/ Shopping

It’s oh so quiet in M&S, is this music to your ears?

Sound system

In a resounding victory for all of you who didn’t pipe down about your distaste for piped music, M&S is scrapping piped music in its stores. Question is – will other retailers follow suit?

Music in shops is a well known pet peeve for many Which? Convo commenters. In fact, over the past few years thousands of you have told us how piped music has ruined your shopping experience, and driven you out of shops.

Well, with thanks to Dorothy who shared this with us, it would seem that the powers that be at M&S have agreed with this sentiment and have scrapped piped music.

A spokesman from M&S told us:

‘We’re focused on putting the customer at the heart of everything we do, this decision is the result of extensive research and feedback from our customers and colleagues’

Hooray – I hear you say – and a victory for those Convo commenters and of course the Pipedown campaign.

Peace and quiet

High streets across the country are currently (unless you’re reading this in the dead of the night) piping out a cacophony of muzak into their stores.

According to an investigation recently carried out by the Daily Mail there are some high street shops out there that are piping out music at 83.8dB – the sort of sound levels you’d find in a crowded bar where you can just about hear the person next to you talking. It hardly makes for a pleasurable shopping experience.

The experience can be far from pleasurable for some. Like Hilary, for example, who told us:

I have recently had to make speedy exits from several retail outlets as I could not concentrate on what I was looking for due to the volume and type of music being forced upon me.

And I can more than sympathise with those of you who told us how piped music drove you straight out of some shops. Harking back to the days of my Saturday job, if it wasn’t torturous enough to be in an airless spotlit shop, the added ‘easy listening’ tunes piped out on loop made it all the more unbearable.

Shush the shops

But at least the shop I worked in played ‘easy listening’ music. There are some shops that may as well be nightclubs.

Now if M&S has been so bold as to scrap piped music from their stores, which other retailers would you like to see follow suit?


A year or two ago it was determined by the police that groups of young people were meeting in inappropriate places such as around parades of shops and causing trouble. Playing classical music in these areas apparently acted as a sufficiently large deterrent as to disperse the groups. I have no idea how far this experiment went but it does suggest that music in the environment has an influence.

They tried this on the Tyne & Wear Metro system some years ago to deter loitering and vandalism. I’m not sure how successful it was or whether the trial continued. Perhaps it depends on the choice of music: The Ride of the Valkyries versus The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Superdrug the chemist =- just a day or two ago drove me mad . I was trying to have a conversation with someone who appeared to be a manager , and said to her
“I can’t concentrate on what we are saying owing to that dreadful noise ”
She didn’t even apologise
I got out asap …. never to return

This is a repeated post, as the threading system used here can easily militate against folk seeing a post.

Lisa does make a very salient point.

Little story… As a young boy of ten I was learning the piano and had (so I was told) done rather well. I was taught by a Royal Academy trained tutor, and gained my Grade 8 Distinction at the age of twelve, so I suppose I wasn’t too bad. We were from a grindingly poor family, so when we went on holiday we had to take the bus – as it happened, to Llandudno.

Because my only music training had been Classical, Romantic, Contemporary and Baroque that was really the only music to which I ever listened. But our first holiday on the bus coincided with the advent of cheap transistor radios, and there was an apparent presumption on the part of anyone who had one that everyone on the bus wanted to hear their music, so the volume was turned up and the sound almost drowned out conversation. Naturally, it was playing ‘music’ I loathed (as if anyone would play Mozart loudly…) but it left a lasting impression on me. I was astonished, even as a child, by how thoughtless and arrogant people could be by assuming that what they liked everyone should.

I went on to study performance piano at the Royal Northern, but the experience of the bus never left me. It’s very much the same with this debate. There’s an inbuilt assumption that most feel the same way about music in shops or restaurants, but I suspect that’s far from the truth. I wonder, for instance, how many of those complaining loudly can’t exist without music in their own cars, putting it on as soon as the engine starts.

I dislike the Co-op’s racket as much as anyone, but I don’t find it interferes as I simply block it out. The simple fact is that the growing trend of store-brand radio is seen as essential for advertising alone in many places, which is possibly why it’s ubiquitous. But we also have to admit some things: that very few people will all like the same music, that the music you enjoy is conditioned by emotional tethering that occurs quite early in adolescence, that some people – like Lisa, for instance – actually need music, some people find it affects their ability to hear or to communicate and some – like me – detest the type of music but would happily shop or eat to any Baroque or Classical music (Romantic might cause indigestion 🙂 . But whatever the varying issues, campaigning for a blanket ban may not be the wisest or most compassionate approach in the long term.

