In this video, we explore how to choose and manage music backgrounds for your retail store, restaurant or other environment.

Music has a huge impact on our experience. It taps our emotions. Music can be uplifting, melancholy, or make us want to dance.

Music can soothe and entice your customers or it can drive your customers out of your shop!

So what music are you serving?

Your Music Backgrounds Choice is Critical

With the high impact on your customers, it is critical that you choose the right music backgrounds for your customer experience. So how do you choose the right music?

Don’t Play The Radio

Many people default to playing a radio station at their shop. But radio is filled with advertising – including your competitors. Radio stations have lots of talking rather than just music. Even if most songs are pleasant, sometimes they may throw in songs that are jarring for your environment or have lyrics that might offend your patrons.

And sometimes, the radio station might be slightly off or the signal too weak, causing a continual slight static. This is like nails on a chalkboard for auditory people.

Don’t Use Your Personal Playlist

While I am sure you have awesome taste in music, you are not your target audience.

Don’t Let Your Employees Choose the Mix

Don’t let your employees change or choose the music backgrounds. Your younger employees especially may like types of music and volume that may drive out your best customers. Monitor the music when you have evening shifts and you aren’t usually in the store.

On the other hand, you don’t want to annoy your staff. I know people who work in retail that hear the same song twice every hour and it was driving them nuts.

Make It Truly “Background”

Make sure your music is truly in the background. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Make sure music is not obtrusive
  • Set volume to be truly background
  • If people can’t talk to each other, the music is too loud
  • Use instrumental music instead of voice/lyrics

The Right Music for Your Venue/Brand

You want to have a musical identity for your brand and venue. Make sure your music fits the theme and brand of your business.

  • Who are you trying to attract?
  • Are you
    • Classy?
    • Hard rock?
    • Partying?
    • Soothing?
    • Ethnic?

Music Background Theme Examples

Think of the following type of businesses and what kind of music they might play.

Italian Restaurant

An Italian restaurant should be playing romantic, Italian classical music that fits their theme. The volume should be low so people can easily talk over dinner. A Greek restaurant would feature Greek music, and so on.

Youth Clothing Store

A youth clothing store where teens buy their own clothes may have edgier, more modern music and may turn up the volume a bit.

Antique Shop

When I go into an antique shop, I love to hear either oldies (50s & 60s) or even older music depending on the types of antiques they feature.

Luxury Boutique

A luxury boutique for women would want to have music that fits their luxury image. A high-end clothing store for men would want to do the same, but feature music that men would enjoy.


And of course, a spa would have quiet, meditative music to help patrons relax rather than playing rap, hip-hop, or pop songs.

Your average pop radio station wouldn’t be a good fit in any of the above venues.

Turning Popular Hits into Music Backgrounds

While attending a wedding of two young people, I came across a very interesting take on music. Of course, the young people had their favorite music. But this music likely wouldn’t appeal to us old fogeys.

During the wedding ceremony, they played music from the Vitamin String Quartet. The Vitamin String Quartet creates classical-sounding string versions of modern song hits. The ceremony came across classy and elegant but the wedding party bridesmaids and groomsmen even hummed along with their favorites as the wedding couple proceeded down the aisle.

Holiday Music Backgrounds

Perhaps the worst music backgrounds come out at Christmas. People play a mix of Christmas music without giving any thought to the musical identity of their venue.

While I personally find “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” to be funny, hearing it twice an hour along with “Elmo’s Christmas” and “Santa Baby” along with countrified versions of classic Christmas songs is enough to make anyone give up Christmas for life.

Instead, I highly recommend background instrumental versions of classic Christmas songs.

Copyright Issues – Legal Music Backgrounds

This brings us to copyright issues and what music is legal or illegal to play.

For example, you can’t just play your usual Spotify account in a commercial setting. The same with normal music you purchased. Your licenses of music you purchased are for personal use only and not for use in commercial settings.

Here are some options for legal music backgrounds.

Approach groups that handle licensing

You can approach groups that handle licensing for the artists you want to play. Here are some examples. You can look for licensing groups for your own country.

  • ASCAP – US
  • BMI – US
  • GMR – US
  • SOCAN – Canada

Use commercial music licensing services

You can also use commercial music licensing services such as:

  • Sirius XM
  • Pandora Business

Sell Music

Here is an interesting way to get around the commercial music licensing restrictions. If you sell music, you are usually allowed to play prerecorded music to promote retail sales. In this case, you can only play the music you are selling.

So if you are selling CDs and download cards of the music, you can play the music so your patrons can hear the music before they buy. This is a great way to partner with and promote local artists.

You don’t have to be a dedicated music store for this – many coffee shops, gift shops, metaphysical shops, etc. sell music.

Local musicians

Expanding on the idea above, you can approach local musicians to license and feature their music and help promote local talent or sell their music in your shop or restaurant.

Copyright-Free Music

There is some music that is copyright-free. Classical music from composers like Beethoven, Bach and Handel is copyright-free because the composers died a long time ago. Please note that this only applies to the music itself, not a modern recording of these classics. So you can’t just grab a recording of Handel’s music by your favorite symphony because while the source music is in the public domain, the performance by the symphony is copyrighted.

However, you could play and record public domain classical music yourself if you are a musician. 🙂

You can find public domain music from

Additional Sources to License Music

Here are some other sources to license music:

Managing Music Backgrounds

So how do you manage your music backgrounds? We have a great tool for this called iPoint.

iPoint is a Windows-based system to manage audio across your digital signage network. iPoint handles MP3, WAV, WMA files and allows you to created specialized playlists for each of your businesses or locations or even different areas within your facility. iPoint can also manage the rest of your digital signage playlist such as digital menu boards, advertising, information screens, events, etc.


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