It seems like every store and restaurant you go to now, is playing some kind of upbeat mainstream music as you enter their domain. Many retail stores and restaurants have upgraded from merely playing a radio station with commercials, to a fixed loop of songs that will repeat until you can hear them playing in your head weeks later. Some of the regional and smaller businesses still use the old-fashioned local radio station to provide customers an easy distraction. While shopping to music causes their customers to forget about time and feel more eager to part with their sacred greenbacks, do you ever wonder who chooses the playlist and why? What does this music really tell us about the people in control of the songs that are shoved down our throats as we shop, eat, and attempt to enjoy this time with others? I think above all else, we have to remember that most corporations in America are still controlled by white males over the age of 40, who are only concerned with what they feel comfortable listening to, or what their mostly white advisers feel is “safe” for “everyone” to listen to. Ironically, some of the reasons why we are forced to listen to these cheesy and inconsiderate playlists actually ends up causing them to make worse decisions.
Examples are that sometimes the music is completely outside of what the normal patrons would even consider listening to. Then there is the problem of playing something that is just as bad as what was intended to be avoided, but because of the lyrical phrasing, it causes concerns for families with children. Some I have a couple of suggestions and reasons about how to deal with this issue. Although these two suggestions might not be perfect, I know personally that some companies could truly benefit from this insight.
- Demographics – I believe it to be important to know your day-to-day customers, in order to determine what should be considered for whatever playlist is going to be selected for them. For example: if you have a business that primarily deals with elderly white consumers in a rural area, it probably would not be a great idea to play uncensored gangster music. On the flip side, if you have a business that serves primarily black customers, why would you continuously play 80’s rock music and/or country music? Knowing your customers, and making these accommodations could potentially cause your regulars coming back more and more, with guests. Obviously this in turn, will increase profits and word of mouth marketing. My personal experience is that I visited a Waffle House restaurant in North Carolina. What I noticed is that Waffle House, like other corporations have a pre-selected playlist, and that same playlist is played at all their locations. In a way, it’s an irresponsible, lazy and inconsiderate way of providing music for customers. What happens at about ninety percent of businesses with a pre-selected playlist, is that the music is based on what white people love to hear, and is not reflected by the demographics of a particular region or location of their locations. This in turn is saying thank you for your money, but we don’t care about your cultural differences. It says that only white people are important enough to cater to at that business. It’s a display of white supremacy and white privilege through the speakers.
- Family friendly double standards – There is a long-lasting myth that country music and soft rock is somehow more family friendly than R&B muisc, or even hiphop inspired music forms. Maybe this is a continuing hysteria from the 1950’s and 1960’s and the fear of the sex crazed black race, but it simply is not true. Over and over again, there are country songs that make it to the top of the billboards that are just as sexually suggestive and condoning of criminal activity. Need proof? There is another myth that all hip hop and R&B is centered around sex, and that country/rock music is completely innocent in this area, again this is not true. There are plenty of country songs such as: Honky Tonk Badonkadonk, by Trace Adkins; Must Be Doin Somethin Right, by Billy Currington; Let’s Make Love, by Faith Hill and Tim McGraw; Come A Little Closer, by Dierks Bentley; Your Man, by Josh Turner; Red Ragtop, by Tim McGraw; Save A Cowboy, by Big And Rich; and Beers Ago, by Toby Keith. Want a list of country songs about doing drugs, here we go: Cocaine Blues, by Johnny Cash; Weed Instead of Roses, by Ashley Monroe; Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die, by Willie Nelson; High Cost of Living, by Jamey Johnson; I’m Gettin Stoned, by Eric Church; Long Haired Country Boy, by Charlie Daniels Band; Follow Your Arrow, by Kacey Musgraves; Get High, by Brandy Clark; Toes, by the Zac Brown Band; and the infamous Family Tradition, by Hank Williams Jr. Clearly I could go on and on with a list of songs in country music that are just as bad or worse than hip hop and R&B music.
My suggestions for these potential problems would be very easy in nature, and that is to either have the customers do a survey, printed on the receipt like most companies do already. The other suggestion would be for the manager to spend real-time in their place of business and take note of the customers and ask them first hand, and see if the music is appropriate for their taste. In the process you might even improve customer service, and gain more loyal customers. Again, communication and an open mind to other cultures can go a long way, and build better relationships. Hopefully this will create some positive changes somewhere in this great country of ours.