I enjoy music of many different genres, anything Classical from Mozart to Mahler, Popular music throughout the twentieth century up to about 1990, Film scores, advertising jingles and theme tunes from TV programmes. The strange thing is that there is always something playing in my head, and my head is also like a juke box – mention a film or radio programme and I can instantly recall the opening music. If somebody reads out a football score the signature tune from Sports Report pops up. When Cliff Michelmore’s death was reported a few months ago I found myself “playing” the theme tune from the Tonight programme which I hadn’t heard for decades. I was reading a review of the latest Jungle Book film the other day and off I went into the songs from the first Walt Disney version. And yet the music in shops has always annoyed me. Even a string quartet in the atrium doesn’t soothe. I suppose shopping is an unemotional activity [for me] that doesn’t appreciate musical manipulation. And music is an emotional activity that doesn’t go with shopping. I respect other people’s perspective on the issue but I am still pleased by M&S’s decision, if only because the cover versions of the tracks they played were so dire.


I live on a busy road where traffic is constand. I can’t afford to move somewhere cheaper. Today I travelled on a bus on which one person was playing rap out loud on their mobile phone and a woman had given her child a tablet which was playing a cartoon with squeeky Japanese voices.

I queued in the building society with a flat screen TV in the corner blaring out and waited for a prescription on the seats that were right under the speakers with some horrible alleged music playing.

The shopping centre plays its own pop rubbish with female oversingers screeching at the top of their vocal range. The overamplified sound bounces around the marble , metal and glass interior and becomes just a distorted noise.

Every shop I went in played its own , to my taste, horrible loud music. You go from one noise to another.

Could those of us who hate all this and feel ground down by it just enjoy a week or two of pleasure that M&S is finally turning off their speakers without being asked to feel guilty that some people “need” music constantly in an age where everyone can take their own music with them to use with headphones?

Sorry for the irritable tone but I am feeling a little frazzled today, partly because we wanted to sit down in the coffee shop to rest and recuperate from all this but were driven out by the racket.

Sorry for the spelling mistakes. My brain has gone awol.

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I enjoy the music played in my local M&S store which is pleasant and unobtrusive as does everyone I know who shops there regularly.
I am less than delighted that a minority who object to music in stores per se have managed to have it removed and equally annoyed with M&S who should have canvassed opinion instore or online before acting.
In my opinion this is an own goal by Mr Rowe, not a good start.

lubomir, according to their spokeswoman, M&S did “extensive research” before taking the decision to switch off the music…

I enjoy music (from the radio!) when I’m driving my car on my own.

I have tried listening to MP3 players when I go out on foot, but never really found this particularly rewarding and no longer do it.

If I have loud music on in the car I keep the windows shut – I don’t wish to impose my music on others.

If seems to me that, if shops can operate without the blanket imposition of musak, then:

anyone who still wants it can always provide it for themselves from a fone or mp3 player;

anyone who prefers to “hear themselves think” can enjoy the absence of musak.

lubomir, does it matter to you that music interferes with hearing aids and often prevents hearing impaired people from being able to communicate with others?

I’m not sure how many times this needs to be said but , if you like music when you shop, why not use an MP3 player or a mobile with headphones and have your own choice of music wherever you go?

Possibly because headphones will interfere with normal person-to-person communication within the store.

“Possibly because headphones will interfere with normal person-to-person communication within the store.”

Piped music does exactly that.

But that would depend on how obtrusive the music is, surely? And in any case that’s not really relevant to the point you were making. You suggested he could use headphones if he enjoyed music and I was simply indicating a reason why that’s not always practical.

Sue Moore says:
5 June 2016

We were in M&S yesterday and my partner asked “Is it quiet in here today?” to which I replied, “Yes – no music!!” Bliss!

Geoff Long says:
5 June 2016

Before ordering our meal my wife and I were ready to walk out of Cafe Rouge recently. I spoke to the manager to advise him of our intent and, thankfully, he turned the volume down. I go to restaurants to eat and be socialable, not to have music foisted on me.

I have read some online articles from business “experts” who say that , while turning off the music might be popular with M&S customers as their demographic is perceived to be older, it would be a mistake to do the same in any shop that aims for an under 50 customer base.

