Bad Audio and Where To Find It

17 April 2023

What standards do brands put in place when they launch a new store?

Do they ask for it to be decorated with “some paint”? Or do they ask for it to be decorated with very specific colours of paint to very specific patterns?

Do they order “some shelves” to hold the stock? Or are the shelves carefully selected to hold and show off the merchandise in the best way possible?

Do they order “some signs” for the front of the store? Or are the signs carefully selected to demonstrate the brand and what can be found in-store?

What is on the digital displays? “Some pictures” or images that have been poured over for hours to decide which ones will hit the shopper the best?

And the music… how many take the same care with their music?

Not enough. If you want to hear bad music, head down your nearest high street. You won’t have to go too far to find it.

In our most recent assessment of music on the high street, a worryingly high number of stores felt like they had music that was there for the sake of “playing some music”

“Have we got some music to play?” “Yeah, box ticked, let’s move on.”

Music is an art form loved by nearly everyone. Music can change someone’s state of mind in a few seconds. Music can be warm, welcoming, upbeat, energising or make you feel really cool.

But if you don’t give it enough love it can be… just some music. And if you’re happy with “just some music”, there’s a danger you’ll end up with the opposite effects, music that is cold, unwelcoming, demoralising and naff.

In one store, selling bright and vibrant sports clothes, the walls were adorned by images of sporing icons. Each picture showed someone athletic, toned and straining every sinew to hit their life goals. This rousing sight was accompanied by a mournful song where the singer was complaining about how lonely she was since the love of her life had left her. Inspiring stuff.

This clash of badly chosen music and the retail environment it was playing in is replicated in too many places.

It’s notable that many of the stores we thought had a poor music experience are the ones we regularly read about having a hard time financially.

I’m not suggesting that playing great music suddenly transforms you in a massively profitable company. I am asking, what is it about these lacklustre performers that leads to them playing bad music?

Is it cheap? If so, is it the right place to cut corners? Music in a store is the one constant. It’s there when the customer walks through the door, browses stock and queues for the till. Even when your branding, wall art and digital displays are out of sight, your music is still there.

Do they have other priorities or more important things to consider? Perhaps, but music is music, playing great music shouldn’t be hideously pricier than playing bad music – you just need to care about getting it right. Love your music as much, if not more, than those other elements. Remember music, good or bad, surrounds you like the air.

Or is it a wider issue? Do these brands not really know who they are or what they should be doing? Are these brands so unsure of themselves that this shows through in music that is designed to tick a box and no more?

Where we found good music, it was often part of a much sharper mix in-store – bold visuals, great lighting and a brand that knew what it wanted to sound like as much as it knew what it wanted to look like.

We know bad audio and where to find it, and if you want to understand how to avoid it, get in touch below.

Written by Euan McMorrow – Content Director at AVC Immedia.

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