It’s easy to dismiss the impact of background music on a meal, but think of it this way: If you had just settled in for a romantic dinner and death metal started playing, you might consider taking your business elsewhere. Yes, this example is a bit over the top, but it proves that music certainly can make a difference – to the point where a cottage industry for choosing proper dining playlists has sprung up. One of these companies even says a study proved it can boost a restaurant’s bottom line by over 9 percent.
Soundtrack Your Brand (SYB) may have a name that sounds a bit on the nose, but the Swedish company that was co-founded by Spotify in 2013 has garnered serious support. As recently as last month, the business built around providing other businesses with the best possible in-store background music received an additional $22 million in funding, meaning investors have now dumped about $40 million into the company.
So what’s all the fuss about? To hear SYB tell it, you’re throwing money away by not hiring them. The company’s playlists were recently used in a study, conducted at a popular American restaurant that very well may have been McDonald’s, researching how music affected customers spending habits. Four playlists were reportedly put to the test: a mix of hits and lesser known songs, all tailored to fit the brand; a selection of only the hits but still with the brand in mind; a random group of tunes; and no music at all. Using no music as the baseline, random music hurt sales by 4.3 percent, whereas the tailored mix of hits and lesser known tunes boosted sales by 4.8 percent, a net difference of over 9 percent. (Interestingly, only playing the hits resulted in just a 1.2 percent boost. SYB suggests playing only popular music can be too noticeable or distracting.) The study’s overall message: If you’re leaving your music to chance, you’re leaving money on the table.
Also notable was the effect playlists had on certain types of purchases. In particular, sales of desserts saw an overall difference in sales of 15.6 percent, which the study suggests shows that people stay longer when they’re happy with the background music. “The subconscious is very critical,” Soundtrack Your Brand co-founder Ola Sars, who formerly helped found Beats Music, told Quartz. Sven-Olov Daunfeldt, the professor who led the research, agreed that music may be more important than we think. “It’s a highly underutilized area, and it’s very important for businesses to try to tell consumers who they are by the music they play,” he said. “I think this is the coolest research I’ve done.”
It sounds like there was at least one professor who really dug the playlists too.