They never seem to notice that Primark, a remarkably successful business that keeps on expanding, has never forced music on their customers, and has no intention of doing so.

I have written to Morrisons to complain about the music in a supermarket that is convenient for my new home. I mentioned the recent decision to stop playing music in M&S stores.

Companies usually provide web forms rather than email addresses these days, but email addresses are available at: http://www.ceoemail.com Just don’t expect a response from the CEO.

This might be a good time to start writing to every company and other organisation that inflicts their music on us.

Here is the reply I received from Morrisons:

“Good afternoon xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Thank you for contacting David.

I appreciate your feedback about music been played in our store. Our research has shown that customers do enjoy some background music.

I’m very sorry you are having to go to shop at our competitors due to this and I will make the relevant team aware of your suggestion.

I do hope that you can come and shop in our stores again.

Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.

Kind regards,
On behalf of David Potts
Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC”

It’s a pity because I would rather support a smaller British supermarket than Tesco. I will probably use Morrisons filling station because it is convenient.

I wonder if Morrisons research took them into sufferers of hyperacusis or misophonia Wavechange. This may be something that Which? could raise with the likes of Morrisons and Tesco et al, as being quite a serious problem to so many people. When one is made aware these recognised health problems do exist and can cause so much distress to so many people, it makes sense to favour the viewpoint of sufferers, albeit in the minority, and stop the music.

I am sure it will happen eventually when evidence of these conditions is produced by audiologists and neurologists, and I sincerely hope it happens sooner rather than later so that sufferers can shop without the anxiety and distress caused by this noise pollution.

Perhaps Morrisons are right? Just a possibility.

Hyperacusis seems to be a heightened intolerance to everyday sounds. Misphonia is a hatred of sound. However we are continually surrounded by everyday sounds and noise whether in a store, surrounded by people and activity, in the street with traffic, even in the suburban garden. There are views that the right music can be of help to some people in relieving stress. I don’t see how banning background music when everyday noise and sounds are still present really makes the situation much better? Perhaps someone can explain how this would help ( not help an annoyance or irritastion, but relieve a significant debilitating problem.

Work was (is perhaps) being done to see how background music affects people with hearing impairments, I look forward to seeing whether it reaches any conclusions. Very little research seems to have looked at background music as it affects different groups of people and this surely is necessary to reach a considered judgement on which recommendations can be based.

When I sit in my rural garden and have my peace disturbed by powered aircraft towing gliders from our local RAF station, by noisy helicopters particularly when Silverstone is active, I would like to ban them all. Maybe my neighbour would also like to ban me when I use my workshop power tools a little later in the evening than I really should.

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There’s no evidential basis for Misphonia but Hyperacusis is an affliction which particularly affects professional musicians. However, some people with Tinnitus actually prefer background music. Some don’t, of course, and therein lies the problem of legislating for all conditions.

Duncan – have a look at the Pipedown website for the figures you were wondering about. In the meantime an earlier Which? Conversation resulted in the third largest response ever seen, with almost everyone condemning the use of piped music.

Just because there is yet no evidential basis for Misophonia doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. As with ADHD, OCD and PTSD it took years of scientific research before these conditions were recognised and accepted. Misophonia, for the record, is a hatred of specific noises and is more likely to be of a neurological disorder linked to the brains auditory system.

As previously posted, there is a definite correlation between creativity and mental health, which has scientific backing, but this does not mean that all creative people will develop mental illness but they are more likely to have increased awareness. Studies carried out by Professor Fredrick Ullen at the Karalinska Institute in Sweden have managed to show that the brains dopamine system in healthy, highly creative people is similar in some respects to that seen in people with schizophrenia. Tests carried out also show that highly creative people are more likely to provide answers to questions of a more bizarre nature similar to those with schizophrenia.
For evidence, log onto: ki.se. – Creativity Linked to Mental Health. Published 18-05-2010

There are no black or white answers as to why some people are more susceptible to a particular noise than others, but research will one day provide some concrete evidence. Until they do, it is only humane to show even more sympathy for people suffering from an undiagnosed disorder. Denial that the problem exists is a negative response and only prolongs the anguish of the unfortunate sufferers.

Yes, but that approach produces its own share of issues, surely? It’s all too easy to become overtly concerned with one set of sufferers at the expense of another. Lydgate territory looms large in that context making any solution very difficult.

