How can you pull consumers into your store when they could buy the products they want from the comfort of their couch? That's a question thousands of retail executives are asking themselves right now, and the answers could have to do with price, convenience, or service. Delivering an exceptional audible experience could also play a role.

When consumers walk into a retail space and everything they encounter seems perfectly curated, including the music, they may never want to leave.

Music plays a big role in developing that exceptional retail experience. Here's what you should think about as you look for the right soundtrack for your shoppers.

Start With Your Audience

Talk to your marketing team, and ask about buyer personas. Larger organizations often perform this persona work in order to develop sophisticated marketing plans, and if that research has been done, you can use it.

If not, don't despair. Think about the top consumers who visit you on a regular basis. Try to determine their:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Income level
  • Education level

Use that research to determine how loud your music should be. For example, in a 1993 study published by the Association for Consumer Research, the authors report that middle-aged people preferred to shop when music was playing in the foreground, so it's harder to ignore, while those older than 50 preferred music in the background. If all of your shoppers are younger, you might need to keep the volume up a bit. If everyone is older, quiet might be key.

Next, think about the music your audience is likely to know. Familiar music helps your audience to hum along while they browse, and if the music seems happy or positive, your consumers might reflect those emotions.

For example, in a study published in the Journal of Services Marketing, researchers found that women shopping in a clothing store felt the most at ease in a store if the music they heard was both familiar and happy. It might take some research if you're not in the same age group of economic bracket as your shoppers. But once you understand what they're likely to know, and you've dug in to select the happy bits from the catalogue, you're likely to have a playlist that's tailored to your target market.

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Think About Your Product

Think about the playlists you've created. You probably have a set of songs dedicated to workouts, another set dedicated to romantic moments, and yet another dedicated to relaxing. You know, deep down, that music should match the activities you're engaged in.

Just as you wouldn't play heavy rap music while you're settling down to sleep, you shouldn't offer your consumers musical choices that seem either unusual or jarring. Make a choice like that, and it could have an impact on your bottom line.

For example, in a study published by the Association for Consumer Research, wine shop retailers offered consumers the choice between top 40 music and classical music as they browsed for their beverages. They found that consumers made more expensive purchases when they listened to classical music when compared to top 40 music.

This makes sense, researchers said, as wine tasting is considered both a little foreign and a lot sophisticated. People who enjoy wine may think of themselves as refined and perhaps a little superior. Playing very refined music, that often comes with a hint of the foreign, helps to reinforce the upscale experience. It allows those consumers to indulge without even thinking about it.

The name of a study published in The Sociological Review explains this concept in a different way. The name of the study, 'When You're Trying Something On, You Picture Yourself in a Place Where They Are Playing This Kind of Music," seems to imply that some shopping experiences require vision. People think about what they will do with the product they're buying, and they want the music to support that vision.

Dig deep into your product lines and think about how they make consumers feel about themselves and the world around them, and you'll have great ideas for a playlist.

Ponder Your Business Goals

While your consumers and your products will have a deep influence on the choices you make, your business goals will also help you make smart decisions.


For example, some retail outlets are designed for quick transactions. You want people to come in, find what they want, and leave again without lingering. Other retail spaces are designed for browsing. You want people to stick around.

In a study published in the Journal of Business Research, the authors found that people stayed in retail environments longer when they were exposed to unfamiliar music. Their brains were processing the new music, so it took them longer to move through the space. If you were hoping for a long trip, this would be just right.

But on the other hand, if you know your consumers will stay for a long time but you don't want them to notice, you might need entirely different music. In a study published by the Faculty of Economics and Business at Ku Leuven, researchers found that people standing in long lines were more likely to tolerate them when the music they heard was slow and calming.

Think about your goals and challenges, and find ways to make the music deliver the experiences you're hoping for.

The Playlists

Choosing the music you personally want to listen to is simple, but choosing the right background music for your business can be much harder. Even when you take your customers, products, and brand into account, you may still feel stumped about where to start.

Here are some playlist recommendations for genres or artists, based on the type of business you run.

1. Casual Happy: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0RY2Lv3vLjsdtFWPBrDw9X?si=sXwMb94eQ-ivSkAAh1AG9A

Song: All Night Long (All Night) - Single Version

Artist(s): Lionel Richie

Song: Brazil

Artist(s): Declan McKenna

Song: Change the World

Artist(s): Eric Clapton

Song: Chicago

Artist(s): Sufjan Stevens

Song: Daisy Mae

Artist(s): Leon Bridges

Song: Dog Days Are Over

Artist(s): Florence + The Machine

Song: Dreams

Artist(s): Fleetwood Mac

Song: Easy

Artist(s): Commodores

Song: Everything

Artist(s): Michael Bublé

Song: For Once In My Life

Artist(s): Stevie Wonder

2. Energetic: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4xVj9FmJvK3zQNtONYYBev?si=7Zeqy9gpR46T0zwJw_pvSQ

The term pop comes from popular music. Since this genre label originated in the 1950s, it not only covers popular music in general, but specific, trendy sounds in particular.

Pop music is written for broad appeal, particularly geared toward teenagers and young adults. Since the term has existed for decades, there are now eras of pop music that different generations grew up with.

Whether you’re interested in classic rock or modern electronic-based pop music, many songs in the genre are high energy. Playing invigorating, engaging music can keep your customers happy, moving quickly, and even make them feel a little like dancing. When they leave your store, they’ll remember feeling good.

