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Starbucks' music is driving employees nuts (cbc.ca)
232 points by colinprince 29 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 304 comments



They modernized the gas pumps at our local Speedway by adding video players. Instead of news like I've seen in California they play endless commercials and the volume is loud.

I remember stopping one time when it was twenty below zero this winter, no one was at the pumps and the same commercial was playing and not a single pump's sound was in sync with another. I felt like I was in a movie about a dystopian future.


It's a form of pollution, really - and a sign that there are a set of perverse incentives which can cause it.

Somewhere out there, advertisers are paying dollars for those commercials, and in many cases no-one is listening, or worse - it's causing active irritation to the people who are.

If you think of the commercials as oil, and the speaker systems and infrastructure as pipelines, then cases like this where commercials are on incessant loop are like an unbridled oil spill.

Unfortunately, many advertisers likely aren't metric-savvy enough to realize they're being scammed and not getting a return on their investment; the folks selling the airtime likely take a skim of their deals and use it to wine and dine the advertisers' own staff.

Purchase and persuade one or two layers of staff and management, and you're unlikely to get too much organizational pushback.

Instead, there should be costs placed on the measurable negative externalities here: the stress caused to people who experience this noise pollution, the devaluation of the otherwise quiet, productive environments it seeps into, and the opportunity cost from the resources wasted on building the infrastructure to make it possible in the first place.


I found a mute button behind the screens. I got so mad, I muted every TV thing in the gas station.

Visuals you can look away from. Audio is a form of torture.

I really appreciate Costco gas stations for their no bullshit, pay money, fill gas strategy.


Visuals you can look away from. Audio is a form of torture.

Kind of like an open plan office, you mean.


Usually one of the unlabeled buttons on either side of the screen will also mute it. Just press them all until the sound stops.


I find accidentally pouring a drink into the speaker(s) seems to solve the problem too, but I wouldn't recommend it.


> I felt like I was in a movie about a dystopian future.

Actually, you're in the dystopian future itself, it's just that "it's unevenly distributed." https://duckduckgo.com/?q=Future+unevenly+distributed&t=fpas...

The movie will come later.


> The movie will come later.

Assuming they'll still make movies afterwards.


That's a nonsense phrase. None of the Google results say anything meaningful about it. Care to elaborate on what you mean?


Which phrase? That the future is "unevenly distributed"?

It's from a well-known Gibson quote. Using it the way a3n did is the hacker equivalent of a literary reference, easily recognisible to the well read.

Although in this case, it's simple enough to understand just by reading. Disengage google. Engage self.


Cool so maybe answer the question instead of suggesting that other posters aren't well-read? This isn't Metafilter.


Ever seen someone hold up a piece of technology and say "this is the future?" What did they mean?

Did they mean that they were holding in their hand, somehow, the actual future? That their hand was in tomorrow? No, they did not. What they meant was that the item they were holding would become commonplace in the future.

Think of a technology that became widespread from small beginnings. Let's use electricity as our example. There was a time when electricity was only available to the consumer in some large cities. One could have then said that electricity was the future. When people said that, did they mean that electricity had someone traveled back in time? No, they did not. What they meant was that in the future, electricity would be more commonplace, more widespread. In that situation, in some places - place with freely available electricity - the future had already arrived. In some places - places without freely available electricity - the future had not yet arrived. The future was unevenly distributed.

This isn't Metafilter.

It is Hacker News, though. Expecting people hanging around Hacker News to be familiar with some of the Hacker canon and culture isn't unrealistic.


You don’t see these in Canada but I am always flabberghasted by them while in the US. I noticed that holding my finger over the tiny speaker hole greatly reduced the volume, and I resolved to carry a roll of duct tape with me so I could do some public service next time I had to deal with them.


I agree they are abhorrent and I'd prefer if they were banned.

From a practical perspective, try pressing the second button down on the right. This will mute on most models.


At the gas station that I went to, I tried every single button and none of them muted it. I don't go to that gas station anymore.


One time I tried pressing all the buttons to mute it, and one of the silently called an attendant. None of them even muted it.


Endorsed by Stephen Fry https://pipedown.org.uk/


I've seen several with chewing gum embedded in the holes. That seems to work too.


Don't. Otherwise you'll end up with a visit from law enforcement for tampering with the equipment.


Reminds me of Col. Bat Guano refusing to shoot the Coca-Cola machine so Col. Mandrake can call the President.

"Okay. I'm gonna get your money for ya. But if you don't get the President of the United States on that phone, you know what's gonna happen to you? You're gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola company."


Except he didn’t tamper with anything


Uhm, I know? But he did state the intent to do so, and I just said it would be a bad idea as they will likely call the cops on him.

At least in my country you'll get into trouble if you tear down billboards, alter advertisement panels/electronics and alike.


Heaven forbid one to employ civil disobedience, or even to take non-destructive steps, in order to tamp down offensive, irritating aspects of daily life.


You have no idea how important you are. If you’re reading this, you are the resistance.


I ran into a pump in MI last summer that wouldn't even turn on until it finished playing the first 30 second commercial. Eventually, I could start pumping but it continued to play obnoxious ads throughout. I won't be filling up there anymore.


Just wait until they start adding cameras that detect whether you're actually looking at the commercial or not, and pause the commercial when you're not paying attention.

I'd link to the relevant Black Mirror episode, but I'm sure we've all seen it.


Ha, "pause the video"... What you meant to say was "pause the video and gas".