The only other thing I’d say is that there’s no evidence that a god exists, but many believe it does. That doesn’t make it true.

You can take music with you, you can’t take a bit of quiet though.

Beryl. Yes, there is no doubt that our brains interpret and experience the world differently. There is so much still to be learned about how we think and process information and sensory input.

People on the autistic spectrum, for example, have a very different experience of the world from neuro typical people.

There are teams of scientists with highly individual skills who excel in their chosen subject. The world and society would become impoverished without its beautiful creative people who provide us with music, painting, poetry and literature, many of whom admit they obtain their inspiration from an inner source unbeknown and indescribable to themselves, except to acknowledge it exists.

When a collective problem surfaces by a percentage of people whose lives are affected to such a large degree, it needs investigating and controlled until a cause is established. There are many unsolved problems affecting different groups of people, this one happens to have been brought to the attention of a popular consumer association and is the present focus for investigation to alleviate the angst caused by the prevelance of background music in places frequented by the general public.

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As Pipedown is a campaign organisation against piped music in public places you cannot expect it to present unbiased and impartial views or information.

I also sense that whenever Which? launches a campaigning Convo with its leader expressing a view against, say, piped music, the tendency is to attract supporters; those who oppose the view seem to stay away, or maybe be put off by some of the comments made. So i would not place too much store by the number of contributors.

The way to get a true view is through a properly-conducted survey – something many seem to resist (perhaps they are nervous of the outcome?). Personally I can take or leave music in public places; I really don’t mind either way. So perhaps I am impartial? What I am partial too is exercising an individuals right to their own views but not imposing them on others.

The west-eastern-divan orchestra is, perhaps, a good example of the role music has in trying to supersede the warlike activities of senseless politicians who value their own status above human life.

“In 1999, Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said founded the West-Eastern Divan as a workshop for Israeli, Palestinian and other Arab musicians. “

Duncan: it’s actually “Musick has charms to soothe a savage breast”, the first line of a play by William Congreve.

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Malcolm first and foremost it is necessary to acknowledge a problem exists for some people and take your views from there. Where evidence is required, that is a matter for the professionals who spend their whole lives researching their specialist subject and await the outcome of their findings. I consider myself extremely lucky to have access to such up-to-date research which is now shared at a global level through the marvels of modern technology, but knowing exactly where to look can sometimes prove problematic. I, like yourself, are not particularly troubled by music in stores and some of my earlier comments demonstrate this. It was the sheer number of people affected that prompted me to delve further into what seemed to me a rather strange phenomenon and discover the reason why some people are affected by background music in public places and not others. There had
to be a reason! It was Dax5’s last comment that led me to believe there must be a designated term for the reason why he/she can live on a main road without too much bother and yet he/she can be so affected by background music in stores, and came up with two possibilities. Yes, everyone is entitled to their views and I also understand the need for these views to have evidential backup relative to the topic . I have tried to do just that without imposing my views on anyone so that other contributors can draw their own conclusions based on this.

Duncan you are on the verge of something very special inasmuch as you are searching for answers based on insights and revaluations that manifest from beyond the mind. That is another topic entirely, but keep on searching as you will eventually get to know where the answers lie. Don’t forget though to come up with some evidence to back up your assertions 🙂

The vast majority of research throughout the world is undertaken as part of a PhD research projects and dissertations. Dedicated professional scientists spending their entire lives on their specialism is rarely the reality, although it does happen. The huge problem with this system is that comparatively few PhD dissertations are peer-reviewed, and one estimate gave 76% of projects published yet unverified. Most of the published ones appear online and can be assumed to be sound, but in some areas – Psychology and Psychiatry being two – this is sadly often not the case. Even medical professionals are guilty of horrendous and often duplicitous fudging of results, the most notable recently being Dr Andrew Wakefield and the MMR vaccine.

By the time the Times journalist, Brian Deare, exposed this Doctor’s appalling actions and Wakefield had been struck off, the damage had been done, and thousands of worried parents had refused to protect their children. They were scared, and why not, since not a postgraduate student but a registered Medical Practitioner had effectively warned them off.

It’s extremely unwise to believe anything at all on the internet, unless you can find at least three reputable studies from impeccable sources to confirm that what you’re reading is sound. In cases like that mere money scams pale into insignificance. Wakefield was found out, but how many are still practising?