These high-energy pop songs might work well for your business:

Song: Don't Start Now

Artist(s): Dua Lipa

Song: Never Come Back

Artist(s): Caribou

Song: What A Man Gotta Do

Artist(s): Jonas Brothers

Song: Giant (with Rag'n'Bone Man)

Artist(s): Calvin Harris, Rag'n'Bone Man

Song: No New Friends (feat. Sia, Diplo, and Labrinth)

Artist(s): Sia, Diplo, Labrinth, LSD

Song: I Don't Care (with Justin Bieber)

Artist(s): Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber

Song: If I Can't Have You

Artist(s): Shawn Mendes

Song: Hurt Me - From "Songland"

Artist(s): Meghan Trainor

Song: Señorita

Artist(s): Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello

Song: Hold The Line (feat. A R I Z O N A)

Artist(s): Avicii, A R I Z O N A

3. Trendy: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4YDMWtUVBZrbTNOszB2bIV?si=gia7ZKihR7SKjV2sh0QiXA

Song: see me on the outside!

Artist(s): mmmonika

Song: Knock Me Off My Feet

Artist(s): SOAK

Song: Automatic

Artist(s): Satin Jackets, Panama

Song: Spontaneous

Artist(s): Flying Lotus, Little Dragon

Song: Borderline

Artist(s): Tame Impala

Song: Style

Artist(s): Foster The People

Song: Social Cues

Artist(s): Cage The Elephant

Song: Make You Mine

Artist(s): PUBLIC

Song: Now I'm In It

Artist(s): HAIM

Song: Humility (feat. George Benson)

Artist(s): Gorillaz, George Benson

4. Classy: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1anKXCafkrF7RfYydXevk1?si=FCPMoxwGSdqn3jEJ_hiIXA

If you run a high-end restaurant or retail store, you want your customers to feel sophisticated. ‘Classy’ music, including the following examples and playlist, is a perfect way to amplify the refinement of your establishment. You don’t want music to be so familiar that it becomes distracting.

Song: Putting on the Ritz

Artist(s): Mel Tormé

Song: Let There Be Love

Artist(s): Sammy Davis Jr.

Song: Cheek To Cheek

Artist(s): Matt Belsante

Song: They Can't Take That Away From Me

Artist(s): Seal

Song: You Couldn't Be Cuter

Artist(s): Seth MacFarlane

Song: L-O-V-E

Artist(s): Nat King Cole

Song: Come Fly With Me - Remastered

Artist(s): Frank Sinatra

Song: Sway

Artist(s): Pink Martini

Song: Ain't That A Kick In The Head

Artist(s): Dean Martin

Song: Beyond the Sea

Artist(s): Bobby Darin

5. Nostalgia: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1ZcbTnpL0UWn5lYqXF3Us6?si=Jm6byy7KQBylQuvtfzG4FQ

Song: (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave

Artist(s): Martha Reeves & The Vandellas

Song: (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher

Artist(s): Jackie Wilson

Song: Believe What You Say - Remastered

Artist(s): Ricky Nelson

Song: Blue Suede Shoes

Artist(s): Carl Perkins

Song: Bring It On Home to Me

Artist(s): Sam Cooke

Song: Brown Eyed Girl

Artist(s): Van Morrison

Song: Build Me Up Buttercup

Artist(s): The Foundations

Song: California Dreamin' - Single Version

Artist(s): The Mamas & The Papas

Song: December, 1963 (Oh What a Night!)

Artist(s): Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons

Song: Dream Lover

Artist(s): Bobby Darin

6. Ambient Tunes to Reduce Distractions

A newer music genre called ambient focuses more on mood, tone, and atmosphere than on lyrics or specific musical instruments. Typically electronic music, these songs are soothing or energizing, and they may feature a few repetitive lyrics or an acoustic instrument or two.

Music in the ambient genre is designed to fade into the background and keep your brain engaged while you focus on other tasks. For business owners, ambient music creates an atmosphere in your store that focuses your customers without their minds turning toward lyrics or guitar solos.

Here are some of the best ambient albums currently:

  • Brian Eno, Ambient 1: Music for Airports
  • Stars of the Lid, The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid
  • Laurie Spiegel, The Expanding Universe
  • Alice Coltrane, Translinear Light
  • Terre Thaemlitz, Soil
  • Biosphere, Substrata

Consider the Legal Issues

Mixing music is fun, and it's tempting to hop into your own CD collection to create the perfect music to shop by. But there are serious legal implications for DIY DJ work.

Experts writing in Entrepreneur report that small business owners must have a license to play the music they've chosen, and playing music without a license can come with steep fees. A California store was forced to pay nearly $200,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees in a recent case, the experts said. It's not safe to wing it.

Getting that license can be complicated, as there are several different entities that work as go-betweens. As the National Federation of Independent Business points out, a composer may have a license with one entity while the band may have a license with another.

That's why working with a company like Cloud Cover Music is so smart.

We have negotiated relationships with all licensing firms, so you won't be at risk for legal issues when you use our products. We can also help to develop playlists that are just right for your consumers, your products, and your brand. Ready to get started? We are. Contact us.

Have Cloud Cover Music Handle It

You can pay licensing fees to PROs and create your own playlists for your business, but you may not have time to put in this kind of work. Instead, subscribing to a service like Cloud Cover Music gives you a wide catalogue from several PROs, along with specific playlists designed by curators to create a great atmosphere for your business.

Let us handle the workload for you. Sign up with Cloud Cover Music, and you can play the right music in your business — easily and legally.