/ Shopping

Your view: background music in shops

Man with fingers in ears

With 260 comments, our debate about music in shops has been making a lot of noise. Here’s a round-up of your comments, including one commenter who actually enjoys listening to tunes while she shops.

Alison finds background music in shops torturous:

‘I regard piped music in shops, public places, restaurants, etc. an invasion into my personal audio space and respond by turning round and leaving. Vote with your wallet is my advice.

‘However, there are areas where it can’t be avoided, such as surgeries, hospitals, and so on which I find intrusive, stressful and unnecessary.

‘It is no surprise to learn that the Americans use loud pop music as a form of torture – personally, I’d spill all the state secrets of which I might be in possession.’

Clare votes with her feet:

‘I don’t go into shops if I can hear music playing from outside and agree with those who regard this as noise pollution. If I’ve entered a shop and there is music I get out again as quickly as possible (sometimes close to panic stricken) and almost always without buying anything at all.’

What’s worse than music in shops? When you can’t escape it. Here’s Malbec:

‘I have decided that the worst culprit of all is Ikea at Croydon. Not only do they play the most annoying trash, you can’t escape quickly because of their maze of aisles stopping one from finding the exit. First and last time I visit.’

Background music in B&Q

B&Q is a popular example in the comments. Alan is one of many to mention them:

‘I have just written to B&Q complaining about the music being played in its stores – I have advised them that I now only visit its stores to view a specific product before immediately returning home and ordering it on-line (not from B&Q) and the product is also invariably cheaper.’

Bob’s fed up with the bad covers in B&Q:

‘B&Q – they cannot be bothered to play original versions of great songs so they use appalling copies. To me it just conveys a message that the company is in such desperate straits that it cannot afford a royalty fee and its days are numbered.’

It’s not just shops, restaurants are invaded by background music too, as Dudley shares:

‘I am tired of music in restaurants. It makes everybody speak louder to their fellow diners and in the end the ambient noise of music and diners shouting at each other is so loud that I can’t hear what others are saying on my table. In the end I switch off.’

Customers and staff singing along

It’s not just the music that annoys Diane; it’s also the customers who sign along:

‘Now I know this sounds curmudgeonly but one thing that I don’t think anyone’s mentioned is that when businesses play music, what’s even worse is that customers and staff alike feel compelled to sing along to the song often in a loud voice. I recently had to endure a customer singing to the song being played and he was totally out of tune, thereby adding to my misery!’

I’d like to end on a counterpoint. Here’s Janet who does like background music:

‘Am I the only one? I quite like background music. Was in B&Q the other day and found myself humming cheerfully along to something from the 70s as I flitted around the aisles. Then I popped into Sainsbury’s, don’t often go there, and noticed how quiet it was; the whole place felt like a ghost town, really depressing, I didn’t stay long. Bring on the Pharrell Williams I say.’

Does background music make you Happy? Or do you long for silence?

Alison Browning says:
25 March 2017

I hate modern chart music as its just rap/hip hop and manufactured rubbish it drives me nuts I go shopping to buy food,clothes etc NOT listen to music, even worse in cafes where radio flippin 1 is playing , if cafes are going to have back ground music it should not be so loud you can’t hear your friends talking and it should be pop classics not that hideous rap stuff thats there all the time.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I find the music disturbs my concentration so much that I can’t make a decision on the purchase I want to make and usually leave the shop without the item I require. I am of the opinion that often the “music” is for the entertainment of the staff and not for the benefit of the customer. Just one more reason to shop online.

I doubt the staff find the music entertaining – I expect they just adapt to filter it out.

mrs a cust says:
1 April 2019

I can’t stand to be in the cafes at the Birmingham Sainsbury superstores in Maypole and Selly Oak. I have tried a few times and then been forced to leave, not even being able to finish my drink or food. I do not really understand why they do it? I also cannot bear music played in surgeries or the continually-switched-on advertising screens in Surgeries or Shops such as Wilko. In hospital, staff who plonk a radio on the counter in waiting areas are another problem. The invasion of public spaces by piped music should be a serious offence. It makes me feel so stressed. The Americans use this idea to torture prisoners. Surely Sainsbury, Wilko and other places that play endless ongoing music should spare a thought for the poor customers who have to endure it.

my local Tesco in Midsomer Norton has suddenly started VERY VERY loud Glastonbury type music.It should only be on at Christmas,what are they playing at.

I don’t think background “music” is off topic, but most relevant. What matters to me is it’s content. For the last 30 years since 1990, and especially these days there is an absolutely insane obsession amongst producers to include constant finger clicking and skull piercing shrieking whistling on far too many records and adverts which is absolutely intolerable torture to anyone like me, and no way am I a one off. And I’m absolutely sick and tired of being constantly force fed the absolutely insane contradiction that such sound effects are somehow “relaxing”, what absolute criminal insanity! How on earth can something which absolutely rips your skull apart possibly be remotely relaxing, it only makes me turn brutally aggressive as it’s a sustained brutal violent assault. And that kind of stuff needs making far more well known and by doing so put an end to such ludicrous and insane contradictions. I had to leave an asda store the other day after only seconds because of stupid insane click routine on their pa system and I only wanted one item but I had to leave with nothing! And it’s so appalling that I can’t even stand there and talk to their staff about it, I have to get away from it immediately and it makes me absolutely furious for ages afterwards. And it’s about time folk like me had more of a voice in the media instead of being so constantly suppressed. I’ve tried just about every avenue for a voice including disability groups but no-one ever wants to know which infuriates me. There’s nothing but outrageous contempt all round.

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Jane Buxton says:
25 February 2021

Why should I be forced to listen to teenage music in food stores during weekdays when 98% of the customers are of the older generation!If there has to be music,can’t it just be gentle background music.If I wanted to go to a nightclub I would do my shopping first!!!!!!

Joan Gillette says:
17 May 2021

I avoid going into shops that are playing annoying background ‘music’, unless I have no choice, and then I just rush in and grab the item I need, pay for it and hurry out. Browsing in a store is something I have not done for a very long time.