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Duncan, the point I was making, to put it in your own terms is, the non-material will lead you to find answers and therefore the evidence. Your mind is currently overwhelmed with unhappy events of the past and fears of what may happen in the future. How can you possibly find peace in the present with all that stuff going on in your head which has been put there by people and past events in your life. Focusing on the here and now will enable you to find solutions within, (where problems don’t exist), to many of the worries and anxieties you are encountering right now.

I could recommend some reading but we are not allowed to advertise and I have veered off topic so have to leave it there for the time being.

Malcolm R – Most of the info on the Pipedown website has been gathered by organisations unconnected with Pipedown, such as National Opinion Polls. Look for: Piped Music – The Facts; it’s on the main page.

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Richard, the point I was making was that a campaigning organisation with a particular objective is not likely to publish information that is harmful to its cause – no more nor less than that. If the overwhelming independent evidence, research and surveys show that the great majority of people want piped music banned then I’d expect businesses to stop using it. Their profits depend upon satisfied and prolific customers so why should they do something that is harmful to their business? It is their decision to make, of course. So perhaps this issue is not as clearcut as Pipedown would wish.

However I, as I have said, don’t care either way; I just would like these sorts of decisions decided on a sound basis (no pun intended) and not by a campaign group.

I see Pipedown want to abolish music in TV programmes. Why not cinema films as well? Yet many people (I imagine) like the music that accompanies this entertainment, and they have been the source of some good music from modern composers – some great classical music in days past originated in a similar way. Now I also find some tv music – in documentaries in particular – to be unnecessary to the story and overbearing. If I turn it down I lose the narration as well. While nothing is perfect most do not fall into this trap.

So if a store wants the opinion of its clientele we should be campaigning to ask them to seek it, maybe with a standardised questionnaire. What harm is there to give those directly involved a chance to voice their views, whether it be shops aimed at young people, those for the “more mature”, general shops like supermarkets. The stores, if they choose to participate, could then review their policy in the light of the information gained. But please, let’s not have our choices curtailed without good cause.

Ian, you will always find a few bad apples in every profession. The key is not to focus your attention on one particular research project but to browse through the list of the more reliable and reputable accounts that invariably appear on a website, such as Wikipedia, BBC, NHS etc. and compare the facts.

It is well established that politicians and estate agents and salespersons will always convey their own one sided and biased viewpoint and to use these as an analogy is a little unfair as Malcolm has already demonstrated above.

There is a vast amount of information to be found on the Internet, and depending upon your particular interest and experience, you know intuitively whether a particular dissertation can be relied upon. I happen to have a special interest in psychology and psychiatry, and yes I am aware of the differences between the two having worked alongside both in the past. It is easy to deride both these professions since most research is based on observation rather than the material.

To say it is unwise to believe anything at all on the internet is a little irresponsible to say the least. Present day times dictate everyone’s truth is subject to the demands made upon the individual and not the reality. It’s a sad state of affairs as so much knowledge and understanding of the facts are lost in in the process.

Actually, you can – if you take good ear defenders.

But, then you’ll need to learn to lip read if you want to converse with any companions or shop assistants.

To be fair, Beryl, I didn’t simply say “It’s extremely unwise to believe anything at all on the internet” without qualifying it in the same sentence with “unless you can find at least three reputable studies from impeccable sources to confirm that what you’re reading is sound”. But in effect my reading of the first paragraph in your post is that we’re essentially saying the same thing.

I have to disagree, however, when you say you know intuitively whether a particular dissertation can be relied upon. By their very nature, PhD dissertations are highly specialised pieces of work, often with very specialised vocabulary and usually a lot of statistics. Few outside of that specialism stand any chance of establishing its veracity or otherwise. Wakefield is the most glaring case in point, of course, but the problem with the ubiquity of information on the ‘net is that anyone can find something to support their own point of view or beliefs and much of this information is fed into the ‘net by those with a distinct agenda.

But perhaps the most worrying aspect is that so much is still unknown. We’re used to assuming that science knows all the answers, but the reality is far from that. And, if you believe Elon Musk, we’re all living in a computer simulation anyway 🙂

Hi Beryl – I might write to Morrisons again. Mentioning hyperacusis or misophonia might be a bit complicated for them. I could mention that music causes problems for those with hearing difficulties, though I suspect it will fall on deaf ears.

