Best Music Systems for Stores and Restaurants in 2021
In this article we will help you create an engaging music atmosphere for our store – restaurant – café – shop – salon. The first and more important step of which is: choose smartly between the multiple options when it comes to the best music systems for stores and restaurants!
When opening a new store or restaurant, or simply modernising an existing one, as a business owner, you want to make sure that the customer experience you are designing will engage your guests into happy, loyal, and recurring customers. Easier to wish for than to implement. But things are not that complicated neither. First of all, make sure to secure the 4 ground components of a successful in-store customer experience:
- welcoming lighting
- engaging music atmosphere
- inviting interior design
- highly-helpful sales personal
We will go through three simple steps at the end of which you will have decided what is the ideal setup for your needs and budget in terms of:
- Hardware (e.g. which speakers and how many)
- Music provider (e.g. radio, CDs, MP3-playlist or streaming service)
- The right copyright license – or no license at all – according to the music provider you will pick
And you will be ready to engage your customers through an easy-to-use, modern, cost-effective music system. And especially ready not to think about it again in the coming years, i.e. the necessary get peace of mind when it comes to music in order to focus on your core business!
A sound system that fits the size of your store or restaurant.
You may have already a sound system pre-installed in the store ou just rent, or you may need to buy and install a brand new one in the store you just moved in. No worry, we will cover these two cases.
If you have already an “old-school” sound system installed, you may have an amplifier, a CD player, a radio tuner, and some cabled speakers throughout your location. This is great. We will not advise you here to install such a system from scratch, because you have to get the assistance of a technician to install all the hardware. He/she will have to make holes in the walls and ceilings and pass lots of cables. It is too much effort for the lean, efficient, do-it-yourself and affordable music solutions we would like to focus on in this article. But of course if you would like to go for this option, it is also a great way to setup a reliable and high sound quality system in a store or a restaurant.
So let’s focus on the do-it-yourself and affordable options you have, that request no extra costs nor installation/construction work from an electrician or a sound technician.
Rotating multiple CDs
We exclude here directly two ways to broadcast music in your store: playing CDs or a radio station. Why? Because of the too many drawbacks of each option for you as a business owner.
Playing CDs require lots of effort from the owner or his employees, for very poor results:
– need for rotating CD every hour
– need for selecting new CDs every month
– need to buy/order new CDs every month
– need to invest in bulky, high-cost, multi-CD player hardware
– need to know a lot about music genres, artists, new releases, etc.
And at the end the music atmosphere created is not diverse enough even if a multi-CD player is used and CDs are renewed and rotated regularly. No way to create moods and to schedule them at relevant times of the day/week. In few words: high cost, high effort, very low efficiency.
Playing the radio
Playing radio stations is not professional enough in a business context:
- Ads playing every 5 minutes is a clear no-go in a business to create an engaging and non-disturbing music atmosphere. Worse, playing ads to guests in his business is absolutely tacky and contra-productive with your objectives as an owner (i.e. connecting and engaging with your guests, selling more)
- Song rotation is fairly low on commercial radio stations. Both your employees and guests will get quickly annoyed by the repetition of the same tracks over and over.
- No way to create specific moods and to schedule them at relevant times of the day/week.
In a nutshell, playing radio stations is cheap, low effort, but totally contra-productive for business purposes.
So this is letting us with options only: playing locally MP3-playlists or streaming music from a cloud-service.
Playing MP3-playlists or streaming music from a cloud-service
For these 2 options, what you will need for sure is a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone. This is the new turntable of the 21st century. Two use-cases with your device:
- stream music directly with this device – and plug the device in a Hi-Fi.
- or use the device as a remote control to configure your cloud-based music service. And use “smart/connected” speakers to play music directly from the cloud/streaming music service.
But actually stream from your hardware, i.e. smart speakers, streaming adapter, or smart TV. This is the option we advice, if you own any internet-capable speakers, the so called “smart” speakers (e.g. Sonos and others). But we will explain you more about this here below.
If you today own a smart TV in your establishment and maybe use it as a device to stream video clips from for instance YouTube or Dailymotion, be aware that streaming video clips from B2C platforms like YouTube is not legal in a commercial context. The video streaming services such as YouTube, Dailymotion, Vice, Vimeo, etc are not licensed for public use.
This said, let’s list to possible ways you have when it comes to streaming legal music in your store:
a) The classical way
You simply stream your music service directly in your devices (i.e. smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop) and connect it via a cable to your stereo Hi-Fi.
Soundsuit App on Apple iPad – The device connected to the amplifier via a stereo cable.
- You continue to use your existing hi-fi
- You have control over your music service just on your screen (for example to quickly change the desired mood, or skip a song)
- You may want to use this device for other important tasks (payment, accounting, etc.)
- You may close by mistake the tab or window of your music service when performing other tasks
- You may affect the streaming performance of your device (e.g. bandwidth, CPU+RAM usage, etc.) when performing other demanding tasks on this same device
- If you stream music from 7:00 to 23:00 like some hotel for example do, you may alter your device (e.g. heat level) because it is not designed for such use.
b) The all-in-one: Sonos
If you own Sonos speakers, or plan to buy those, you can setup a professional sound system for your establishment in seconds. Lucky you!
