Music and Our Brains
Sound and music are powerful. Think of the sound of ocean waves rolling into the shore. What song was playing the first time you slow-danced? Chances are both of these immediately brought back memories. You were transported to another place and another time.
Much research has been done about the power of music and rhythm on attitudes and behaviors. Most athletes have a personalized playlist of songs that get them ready for competition. Music, like scent, bypasses the logic centers of our brains and activates the limbic system of the brain. More specifically, the music we like activates the pleasure centers of the brain, triggering the release of dopamine. Dopamine is the pleasure chemical of the brain and is responsible for reinforcing behaviors the body finds pleasurable like sex, a slice of pizza, or hanging out in your place of business.
Tempo and Revenue
In addition to the studies on dopamine release stimulate by music we enjoy, much research has been done on the tempo of the music and its affect on mood and pace. A now famous study conducted by Ronald E. Milliman in the 1980's and verified once again in 2011 showed a direct correlation between gross retail sales in a supermarket and the beats per minute (BPM) of the music played in the store. Milliman was able to improve sales by 38 percent by playing slower tempo music. People who linger longer, take their time, and spend more money.
While a slower tempo playlist can improve sales in retail environments, in businesses where turn-over is key, you want a faster, driving tempo. This is why most restaurants have a different playlist for lunch than they do for dinner. The lunch service window is much narrower than the evening dinner window. The faster tempo subconsciously encourages a faster pace of ordering, eating, and leaving resulting in more table turns.
Another important aspect of soundscape design is the mood you are trying to create in your venue. This should be closely tied to its purpose as well. For instance, a coffee shop is a much different environment than a retail shop for men's suits. It's important to look past your personal preferences and focus on the end-results you are wanting to achieve. Mood is created by both the genre and the lyrics of the music played in the venue.
The following is from an article by Ashford University on the subject of music and its affect on the brain.
Classical - Tends to enhance dopamine secretion & synaptic function, learning, and memory.
Heavy Metal - Sense of identity and building of communities
Rap - Stimulation of emotion, language, motivation, motor function, and processing via "flow state"
Pop/Rock - Improves endurance & enhances physical performance
Jazz - Soothes the body