When Morrisons sent an email, it did not include my original email, so I will have to look up what I put in my original email. This is a common problem with email responses from companies.

” I could mention the problem that music causes for those with hearing difficulties, though I suspect it will fall on deaf ears.”

Deliberate pun?

You could ask Action on Hearing loss to provide you with evidence to support the claim that music causes problems.

Duncan trance like states will only momentarily protect you from the present reality and does not solve any existing problems, neither does what happened in the past or what might happen in the future, which only clouds your present vision as to what is happening now. Now is all that exists.

In order to solve existing problems one
needs to clear all the dead wood from ones mind, put there by past experiences, parents, teachers, peers and siblings, which is causing you to hang on to all those negative emotions such as anger, fear, hatred, jealousy, frustration and feelings of injustice, which are preventing you from moving on and balancing the negative and the positives in life, and, most importantly, your focus on what is happening now, which is the plight of a number of people with selective and hypersensitive auditory issues that cause them much anxiety and discomfort as a result of involuntary noise pollution.

Lets concentrate on helping these people in their attempts to follow the example shown by M&S and remove the offending music from all supermarkets and stores.

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Ian my question is where would we be without science today? I for one would have been gone long ago since I have an inherited under-active thyroid problem which caused my paternal grandmother to expire aged 62 from mxoedemia as thyroxine, a hormone responsible for controlling the body’s metabolism, was unavailable when she was alive. Most medication has to undergo years of extensive trials before being verified and passed by health authorities as safe for human consumption. but mistakes are sometimes made, the tragedy of thalidamide springs to mind with all its dire consequences. For example, it took years for NICE to recognise and sanction chiropractic as a genuine remedy for skeletal and spinal problems. Despite this there are still people who would prefer to suffer
pain or rely on the addictive nature of strong painkillers, which only mask the symptoms and don’t treat the cause, to supply temporary relief from their pain.

Scientists with an interest in a particular branch of science will use the Internet to convey their current research to global colleagues in their own formulas that are incomprehensible to the populace in general. There are also websites designed to interpret these formulas in a less complicated way some of which I have already indicated. There are people who have a reason to keep abreast of scientific studies who, in the worst case scenario maybe be suffering with terminal illness who are understandably hoping science will pull something out of the hat in time to save their lives.

My apologies Ian if I misinterpreted.your statement; maybe the exclusion of “at all” would have lessened my concerns regarding the Internet content, but happily we were very much in tune with the need to find sound material.

I hope that Wavechange with his scientific background and knowledge, will follow through with his second letter to Morrisons and maybe refer them to the vagaries of (a) hyperacusis, officially recognised as a health problem and (b) misophonia, an existing neurological, audiological problem currently under investigation.

Duncan everyone has to undergo negatives in their lives but some people have a morbid need to hang onto them. The key is to first deal with them and seek help and comfort if needed and then let them go into the past where they belong. There are always going to be negative events happening to everyone, that is part of the reality of life and it is because of this other people are able to empathise and offer the love and support, in the present, when it is most needed and which enables them, when they are ready, to move on and find enjoyment in their lives again.

Just for the record, I have a close relative who underwent electric shock treatment for depression which has also left him with slight memory problems. BUT IT SAVED HIS LIFE! ECT is now only given as a last resort after all chemical medication has failed.

PS Apologies for shouting – I will end it this particular conversation now and move on.

Beryl – If I can engage with someone who is prepared to listen I will certainly mention these conditions – after doing a bit of reading. In my experience it is best to keep things simple to start with or there is a high likelihood that the recipient of information will turn off. I’m sure that you will have seen that presenters of science programmes always start with concepts and information that their audience will be familiar with and gradually move on to more complex material. What I will start doing is to explain that a significant number of people have hearing problems. We are up against the problem that companies often have standard responses to customers comments. I have sometimes seen comments on Which? Convo and other websites that are identical to what I have received. If there is any sign that someone accepts that music can cause problems I will be more happy to engage in conversation.

I agree Wavechange. I have no doubts about the ingenuity of your approach, as long as it enables you to break through the mould of the corporate mentality and their obsession with pre tax profits. Good luck!

chris says:
6 June 2016

Very bad news the music mix in m and s was one of the best around hopefully no one else will stop music there is also a big market of workers and customers who like it and want it and it’s just the older people that are trying to destroy the higstreet it seems make shopping boring and put the younger people off from going to the high street to shop.

