Secrets to Build the Perfect Background Music Playlist for Your Restaurant
The ambience of a restaurant plays a major part when people go out for a meal with their friends, families or partners. The decor, colour scheme, menu design and background music for your restaurant together tell the restaurant’s brand story and hence, a coherence among all of these elements play a very important part.
While most restaurant owners pay immaculate attention to the other aspects of their restaurant’s brand, many ignore a critical element – the music.
In fact, 86% of customers feel that music adds to the atmosphere and influences their purchase decisions. Another whopping 40% of customers choose where they eat and how often they go back to a restaurant based on the music that plays in the establishment.
Therefore, leaving the playlist of your restaurant at the behest of a random shuffle is no longer an option! But selecting the perfect playlist for your restaurant is no easy task.
That’s why we are here to guide you on how to find the most appropriate music for your restaurant through this 6-step quick guide.
Step 1: Licensed Music or Royalty-free music - Which one do you choose?
Your customers want to hum along to the music playing in the background or groove to the track just came on. With royalty-free generic music or popularly known as elevator music, this factor of being able to identify with the music does not remain in the equation. The music can get boring leading to your customers not entirely enjoying the ambience.
Licensed music, on the other hand, is characteristically the popular tracks, the chart-toppers and music owned by record labels and performed by popular musicians like Taylor Swift, Aretha Franklin, Massive Attack or The Police. Not only can you find licensed music that stays true to your brand but you can also ensure that your audience will stay engaged during their meal!
Hence, in the choice between licensed music (e.g. protected by BMI, ASCAP, SOCAN, etc.) and royalty-free music, the easy and smart decision is licensed music. Titles are known and praised by your audience, who will be able to relate to it and engage stronger. Songs and artists are quality driven. All the genres and styles and periods are available. All the songs your audience know and love are ultimately licensed music.
Do you want or need to learn more about how to license music for your restaurant? We dedicated a full article about the key things to know for an owner here: Music licensing tips for restaurants in 2020.
Example of royalty-free music
Example of licensed music
Step 2: What does your audience like?
Besides the brand of your restaurant, the other important factor that governs the music in your restaurant are the people who dine with you. Depending on the age of your primary customer base, you can get a rough idea about what their taste in music would be and select relevant music to play in the background! Here is a broad classification of the target audience and what they might like:
Generation Z teens
If teens are your primary audience base, the most preferred genre of music for them would be pop, EDM and rap. They are most likely to listen to pop artists like Billie Eilish, Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, EDM artists like Matoma, Jonas Blue and Martin Garrix as well as rap artists like Kendrick Lamar, Post Malone and Travis Scott. A growing percentage of them also listen to various KPop artists such as BTS, EXO, BlackPInk, G-Dragon and others!
This group of individuals whose lifestyle is all about going against the popular commercial trends does the same with their taste in music. You will most likely find a hipster listening to a lot of indie artists across genres such as Bon Iver, Vampire Weekend, Rex Orange County, Tame Impala, and others.
Gen X yuppies and business people
If you attract a fair number of guests who visit your establishment on account of business, they are most likely to prefer an ambience where the music is soothing, soft and does not interfere with conversation.
The perfect choice, in this case, would be a subtle mix of current and older tracks. For instance smooth jazz by artists like Louis Armstrong and Erik Truffaz, moody soul by Curtis Mayfield and Michael Kiwanuka, as well as timeless pop by Norah Jones, Simon & Garfunkel, Air, Stevie Wonder, Feist and Nouvelle Vague.
Silver generation aka baby-boomers
If you are a fine-dining restaurant which attracts a lot of customers over the age of 55, the music needs to be in accordance with the restaurant’s classic ambience and their refined taste in music.
A sprinkling of elegant classic rock to nu-folk, pop to soul, and jazz to R&B – everything suits the platter of the silver generation. Popular artists that they might listen to would include Blondie, Diana Ross, Louis Armstrong, The Beatles, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Joe Cocker, Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Bob Marley, Toto, The Supremes, Sade, and so many more.
Step 3: How you should choose your music?
The technical aspects of music can also play an important role in the way people react to it in your restaurant. 8 governing criteria the can determine which playlist for your restaurant is most suitable are:
BPM - Beats Per Minute
Beats per minute or the tempo of the song is the first aspect. It is the speed or pace of the music and is determined by the average number of beats in a minute duration of the song.
This is a perceptual measure of intensity and activity. A high energy song has a higher energy value and is more likely to be fast-paced and loud.
The higher the danceability value of a song, the higher is the possibility that your customers will groove to it! It is determined by a combination of factors like tempo, rhythm stability, beat strength and overall regularity.
This determines how loud or soft a song is and is determined by the intensity or amount of energy in the song. This is measured in Decibels (dB).
Valence is the musical positiveness of the track or the happiness factor! The higher the valence of a song, the happier and positive it is. A low valence generally makes a song sadder.
This is the measurement of how long or short a track is. An average song lasts anywhere between 3-4 mins whereas longer tracks like Pink Floyd’s ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’ is almost 13 mins long! 99% of songs that are longer than 6 minutes may bore your audience in your restaurant to death. Watch out!