If you do not know anything about this brand and their technology, we invite you to visit their webpage at Sonos.com and read about. Basically they were among the first to launch a new generation of wireless speakers, combining great design, ease of installation, ease-of-use, multi-room technology and mobile centric control of your music at home. Nowadays, it has become a popular sound system for small and mid-sized businesses. For the reasons we just mentioned.
- You do not need any hi-fi any longer
- You have no bulky stereo cables going through the walls of your store any longer
- So you can easily move the speakers around your store according to new decor or renovated interior design
- You have control over your music service (e.g. Soundsuit) inside the Sonos mobile app on your phone or tablet
- The sleek and beautiful design of the speakers, in balk or white but also in pastel colors (thanks to a cooperation with HAY design brand), makes it easy to integrate (or hide) within your store interior design
- Sono speakers are not cheap. Count 179€ for a “Play One SL” model. And you might need 2 of these per 40m2 to fill correctly your establishment with great sound.
- Not specific to Sonos in particular, but to all smart speakers: you need a stable and performant Wifi network in your store to make the best use of those speakers.
Our basic advice when it comes to installing Sonos speakers in a small surface are summarised in the table below.
If your store surface is superior to 200m2, we strongly advise you to consult a professional sound-system installer. You might then mix Sonos Play 5, Sonos Play One, and possibly other devices like Sonos Boost, to obtain the best sound coverage and power throughout your store.
And a last very interesting information to share with you: Sonos works now also with other speakers! This is fresh news from Sonos side. Sonos partnered with IKEA and Sonance to bring new price points and functionalities to their offer and portfolio.
- high-quality sound and construction
- not cheap but affordable
- beautiful sleek design that could fit any store interior
- high-end sound and construction
- designed-for-integration in walls or ceilings
- features also outdoors speakers
Symfonisk – by Ikea
- low-cost (starting price: 99€)
- design friendly
- good sound quality for the price
c) The one goes all: Chromecast-Audio
Chromecast is a streaming technology developed by Google to compete against Sonos or Apple AirPlay. Chromecast does not sells directly speakers like Sonos, but partners with known brands to build Chromecast technology within the speakers.
Chromecast built-in speakers let you instantly stream your favourite digital music service from your mobile device to your speakers.
There are two ways to use Chromecast:
- to buy directly connected-speakers with Chromecast built-in, like for instance the JBL Control xStream.
- or to buy a wireless streaming adapter, compatible with Chromecast, that you can plug into your existing sound system (e.g. amplifier + speakers), to make your not-smart, not connected, old Hi-Fi become cool again. The Yamaha WXAD-10 is a great example of such a device, for a very reasonable price (around €149).
Unlike Bluetooth setup, Chromecast built-in speakers (or streaming adapter) work over WiFi so you can connect more than one device to your speakers at a time and control what’s playing from anywhere in the house.
See how Chromecast compares to Bluetooth >
And the same applies to broadcasting music from B2C streaming services such as Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, etc. You simply cannot use (B2C) mainstream music streaming services – even with a premium account – to play music in a business, i.e. for a commercial use.
d) The Wifi agnostic way: Audiopro Business
One of the main complain or issue raised by Sonos and Chromecast users is the robustness and stability of the Wifi network.
In fact, in a business like a store or a restaurant, the Wifi network could be nowadays kind of busy:
- cash register
- smart TV
- smart speakers (e.g. Sonos or Chromecast)
- employee mobile phones
- tablets for the personal to take orders, check stocks, etc.
- VoIP phones for the landline
- laptops and other computers for the store managers
All these devices require the use of the Wifi network, and all at the same time. And this could be potentially a huge problem for the stable streaming of music in your establishment. The Wifi could be far too busy for the broadband connection you subscribed to (i.e. the volume of data you can upload and download at the same time over your Internet connection). Or the connected devices may be “fighting” over the same Wifi channels, while ideally each device use always the same channel, and one device uses one channel.
Some insightful conversations about these kind of problems here:
The main router in a business network often has thing built into it called a DHCP server… this dishes out the IP addresses to all devices connected to the local network. You want the DHCP Server to always give a Sonos (or Chromecast) device the same assigned IP address, every time. To do that you can use the routers DHCP Reservation Table. But as you see, this is becoming quickly quite technical, and an IT technician is advised here to get all these things sorted out.
Of course, a simpler option is not to use your Wifi music to broadcast wirelessly music in your business.
Can you really play wirelessly music in your store without using the Wifi? With Bluetooth of course, but this cannot be it here, because of the 10 meter distance limit, and the not high quality sound transmission. So what is that?
Have you ever heard about the DECT technology? You may have last time you bought a landline phone for your home, office or business! Panasonic, Gigaset, BT, Philips or Fritz! – to name only few – are manufacturers of DECT wireless home/office phones. This wireless technology has been used for many years now – with great success – to carry voice over the air in your home or office or business. And this up to 50 meter away from the base station, even through concrete walls. We speak here about a very mature and stable technology to carry sound. Well, why not carrying music with this beautiful DECT technology?