It may not be older people who want to stop music, chris. As long as it is not 120dB of heavy metal or garage (whatever they are) I can live with it. However when travelling there and back I have Classic fm on in the car. i’m tempted to say younger people wouldn’t like that, but watching Young Musician of the Year suggests that probably isn’t true either.

Chris, the whole point is that while you found the music mix agreeable, this is just your own point of view. I appreciate that others will share it with you, but do spare a thought for the large numbers of folk who don’t, and who find piped music really distressing.

Following on from what Malcolm says, young people don’t necessarily like having to listen to music. I had a really interesting and challenging vacation job when I was a student and having to listen to music all day five days a week was unpleasant and I could not concentrate. I was about 20 at the time.

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chris says:
7 June 2016

it dose relax you and makes also the shop have a atmosphere and not dead and boring for customers and workers customer will not be in shops for more then a hour a worker are there for up to 10 hours, people should just stop there moaning i can totally understand if customers are in shops for hours that it would annoy them but for 10 to 60 mins in a shop any other country people enjoy music in shop more shops play music then here .


The huge number of young people streaming into my local Primark on a Saturday would suggest that they are in no way put off by lack of background music.

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I’m sure Duncan is right that stores may base their decision about music on it’s claimed ability to make more money. Well, stores for example are there to make more money. So that logic seems to hold.

If there is indecision, I’d suggest that stores consider having muzak days and muzak-free days. Then you can choose when to shop depending upon your taste. Indeed they could even have different genres of music on different days, so I could avoid the Garage and Heavy Metal and shop when they play classical music or silence. And you can have both – John Cage composed a piece in 3 movements lasting 4’33” of silence for any instruments, Yves Klein wrote with a 20 min continuous chord followed by 20 min of silence (try a quick shop in the second half), and Alphonse Allais wrote ” Funeral March for the Obsequies of a deaf man” . I am not pretending to be a student of silent music – maybe you can get a degree in it – so thank Wiki for the information. If you want to hear some of these pieces turn your CD player off.

chris says:
7 June 2016

would be good that so music for every one a few days for the younger few for middle age few for the older then a day or 2 no music for disabled people that would please all types of customers it would also be interesting to see what days popular and not

Spot on Chris! There are very few people who don’t like some kind of music depending on their individual choices and receptive volume. Problems arise when stores decide on the type of music (and volume) which they think will attract more feet through the door. Paradoxically in doing so, it would appear they have well and truly shot themselves in their own feet through their own doors.

Malcolm, Alphonse Allias might go down a treat at the local funeral parlour since presumably all deceased men (and women) are deaf! Maybe a rendition of ‘The old grey mare she ain’t what she used to be’ might go down well on pensioners allocated shopping days 🙂

I’d like to be buried with a mobile phone and a wind-up radio tuned to Classic fm. You just never know Beryl. 😀

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I also tune in to Classic FM when not playing a CD whilst driving which I really enjoy until they play a violin composition which seems to grate on my ears, but love the piano and organ recitals. Rachmaninov’s 2nd piano concerto in particular sends the “chills” described in Wiki Big Five Model.

A very good choice, Beryl. I particularly enjoy Rachmaninov and Chopin, though not as piped music. I turn to Classic FM when I realise I’m listening to something for the third time on Pick of the Week, but being presented with just a single movement can be infuriating.

Very frustrating Wavechange. Akin to someone handing you a whole marshmallow and then deciding to keep half of it for themselves! Best way to enjoy Rachmaninov is through stereophonic headphones coming from a tablet via a wi-fi system. Bliss! To play Rachmaninov through a piping system would be tantamount to sacrilege!

Hopefully Malcolm you will rendezvous with all your favourite classical music composers so there will be no need for a wind up radio. Oh and don’t forget the charger for your mobile 🙂

I used to ignore Classic fm because it played many incomplete works (though there is a full works concert). However I find that doesn’t matter on shorter journeys or when I have it in the background. It does introduce you to music you have not heard before and if it appeals you can then buy the CD, download it, or whatever and listen to the full piece at your leisure. Like seeing if you like the marshmallow and then buying a bagful.

Or a crafty way to advertise and sell Malcolm! Nevertheless a full rendition of one of your favourite composers works will benefit you more than a full bag of marshmallows will do to your waistline 🙂

When I was younger, in my teens and twenties, I was fairly ambivalent about canned music although I rarely found it an enhancement to my activity, be it shopping or whatever. Since then I have found it an increasingly intolerable irritation. I particularly detest it a Christmas time (which these days, seems to last from November and well into January).

