Exploring Music's Complexities

Music Affects Consumer Behavior

Music and Consumer Behavior


The next time you are enjoying Sunday Brunch at your favorite restaurant or shopping at your favorite supermarket, take a minute to listen.  Do you hear music?  How does it make you feel? Do you support the establishment because of the environment it provides?  Responses to these questions are quite important to service providers who want to make their environments more appealing to consumers or influence customer behaviors.

While the amount of literature on the effects of music on consumer behavior is relatively limited, there are some consistent findings.  It is generally accepted that music may incite both positive and negative emotions.  What music makes people feel is in essence, a personal journey.

Given the available research, one may conclude that all music is not created the same. On the one hand, research findings suggest that listening to music while eating is related to increases in an individual’s food intake and meal duration (1).  These findings plus those of others (2-5) have serious implications for restaurant managers.  If the restaurant has down periods, playing quite music with a slow tempo can serve to keep people in the restaurant longer and lead them to spend more money.  The reverse is true during peak periods when a faster turnover of tables becomes the goal. Faster music can be used to reduce the average amount of time spent at the table.

In a study building on the results of the findings noted above (6), Wilson found that styles of music (jazz, popular, easy listening and classical) also effected dining behavior.  Interestingly, classical, jazz, and popular music are associated with greater spending on the main meal. Values were significantly lower when easy listening or no music was provided.

Taking these results a step farther, a British study by researchers at the University of Lercester (7) concluded that the music of Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach made patrons feel more affluent. This, in turn, resulted in increased spending.  What was not reported was any correlation between increased spending, this music, and age.

Research also indicates that volume, speed and type of music may have a great effect on product preferences, alcohol consumption and spending money (8).  As in the restaurant studies, experimenters (9) found the effect of slow music was similar to that found in supermarket behavior.  In the 1980s a study found that slow music creates slower traffic flow so people shop for longer periods and spend more time eating and drinking in restaurants.  The slower movement resulting from the slow music suggests the longer people shop the more inclined they are to see items not on their shopping lists.

Age also has been shown to create different responses to music.  In department stores playing current popular music, consumers over 25 believed they spent more time shopping.  Those environments in which instrumental easy listening music was played those under 25 thought they shopped for longer than they did.  The implications seem to be that unfamiliar or less-preferred music slows down perceived time for the shopper.

In yet another study, music influenced product selection.  People were drawn to products that have been advertised in conjunction with music they enjoy (10).  Music customized specifically to match a product also enhances purchases.

The effect of music on consumer alcohol consumption has also been researched (9).  In a Quasi-experimental, archival study data from live concerts were used to calculate the means and standard deviations for each of four music genres to note influences on alcohol consumption.  Results showed that Rock produced the greatest collective alcohol and liquor consumption, with Country yielding the greatest beer consumption.  Another study manipulated sound levels in two bar settings (10).  Results showed that high sound levels led to increased drinking within a decreased amount of time.

Music volume is negatively correlated with shopping time.  Sales per minute are higher when music is played loudly.

User and gratifications theory are only a part of personal music selection.  Listeners beware.  Volume, speed and type of music can have profound effects on product preferences, alcohol consumption and spending money.  Do you agree?  The first track is a vocal – A New York Kind of Mind; the second is Jitterbug Waltz; the third is Estate and the last Night and Day.  Which goes with what?????  All four albums are available from http://www.wonderofsound.com, MVD Audio,   iTunes, amazon, and other retailers.


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1.            Stroebele N., deCastro JM.  Listening to music while eating is related to increases in people’s food intake and meal duration.  Appetite,2006 Nov:47(3):285-9.  Epub 2006 May 24.
2.            Smith PC and Cunow R  (1966).  “Arousal hypothesis” and the effects of music on purchasing behaviouor”  Journal of applied Psychology vol 50, pp253-6.
3.            Milliman RE (1986)  “The influence to background music on the behaviour of restaurant patrons”, Journal of Consumer Research Vol 13, pp 286-289.
4.            North AC and Hargreaves DJ (1996a)  “Responses to music in the dining area”  Journal of Applied social Psychology  Vol 26 pp 4941-501, pp 87-98.
5.            Roballey TC, McGreen C, Rongo RR, Schwantio MI, Stiger PJ, Winnger MA and Gardener EB.  (19850.  “The effect of music on eating behaviour”.  Bulletin of the Psychometric Society, Vol 23, pp 221-222.
6.            Wilson S.  The effect of music on perceived atmosphere ad purchase intentions in a restaurant.  Sage Journals online.
7.            University of Leicester , Classical music makes diners spend more.  Online reference
8.            Copley J.  Music psychology and behavior.  Effects of sound on shoppers and restaurant patrons.    Online source  May 8, 2008.


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