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How to Choose the Best Restaurant Music

How to Choose the Best Restaurant Music

Last updated on 6/16/2018

Noise is one of the top complaints that restaurant owners receive from unhappy guests. But studies have shown that the right music actually increases sales and induces positive emotions in customers. Imagine arriving at a swanky Italian restaurant only to hear blaring top 40 U.S. hits inside – the juxtaposition could be unseemly to many guests. On the other hand, picture yourself walking into a rustic and bright coffee shop playing instrumental guitar – a pleasing, fitting sound for the cafe.

While some people might be more perceptive to music than others, many guests will notice if it’s distractingly loud or incompatible with your ambiance. So what is the best music for your restaurant? Below we explain the importance of sound and music at your restaurant, ways to curate the ideal restaurant music playlist, and how to procure a music license for your restaurant.

Why Is Restaurant Music Important?

friends enjoying drinks at a bar

Restaurant music is important because it has the potential to raise guests’ satisfaction, and certain music has been shown to increase sales.

The Perfect Restaurant Music Playlist Creates Your Unique Ambiance

A restaurant is largely memorable and enjoyable because of its particular ambiance. The way each restaurant piques the senses and emotions helps indicate the overall atmosphere. The taste of the food, the kindness of a server, and the aesthetics of the room all should combine to translate a cohesive brand. Sound and music are an important part of your design and can enhance (or greatly detract from) your restaurant’s feel.

Tips to Create the Perfect Restaurant Music Playlist

restaurant music playlist

Having a great restaurant playlist is another component of your interior design, and it requires careful thought and attentiveness. Below we provide you with tips for playing music in your restaurant.

  1. Match it with your brand. This is the most important aspect of creating an effective restaurant playlist.
  2. Make your playlist long, or update your playlist frequently. Staff members and guests who come back will appreciate the variety.
  3. Keep it dynamic. Songs that match your intended ambiance don’t all need to sound the same. Switch up the genre, band, and tempo.
  4. Alter your music based on the time of day. Divide your playlist into different energy levels, or create a few different playlists.
  5. Breakfast - Calm, uplifting sound

    Brunch and Lunch - Slightly more energetic songs

    Happy Hour - Lively music

    Dinner - A dynamic mix

    Late Evening - Increasingly upbeat

  6. Don’t play music too loudly. If you or your guests have to raise voices to be heard, it’s too loud. You can also get an app to measure the decibel (dB) levels. Conversation and music combined should not reach over 70 or 80 dB, otherwise guests will have a hard time hearing one another. It can also lead to hearing loss over time.
  7. Increase the volume if there are more guests. Humans absorb around .3 dB on average, so you’ll want to alter or decrease the volume accordingly.
  8. Play slow tempo music to encourage guests to linger. If you’re not trying to turn tables at a certain point in the evening, slower music can encourage diners to stick around, potentially ordering a dessert or extra drink before leaving.
  9. Play up-tempo music to turn over tables. Faster music can make guests feel like more time has passed than it actually has, leading to increased table turnover.
  10. Consider partnering with music experts. Consult musicians, composers, and other qualified people to help you curate a playlist. You can also reach out to companies that specialize in optimizing music for restaurants:
    • Gray V
    • Soundtrack Your Brand by Soundtrack Business
    • Rockbot
  11. Investigate music services. Find pre-made playlists or create your own with these music services. If using them, you’ll want to make sure you have the proper business account option.
    • Spotify has a number of restaurant-specific music playlists. Alternatively, play the Spotify radio of a song, artist, or album that expresses your brand well.
    • Pandora radio enables you to play music related to an artist or certain song that communicates your ambiance.

Music License for Restaurants

music copyright law

A music license grants permission to use copyrighted music in certain contexts, such as a bar, restaurant, or retail store. This is also thought of as a public performance license and is regulated by Performance Rights Organizations (PRO's).

Music licenses support the artists whose music you are playing at your bar or restaurant. Having the proper licenses for your restaurant is important to avoid legal issues and extra fees. If your restaurant plays unlicensed music, federal penalties range from $750 to $30,000.

How to Get a Restaurant Music License

Below are the main options to legally play music in your restaurant. Unfortunately, personal subscriptions to streaming services do not count.

  1. Pay a Performance Rights Organization (PRO). These organizations serve as a middleman between music users and performers, ensuring artists are compensated for their work. Licensing fees are dependent upon the type of venue, physical size, and seating capacity. Here are a few of the most prominent PRO's.
    • ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers)
    • BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.)
    • SESAC (originally the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers, though today has expanded its reach to U.S. artists)
  2. Pay a Music Solutions Service. Get a business account from a streaming service, or pay a company that focuses on tailoring music playlists for your unique restaurant concept and brand. These options are licensed for businesses and include PRO fees. These services typically pay the fees on your behalf, and you pay the company. Below are some examples of music solutions services.
    • Jukeboxy
    • Gray V
    • Soundtrack Your Brand by Soundtrack Business
    • Rockbot
    • Pandora for Business

To create a pleasing experience for your guests who will want to come back, playing music at your restaurant that expresses your brand is essential. The volume and tempo should also be carefully thought through to create a seamless sound experience for guests. When chosen wisely, restaurant background music has the potential to enhance your ambiance and raise your sales.

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