Music and consumer behaviour

The theme of this Thursday’s Empirical Music Research Colloquium was Music and Consumer Behaviour. We had a presentation by Sam Down (his brief below) and also progress reports by Sanna Toivola and Saara Kuukka.

Sanna’s project is about background music in supermarkets. She ran a small survey in Citymarket, asking people leaving the store, whether they thought there was background music in the market or not. They even turned off the music for a couple of hours to see if people are better in recognising the absence of music than the presence of it. Preliminary results indicate that indeed, the absence of music is more salient, whereas people don’t seem to notice the music while it’s on.

Saara’s project is about gender and music in tv ads. She has collected lots of tv ads, some aimed for women, some for men; most were “neutral” or difficult to classify. She wants to see if there are differences in the music in men’s and women’s ads.

After the presentations, we had a lively discussion about the various topics and themes related to this issue. One of the things that came up was Muzak, the original elevator music company. We were talking about how they and the whole business of piped music has changed a lot recently. And more changes to come: Muzak Holdings LLC filed for bankrupcy just this week.

Sam’s brief about his project, Effect of tempo of background music on duration of stay in a café:

My Master’s Thesis project is to investigate how the duration of customers’ visits to a café / bar are affected by the tempo of the background music. This project has gone through various stages of development to get to this stage – previously the aim had been to use some timbre features, but tempo was eventually settled on because it is easier to distinguish with public sound systems.
Previous research has suggested that tempo of background music affects the speed of activity (for example drinking a drink, selecting an item from a menu) and also the amount paid for items. Based on this, it could be possible that faster tempo music will result in a shorter duration of stay, however this is not necessarily the case, as if faster tempo music is generally preferred, it may cause customers to stay longer and buy more drinks. For this reason, spending data will be taken too. It is possible that a survey to establish customer enjoyment of the visit and of the music will be collected, but this is not yet settled.
The method used will be to observe a particular area of the selected venue (Hemingway’s in Jyväskylä) and note the time of arrival and departure of customers who occupy this area. The average duration of stay can then be calculated for two conditions – fast tempo and slow tempo. The existing musical selection of the venue will be used, and tracks that fit the fast or slow condition will be selected from this and put into playlists. Each playlist will be played (on shuffle) for 3 hours per day, for 5 days at a regulated volume. The pilot study suggested that there should be about 20-30 complete arrival-departures per day, meaning 200-300 individual pieces of data. The average duration and range of durations of stay for each condition will then be compared.

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