No one is surprised to hear that sights, sounds and smells can spark instant association and alter our feelings. Think of some of the most popular smells, like cut grass or coconut.

The same is true of music: we all know our favourite songs, and often we associate them with a particular time and how that made us feel.


Brands spend lots of time and money getting their image right. Their name, logo, colours and imagery and even tone of voice and the words they use make an impact on who buys and how much they spend. It follows then that the music you play in your store will also make a difference. If your target demographic is generally a 20-something man and you sell urban clothing, playing opera music is at odds with the rest of the image and will subconsciously turn off your potential buyers. Be careful not to miss the mark, because getting the atmospherics right can have a greater impact on your sales than the price or product themselves.


Noise is term branding experts and marketers use to mean more than volume alone. It covers ‘clutter’ and the number of different messages consumers are exposed to. Of course, it does apply to music as well, and once you’ve chosen the right music, playing it too loudly can undo all the good. It becomes just more noise.

Luxury department store Harvey Nichols has been using music to their benefit, and companies like can help you get a similar effect for your business by matching background music to your brand and target audience.

As a general rule, music shouldn’t be so loud that you’re consciously aware of it. People will be put off browsing if the music is overpowering. This can work to your advantage, though, if you want customers in and out quickly and volume has not been shown to affect sales volume. Tempo might have a bigger impact there: people listening to fast-tempo music will move through the store quicker and may not spend as much. Those listening to a slower tempo will themselves move slower and might be more inclined to add more to their basket.

Of course, whilst it is possible to influence people’s behaviour with sound, it is not possible to guarantee an increase in sales.