More on the Sonic Environment and Retail

The Basics: The Muzak of Ka-ching!

“Christmas music works,” said Georgeanne Bender, a retailing consultant in Chicago. “When we hear the old songs it puts us in the mood. It’s all about making people feel comfortable and stay and shop.”

It works so well that some retailers are playing holiday songs as early as Nov. 1, “to get people into the holiday spending mode,” said Dana McKelvey, a music programmer for Muzak, based in Fort Mill, S.C.

[…] Ms. McKelvey said Muzak recommends to its clients that they don’t start playing holiday music until the day after Thanksgiving, and early in the season holiday songs only make up a portion of some custom programs. “The closer we get to Christmas Day, the percentage increases,” she said.

She and other Muzak “audio architects” also work at avoiding repetition. “If you walk into a grocery store and hear ‘Jingle Bell Rock,’ you won’t hear that song again in the time you’re there,” she said.

[…] But even shoppers get tired of the same old songs, Ms. Bender said. “It works on the majority of customers,” she said. “But some of us will get sick of it.”

Some chains, notably Starbucks and clothing stores like Abercrombie & Fitch, offer more eclectic mixes. “Stores are definitely getting smarter,” Ms. Bender said. “They’re mixing in more sophisticated music.”

Satellite radio, with its ability to devote channels to specific music genres, has broadened listeners’ tastes as well. […]

[…] Mr. Rodgers, however, is never satisfied. Having to listen to piped-in music at any time of year, he said, leaves a feeling of powerlessness. “It’s rather like having your neighbor’s dog barking,” he said.