One Scandinavian speaker manufacturer had the great idea to introduce this DECT technology to their product line, to make their professional speakers independent from the Wifi network, and offers businesses a very stable and high-sound-definition technology to broadcast wirelessly music in their locations. This company is AudioPro Business.
These AudioPro Business wireless speakers – using the DECT technology – have actually multiple advantages for businesses like retail stores, hotels, gyms or restaurants:
High quality drivers, combined with advanced DSP controlled digital amplifiers and solid acoustic engineering gives a sound quality above the the rest.
With up to 6 different volume zones you will be able to play music in perfect volume for each customer environment and situation.
Freedom of choice for music service
You can play music from any sound source. Meaning you are free to change source or music supplier (i.e. music streaming servioce) without problem.
Multiple channels ensure no interference from other systems (e.g. Wifi) which is common in shopping malls or crowded city areas.
With Audio Pro Business you have at least 2X the range of a WiFi system. So it works perfect in larger retail areas for instance.
Another smart solution engineered by AudioPro Business, on top of using the DECT technology for the sound, is to use the lighting rack of your store as a modular way to install the speakers.
In fact, if you use classical in-wall mounted speakers, after you made the holes in the walls and install all the wires, your setup is fixed and not flexible. Now imagine that all your speakers are instead mounted on the electrical rack for lights as your light spots are. You can easily move, add, re-orientate any of your speakers according to any layout or interior design change on your store. This is really smart and agile!
The only drawback is her that you would need to already use such lighting racks in your store. But if you do use some, AudioPro Business also offer the more classic speakers, the in-wall mounted ones, that you can install the classical way in your walls. But note that even this wall mounted speakers are wireless! So no need to wire all your walls between the speakers and your audio-player.
And finally, what interest you maybe the most: what is the pricing of these nice (Wifi independent speakers) speakers?
On contrary to Sonos or Chromecast speakers, AudioPro Business speakers are a professional product line. This is no B2C product than you can order on Amazon. You get real B2B professional and reliable stuff! But surprisingly, they do not cost you an arm! Count something like 30% more expensive than an equivalent Sonos system, and on top of that maybe the need of a professional technician to mount them (depending of your skills and abilities). But the installation is very lean and will not require long.
Audiopro Business works with a community of certified resellers and installers across your country. Simply contact them to get more details.
All music services do not qualify. Make sure to pick a legal one!
Copyright laws insure that music streaming services pay fair royalties to the artists for their musical work. Although mainstream streaming services such as Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Youtube and others meet the requirements for the private playback of music – they do not pay the higher royalties corresponding to the broadcast rights for the public playback of music in a business. This is why these B2C music services can not be used in a commercial context. Concretely, this means that you as a business owner, or any employee of yours, are not allowed to use your B2C music subscription (e.g. Spotify) – even a paying one, so called “premium” – to broadcast music in your establishment!
If you want to understand and learn more about this critical topic, please refer to this dedicated article: Background music for businesses – can i use Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music and others?
This important piece of information is actually not well known by owners. While 90% of business owners use music to strengthen their customer experience, only 1 out of 5 plays legal music, according to a Nielsen study published in 2018. This number is now increasing very quickly because of the more systematic in-store audits and inspections conducted by the collection societies such as PRS, GEMA, SACEM, AKM, SUISA, BUMA, KONA, etc.
Get peace of mind by using a Digital Music Assistant for Businesses
B2B music service could be much more than a licensed music service for commercial use. At Soundsuit we know how much time, effort and music/DJ know-how he takes to create and update great playlists for your business, so that we really wanted to address this pain point. We then created a digital music assistant for business owners and their team, relieving 100% of the music hassle:
- No more new cool tracks fitting your business to search for.
- No more multiple playlists to build, one for the morning, one for happy hour, one for Saturday afternoon, etc.
- No more playlist to rotate every 2-3 hours.
You have peace of mind when streaming music in your establishment. Once you have registered your business to the PPL PRS / SACEM / SUISA / PPL PRS, SACEM / etc. (according to your country of residence), Soundsuit takes care of all the rest. Soundsuit mixes a new playlist each day in your store, and this fully tailored to your
- business type (restaurant, gym, etc)
- customer group (age, gender, style)
- preferred mood (e.g. Calm, Loungy, Happy, etc.)
- and brand/store positioning (mainstream, trendy, heritage, etc.)
Because of this user-friendliness, beautiful app design, competitive pricing at $24.95/mo, and the smart features that save you tons of time, Soundsuit has been listed as Best Music Service for Business in 2020. Read the full review and analysis of the top 10 market players his this article: The 10 Best Music Streaming Services For Your Business in 2020.
Soundsuit offers you a 30 day free trial to let you discover the value-add of this truly easy-to-use, legal and intelligent music service – designed precisely for modern business owners!