I was happy to appreciate the silence during my visit to M&S this week, particularly as they had been playing some very annoying music in the recent past. I wish ASDA would follow suit as their ‘music’ is pretty awful at the best of times and at Christmas it is absolutely insufferable. A while back I was in my local ASDA store and found that it was an unusually pleasant experience and then realised that this was because there was no music to be heard. It was marvellous and I made a grateful comment in the ‘customer’s comments book’. The next time I visited the noise was back on!

In January 2016 I had a meal in the Prezzo restaurant in Tewkesbury. I made a Trip Advisor report stating – “there was one hell of a racket – ‘pop’ music playing far too loud and all the customers shouting at each other to be heard over it. It sounded like a noisy party in a students’ union bar!” ‘Music’ is completely unnecessary for the enjoyment of a meal, so why do it? I will never go back there.

Under my doctor’s ‘orders’ I joined my local authority’s gymnasium a couple of years ago. I detest mind-numbing exercise at the best of times but I stuck at it even though they play awful local radio pop music all the time – I could hear it over the sounds from my iPod ear pieces even when it was on maximum volume. Several times I asked the staff to turn it down, with very limited success and when I asked why they had music at all they said because they ‘have to’. Most gym goers have their own music via their iPods so why the gym thinks they need to supply it as well is beyond me! I put up with it for a year before I stopped going.

I remember with some amusement an incident from my early married life when my then wife and I were in our mid twenties. We were in a local boutique, accompanied by my mother in law. I was a big Led Zeppelin fan and was enjoying hearing that band’s rendition of ‘Rock and Roll’ playing quite loudly while my wife shopped. Suddenly her mother cried out “I am going outside, I can’t stand this racket any longer” A nearby young sales assistant gave her the most incredulous look I have ever seen!

So there you have it – a few like it, some can tolerate it and some hate it but it rarely adds anything to the enjoyment of one’s activity – so why do it? It is completely unnecessary and adds to the detritus in life that we can all do without.


“a few like it, some can tolerate it and some hate it ”

I understand that some people like background music and others hate it. What baffles, and interests me, is how some people who don’t like it can “tune it out” and not be too bothered by it. I am totally incapable of doing that.

I wish I knew how it’s done but I doubt that it’s something that can be learned. I think it’s probably something you are born with, in the same way some people have a gift for picking up languages or some have no sense of direction.


I sympathise with your inability to tune out to background music. There is a health condition, hyperacusis, (an increased sensitivity to frequent and volume range of everyday sound), apparently Ludwig Beethoven suffered from it alongside tinnitus and strangely hearing loss. There is also a condition called misophonia which relates to just a general “hatred of sound” which one of my brothers suffered from.

Both of these conditions can be researched on your computer/tablet and are treatable to a limited degree if deemed necessary.

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Apparently musicians are unable to block out background music. They are constantly analysing it. Perhaps that’s why so many of them support Pipedown.
Getting back to the list of shops where we’d like the muzac switched off. Can I add Debenhams and House of Fraser?
Also I can’t help wondering if loud music helped hasten the demise of Viyella and Country Casuals. I have been driven out of both these shops by loud pop music over the past few years. They were still playing it at their closing down sales and I had to leave. These shops aren’t aimed at young people but at the over-50s. Sadly too late to save them now.

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I’m sure that’s right, Dorothy. Even as a bungling amateur musician I find that I automatically ‘lock on’ to canned music and I just can’t block it out at all. I’m pretty sure that a great many musicians suffer the same way.

I think all of us find it difficult to ignore things that our work covers, or used to cover, because we have a particular and knowledgeable interest. I certainly do and it can bore the pants off anyone else. Don’t musicians get royalties when recordings are played? They perhaps should not be biting the hand that (also literally) feeds them?

🙂 Depends on what the original contract was, Malcolm. But as a professional Musician I would add it’s more than simply background analysis and we can block it out – especially if it’s not very good music. The problem lies – curiously – with the volume. Too loud in a quiet store and we’re done for. We do, indeed, start analysing the melody, form, chord structure, key – the list goes on, but that’s also a product of our personality type, which is usually Obsessive. Every professional musician I’ve met has been obsessive.