This is basically a confidence measure of 0.0 to 1.0 in order to understand how acoustic a particular song is.
This is the measure of how popular a track is. A track with a higher popularity index is preferred among most of your audience.
An example for this would be Pharrell Williams famous track Happy which has a BPM of 81, high energy, medium danceability, medium loudness, high valence, medium length and high popularity!
Step 4: Plan a different playlist for each part of the day
This is the main part of our exercise. Now that we know that licensed music works better, what our audience likes and how to choose our music, it is time we get down to making the best playlists for your restaurant.
The ultimate advice here: match the titles with what your target audience like, while planing each part of the day with a different mood. The easiest way to go is to build 4 different playlists to cover a full day: one for the breakfast and morning, one for the brunch or lunch, one for the happy hour and early evening, and finally one for the dinner and later evening.
The Hipster's Spot - at lunch time
Now let’s say that your café or restaurant attracts a lot of millennials who love hanging around, gorging on delicious and clean food while working on their next book or start-up venture.
A playlist that would suit your audience – at lunch time for instance – has to be medium on BPM, loudness and danceability with a significant groove and popularity. The perfect example would be Angus & Julia Stone – “Grizzly Bear”.
The Perfect Date Spot for the millennial couple
The cool and trendy millennial date requires a soundtrack that not only inspires romance but also is highly identifiable! Imagine all the conversations that one can have with their potential partner over their common taste in music.
We need a playlist full of popular numbers with medium to high BPM and energy, low on loudness and danceability but with high valence. The perfect example would be “Lover” by Taylor Swift.
The Family Dinner spot
A dinner spot for the GenX and Silver Generation family and friends is undoubtedly an elegant affair – right from the decor to the music. For a spot as classy as this, you would require music that is low to medium on BPM and energy as well as loudness and danceability.
Since people would want to chat and catch up with each other, your playlist must have a high valence quotient with low lyrics. Jazzy pop and smooth down-tempo electronica would be a perfect choice! Our pick would be Erik Truffaz feat. Sophie Hunger – Let me go.
The Date Night spot for GenX and Baby Boomer customers
If your establishment is a spot for the older GenX and Baby Boomer couples for their romantic weekly date nights, you would need music that re-ignites romance with every lyric. With high valence and low BPM, classic jazz and soft rock roll are your genre for this audience. “As” by the legendary Stevie Wonder would be our pick.
While these are the broad classifications, a few extra tips that would help you, are:
1) For a themed restaurant, try playing popular music of the country or at least, in the language. It helps maintain your authenticity. For example, a Mexican fine-dining restaurant perfect for a millennial date might be the perfect spot to play Camila Cabello feat. Daddy Yankee – “Havana” (Remix).
2) Different times of the day might require a change in mood and hence, a different genre of music. For example, a typical hipster music spot might play “Holocene” by Bon Iver in the daytime and transform into a more lively spot in the evening with “Tieduprightnow” by Parcels playing in the background.
3) To keep your audience engaged, you need to find and screen an average of 15 songs for a one-hour long playlist. We also suggest repeating a song only once in 5 hours and increasing (or decreasing, according to time of day or week) the tempo of the playlist slightly every hour.
For example, for a quiet romantic evening venue for millennials, you can start from 65 BPM and increase the tempo by 5-10 BPM every hour. But remember not to cross 100 BPM as it might get too groovy for a date! For a lively hipster bar or a happy hour time slot, you can start at 85 BPM and raise it up to 120 BPM!
Step 5: Save the work! Manual or Automated Playlist for your Restaurant?
We all know that the restaurant business is a busy endeavour. Paying attention to the customers and serving up high-quality food does not leave you a lot of time to manually select your music and create a playlist.
Automated playlists are intuitive and can even autoplay music on shuffle based on your listening history. This lowers the staff’s efforts and ensures that your customers hear the music they like, making them fall in love with your restaurant.
Step 6: Where do you find a curated playlist for your restaurant?
Your answer would most likely be Deezer, Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Music or Apple Music! But you would be surprised to know that commercial streaming of music from these service providers is completely illegal and might end up leading to significant fines for your business.
We dedicated a full guide on which streaming music services are allowed and which are not in a business like a restaurant here: Background music for business – can i use Spotify, deezer, Apple Music and others?
That’s where we come in! Soundsuit is a fully licensed streaming music service for businesses. But being legal is only one of our benefits. At SoundSuit, we are dedicated to using smart technology to play the most suitable music for your restaurant.
Soundsuit is designed to adjust, adapt and autoplay music in an establishment on the basis of the atmosphere of the venue as well as the time of day. Without any effort for the owner or the staff!
Tim Mälzer who is famously known as the German Jamie Oliver is the owner and chef at Überland. Being one of Soundsuit’s customers, Tim says:
“We wanted a modern music streaming app. We needed trendy but decent music and as less music work as possible for the staff. Really happy to have opted for Soundsuit!”
So, you can go about delighting your guests with delicious food while you leave the stress of creating the perfect playlist for your restaurant on us!