/ Shopping

Which shops play the most annoying background music?

Fingers in ears

We’ve had lots of requests to cover annoying music in shops, from radio stations in supermarkets to pop hits in tech stores. So we want to know which shops and music irritates you the most.

A bunch of Which? members have been in in touch to tell us how annoying they find it when they’re forced to listen to music in shops.

I must admit, I only ever notice if it’s a song I particularly don’t like – or if it’s too early in November for me to be able to stomach festive pop.

I’ve got particularly fond memories of Gorillaz’s ‘Dare’ coming on in a clothes shop, and all the customers and staff spontaneously dancing along. But, for me, shop music is generally something that usually washes over me. Or does it?

How music in shops affects you

There have been numerous studies that have discovered that the volume, speed and type of music played does have an effect on a shopper’s behaviour.

Unsurprisingly, loud music makes people spend less time in a shop. If you’re in a supermarket, music doesn’t affect how much you buy, but it does mean you make your way through the store more quickly. This means that the supermarket can get customers in and out more quickly, freeing up space in the car park and at tills, without seeing a drop in profits.

Slower music is likely to result in shoppers spending more time in a store, and thus buying more. And classical music is more likely to make people spend more compared to pop.

But if a shop gets the type of music wrong (the latest pop hits for over-25s, or easy listening for under-25s) then customers reportedly think that they’ve spent more time in store than they actually have.

So, with all this research to hand, which shops are getting their music wrong and what is it that’s irritating their customers so much? Are there any particular shops that stand out for you for their poorly-chosen, too-loud music? Or are you a shop worker who’s being driven mad by the same songs being played on a loop?

And do you feel the same about music in restaurants and pubs?


I have autism and suffer from melaphobia so have to call stores or send someone in in advance to ask for the music to be switched off. I also need someone to take the phone for me if there is hold music. A company’s attitude towards this decides where I shop – although I often buy things I don’t really want because I feel bad for putting them to the trouble

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Melophobia isn’t as rare as some might think. I’ve encountered sufferers twice in the past. The irony is that the term was used by a band calling itself by the name, which tended to devalue what is a recognised condition.

I believe if you call ahead, Carline, most decent companies will turn the music off for the duration of your shop; it’s only a single switch in most places, so is no real trouble.

I read in a local paper that Morrison’s were introducing a ‘silent hour’ in many of their stores particularly for the benefit of people with autism. This will mean no music, no broadcast announcements, and quiet tills. I hope this is extended in Morrison’s and also followed in all the other large open stores where loudspeakers have been installed. I am not against stores having loudspeakers but I feel they should only be used for security announcements, not to play music or for promotional messages or for noisy and badly-delivered ‘colleague announcements’. There is absolutely no need for music and I find the product promotion messages extremely irritating, especially in Sainsbury’s.

I was in an independent department store yesterday which unfortunately mimics the other retailers by making announcements about their sales or promotional events – although their messages are delivered in much softer tones and with better respect for English grammar than in most other shops. I was ordering carpet and a certain amount of concentration was required to ensure that the assistant understood exactly what I required and priced it correctly so it was irritating to both of us that we were interrupted several times by intrusive announcements, albeit polite and well-spoken.

The local Morrisons generally plays music but so quietly that it can barely be heard. I do not know why they bother having it. Tesco has no music. In both cases the announcements are useful ones, for example to say that the store is closing shortly.

Everyone deserves peace and quiet, so I welcome the announcement by Morrisons.

You raise an interesting point, John; one of my pet loathes is where they don’t seem to provide any mic technique lessons to staff and seem to rotate them, so everyone has a chance to deafen shoppers. Many shop announcements are over loud, too close to the mic. and as intelligible as train stations during rush hour.

It’s not rocket science, teaching people how to use a PA system but, along with correct use of the apostrophe (and comma, full stop, semi colon, exclamation mark and quotes) seems to elude those responsible for promoting coherent communication strategies within businesses.

Agreed. I think with train stations it must be seen as a feature rather than a fault. 🙁

I feel particularly annoyed when shops play music outside their premises. If the music is inside, I have the choice of leaving if I don’t like it.

Those who have contributed to this Convo might be interested in a new one, focusing on the problems those with autism and other medical conditions suffer as a result of what just annoys the rest of us: https://conversation.which.co.uk/shopping/shopping-quiet-hour-autism/

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Thanks very much, Duncan. That’s very encouraging.

Jane Buxton says:
18 September 2019

Some store manager will turn down the music volume for me if I ask,others say it is controlled by head office. Is this sometimes the case?

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Gary says:
19 January 2022

I work at Home Bargains. The Music is Loud, Repetitive and totally Mindless garbage. Mostly a mixture of Auto-tuned, Celebrity, Rap Cr*p.
Modern Music has not really changed over the past 20 years for a good reason. It is cheap to make with very little talent involved, hence the massive involvement by DJ’s and Rappers. So Cheap in every sense of the word.
Customers have complained to me, but all I can do is agree. I have expressed my opinion to Head Office and Management with no response.
I was involved as a Musician with the playing and listening to Music for 40 years and there is far too much good material out there to have to suffer garbage. So, Head Offices in Retail everywhere………….Grow the hell up……………..