Archive for January 19th, 2013

January 19, 2013


Because I work as a full-time composer, I listen to music — my own and other people’s music — for many hours daily. As such, I am sensitive to music overload, especially when the music is just too loud or distracting. For example, it’s a turn-off when I’m in a restaurant, trying to have a conversation with my family or friends and we can’t hear each other because of loud and/or strange music.

This happened to me very recently. I won’t name the pizza restaurant, here in Reno, but what could have been a pleasant lunch experience was marred by the fact that the staff was playing very loud, dissonant, electronic music — almost like something you’d hear in a horror movie. It was highly irritating and it made me feel as though the cooks and servers really didn’t care about pleasing their customers. In fact, they seemed grouchy that day and maybe were foisting their music on customers as a form of passive aggression.

By contrast, the right kind of music in a restaurant or retail store puts diners or shoppers in a happy or relaxed mood — hopefully, so happy or relaxed that they’ll want to stay longer and spend more money, rather than being anxious to leave.

Ever notice yourself walking around a Trader Joe’s or Safeway store and grooving to the music they’re playing? Often, it’s the kind of upbeat pop or rock music that appeals to several generations, whether it’s Queen, Duran Duran or Earth Wind and Fire.

In a lot of coffee shops or upscale restaurants, jazz or retro cocktail music is popular — it has a cool, sophisticated vibe and doesn’t detract from the ability to chat with your companions.

In my current position as a composer and sound designer at IGT, I am always cognizant of the need to consider the target audience for each project. Sometimes the music I’m asked to compose is not my favorite style, but I “get” that it’s my job to entertain our customers in a way that makes them comfortable or excited about using our products. I still get some playful ribbing from co-workers about a project where I had to work on disco music. It resulted in a nickname of “Disco Duane,” but in the end, it’s okay because I feel confident that the people who play that IGT game will have a great experience that will inspire them to come back for more.

Now if only certain local businesses would stop to ponder this concept and how much more successful they could be, if they set out to make their customers feel better about their day! Little things mean a lot, even the background music when you’re shopping for groceries or taking a lunch break.