Music sells! Especially in-store sounds have a big impact on the customer’s psyche and buying decisions. Sportswear International talked to in-store music expert Rob van Rozendaal, who founded his agency The Music Marketeers 20 years ago. With its headquarters in Amsterdam and satellite offices in Germany, Spain, Poland and Hong Kong, The Music Marketeers provide in-store music and entertainment concepts for clients from different industries. Adidas, Levi’s, Asics, C&A, Benetton, Esprit and s.Oliver are among its fashion clients.

Why is music in stores so important?
It’s nice to entertain people, but music can also do much more. In fashion, music serves two purposes. One is to make people feel at home and the second is to represent the brand. Outside fashion – at a supermarket, for example – there’s no branding aspect because you just use the music to make customers feel good and stay longer. That’s the main goal in a supermarket. At the bank, on the other hand, music isn’t played to entertain or to brand, but to negate silence – to give people the feeling that they’re not alone, but secure. Thus, when a client comes to us our first step is to always analyse a brand in its totality to understand what purpose the music will serve.

Can you explain the packages you have on offer?
Generally we deliver the hardware that is needed to play the music because we prefer to use our own. It’s a little box that allows us to stream music directly from a data center and the technical equipment guarantees that the music will always be playing. More and more clients have been asking us to take care of the whole music installation process from A to Z with amplifiers, speakers, etc. For this we’ve set up a separate division in our company that has proven very practical in terms of problems because we now have ways to check where the problem is located. Our goal is to always be able to solve our client’s problems.

But you offer more than just music.
What’s become really important – due mainly to the economic crisis and also to fashion brands – are commercials. 60-70% of our clients play commercials in addition to the music. That’s when we start calling it in-store radio. If multi-brand shops play commercials for a specific brand from their assortment, they often get paid – a way of making their in-store radio free or much cheaper. The good thing about in-store radio is that it is ''always on.'' If you promote a t-shirt on a shelf, the client has to look at the shelf to see it. If you play a commercial, everyone will always hear it, whether someone is in the changing room or at the other end of the shop. Ears are always open. The funny thing is that it has been an overlooked method of communication for a long time.

So it’s very forward thinking to have an in-store radio channel?
Yes. People know that brands want to communicate with them. They’re used to it because of social media and the like. Thus the consumer is also accepting of this when it happens in a shop via the in-store radio channel.

Let’s talk about the music itself. Can you explain the different psychological effects that musical styles, rhythms or tempos might have?
There are some general rules about volume. For instance, music should never overstep 80 decibels. If you want to make people comfortable, you have to stay in the range of the human heartbeat and never overstep 120 bpm (beats per minute), at least. However, in fashion those general rules sometimes do not apply. There are shops that play music incredibly loud – Abercrombie & Fitch, for example. But this fits their concept; that’s their brand. One thing’s for sure – if you play your music at that kind of volume you’re sure to scare away people of a certain age, which can sometimes be a goal in itself to make the younger customer feel more comfortable. You can play with those rules in fashion. A supermarket definitely can’t do that!

Are there any rules about vocals?
It depends. In a bank you don’t play vocals. You do, however, want to play recognizable music, because recognition makes people feel more comfortable. You need to find compromises. In fashion it doesn’t matter if you play vocal or non-vocal. Music has to fit with the image of the brand, the employees and the interior.

How does music influence consumer behaviour?
There have been thousands of reports written on the effects of in-store music, but we don’t trust research alone. We collect data and pick out what we feel is right. Generally, you can say that people stay longer in a store when they like the music. And when people stay longer, they buy more. Sometimes they even buy more expensive products if they feel as though they’re in a really sophisticated environment. This has been proven in wine shops, for example. People don’t necessarily buy more wine, but they do buy more exclusive bottles when classical music is played. And they tend to buy more wines from the territory where the music comes from. For instance, if you play Spanish music, they buy more Spanish wine.

To avoid earworms­, which length do you recommend for playlists?
Happy personnel make for happy clients. Staff that’s fed up with the music or is bored of it loses its motivation. So we generally advise that a playlist have a length of at least one week. If it restarts, it should always be on shuffle, because the second time people hear music in a certain order they start to recognize that order. Playing music in a surprising way shortens the time. If you have a one-week-long playlist you can of course choose certain songs to be repeated at a higher frequency, but the song that follows should always be different.

Are there geographical differences? Should the music in a Levi’s Store in Poland be similar to one in France?
In general, if we’re talking about chain stores, the music style stays the same, meaning the basic playlist is the same. Often we add local music from the country in question, but we have to be careful. French music in the Dutch part of Belgium, for example, would not be acceptable. In China, however, they love everything that’s mainly European or American. Since many Chinese brands are set up in a way that makes them look western, they also play western music to push the international image and avoid playing Chinese music.

Where do you get the music? Do you manage the legal side for your clients?
There are two kinds of rights. One is what’s called public performance, which generally has to be paid by the location or by the store itself because they use music to attract customers. The height of the fee depends on the size of the shop. This is something we are generally not allowed to get involved in. We as the Music Marketeers pay a fee to distribute the music. We have the rights for most territories in the world.

You really have to keep up to date, especially for your fashion clients. How do you manage to stay informed about the latest music trends?
We work with people we call music architects or music managers. They follow the trends, as they are involved in music on an everyday basis. We have four people working on music full-time. They do nothing else other than find and select music for our database and add the music to our client channels. On top of that, we also work with DJs.

Talking about DJs – is it important that the different tracks are mixed so that there’s no interruption between songs?
That depends on the volume. If the volume is quite low, then playing mixed music can be more important. This might sound strange but that’s because if music is played on a low level, the beginning and the end of a track is often very calm. That’s when you mix the music so that the customer doesn’t get the feeling of silence. On the other hand, when fast music is played track after track some mixing may give a bit more peace – sometimes people need pauses, too.

What does your database look like? Is it divided into different categories?
We don’t talk in categories; we go by channels and compilations. A compilation has 50-100 tracks, a channel 1000. We don’t divide music into genres. Instead, the most important thing is that the tracks fit together. Sometimes a jazz track fits much better with a soul track than with another jazz track. It’s always good to have a theme to start with – then you can mix pop, dance and even jazz all together.

What are fashion store managers’ favorite music styles at the moment?
Young people love electronic pop with influences from the eighties and nineties. David Guetta and similar commercial artists are big in this sector.

Read more about music meets fashion in our brandnew magazine issue 244 MUSIC MEETS FASHION or on our IPAD VERSION!