditional jazz artists such as Miles Davis can certainly appear in your jazz playlist, but there are many different types of jazz to choose from that may or may not be associated with Miles. For example, according to the Jazz Music Archives, types of jazz include:
- Afro-Cuban jazz
- Cool jazz
- Nu jazz
- World fusion
- Soul jazz
- Bossa nova
There are some types of jazz, including smooth jazz, that are completely modern and a little bit soothing and soft. There are other types of more upbeat jazz, such as post bop, that are incredibly complicated and a little bit jarring. Finding the right mix of modern, fast, and slow may take a little bit of experimentation.
We can help. At Cloud Cover Music, we offer songs from the complete spectrum of jazz.
We can help you create the soundtrack your customers will love. You can rest assured that all the music we offer is safe and legal for your business to play. We have negotiated contracts with music copyright holders, and we make the copyright payments that keep you in compliance. We would love to tell you more. Please contact us to start a conversation.
- Miles Davis: 'Coltrane Was a Very Greedy Man. Bird Was Too. He Was a Big Hog.' A Classic Interview From the Vaults. (November 2012). The Guardian.
- Actually Useful Research About Younger Jazz Audiences. (August 2011). National Public Radio.
- Jazz (The Music of Coffee and Donuts) Has Respect but It Needs Love. (June 2014). The Daily Beast.
- Background Music Genre Can Modulate Flavor Pleasantness and Overall Impression of Food Stimuli. (May 2014). Appetite.
- You Are What You Listen To. (August 2009). University of Cambridge.
- About Jazz Music. (2011). Jazz Music Archives.