> Dear <CUSTOMER NAME>,

> Your gas filling experience has been subsidized by our advertising partners (though of course the price went up 10% because we have to build tech to support this), as a result we are currently unable to supply gasoline while the pump based advertising is not being observed. You may contact your local gas station attendant but sadly due to our desire to comply with <HIPAA/other unrelated regulation> they will be unable to abort the ad servicing. Please be aware that the Terms of Service for this pump may change without warning and that by using our gas pump you have agreed to purchase at least one item featured in the advertising roll - failure to do so will be considered a breach of contract and may result in a fine of up to $100,000.

> Here at Friendly Gas we're all about maximizing the value to the customer!

> Thank you for your service,

> John Smith, Friendly Gas CEO

And... it might be a bit hard to enforce the breach of contract portion, but pretty sure everything else in that is legal in today's world.


"Please drink verification can."


like with Microsoft Windows solitaire for Windows 10


The monitors have 8 buttons, 4 on each side, the top button on the right side is mute.

source: learned by mashing all of those buttons in blind rage trying to get it to stop.


On all the pumps near me, the second from the top on the right side mutes the video. Some gas station attendants or kind customers thought to write "Mute" on the button in sharpie, and I encourage everyone to do the same.


I ran into one at a Phillips 66 yesterday where the (hidden) mute button silenced all the video clips except the ads.

I was not happy.


I wouldn't condone vandalism -- despite however justified you may feel it is, plus it would have the opposite effect: I don't want whoever create those demon machines to know we know where the mute button is.


Vandalism is actually cool and good, especially when employed in the fight against these ridiculous intrusions into attention and minds.


This is why I would suggest a baseball bat rather than pointing out where "mute" is. Bonus: effective against the angry property owner as well!


One near me has a 7 second VHS clip (you can see the tracking lines) on repeat, which is just a "stretch exercise" with muzak playing.

And I wish I was exaggerating. Seven seconds.


That sounds like a value-add.


They have these at the station I use along my commute. I also find it quite annoying.

Pro tip I came across online a bit back: pressing one of the buttons on the right will mute the screen. In my experience the button one down from the top on the right works.


On the pumps near me it's on the right, one button up from the bottom. Rather annoying that they (intentionally, I can only assume) are not labeled or give any other indication of their function. One station in my area keeps having to put new plexiglass covers over the video screens as people keep defacing/breaking them... I wonder why?


I refuse to get gas at places that play advertisements at me. I’m already overpaying for gas, why be greedy?


Would love to hear your personal reasoning you feel you're overpaying for gasoline, in the context of your demand for it.


They seem to have themselves confused with the internet, which is free. If I have to listen to ads, that means the gas is free.


Your customers payments for a service and other companies payments to deliver advertising material are completely independent processes. There's no reason to choose only one when you can choose both.


> They seem to have themselves confused with the internet, which is free.

"Free"

> If I have to listen to ads, that means the gas is free.

"Free"

Two subtly different but related (and debatable) definitions of the term.


Seems like the ideal place for Tesla to run ads.


I am familiar with the expression "no publicity is bad publicity" but... honestly pushing your product in these sorts of swill advertising venues seems like it's in danger of building up customer distrust and anger.


What if they made ad without any sound? Between loud ads it would be even more visible.


Customer wouldn't have had to stop there if they had an EV, I think is the point.


Yea still... "Try our product because we're great and we'll annoy the crap out of you until you do" might be a good way to mind-worm the advertising into someone but it doesn't exactly engender good will.

It's like one of those companies that feels the right to force a full page ad on websites that needs to stay up for x seconds, or requires some special user interaction. It is (very unfortunately) effective and making people remember your brand but people hate you for it.


> I felt like I was in a movie about a dystopian future.

or, go to a random non-high-end department store or supermarket in Japan. Every couple of meters there's a ghetto blaster advertising something with "background" music on full blast, while there is already loud background music from the store itself. Extreme levels of cacophony and one of the couple of things I hate about that place with a passion.


That sounds like the Black Mirror episode: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifteen_Million_Merits



-20 Fahrenheit or Celsius? That could easily be a scene in a horror film.


Sounds like the scenes in the `Dark Forest`.


I experienced this working in retail during the holiday season back when I was in college. The little bell intro to Mariah Carey's "All I want for Christmas is You", will forever haunt my dreams. I rarely listen to Christmas music anymore because of that experience.

Nowadays, I get irritated when I've burned through a 2 hour playlist twice at work and need to find something else to listen to, but I totally take the ability to change my music for granted.


I was once in charge of the electronics department for a retail store, except for whatever music my bosses wanted to have playing over the speakers. It was one CD with a mix of pop and hip hop. They never would change it, so I decided to commandeer the stereo as I just couldn't handle the repetition anymore. I played new music we got in, both alternative and what was popular. The customers seemed fine with it, and I was happy.

They did not like this. For whatever reason, which they refused to explain to me, they insisted I played their stupid mix that had been playing for months. As I was given no good reason, and was paid minimum wage, I just kept doing my thing and playing newer and better music.

One day I showed up and they had duct-taped the lid of the CD tray to the stereo so no one could open it with a note in all caps saying "DO NOT CHANGE THE CD IN THIS STEREO". I promptly went to the hardware aisle, got a box cutter, and sliced that son'bitch open, this time chucking their CD in the garbage, and continued on being DJ.

They gave up after that. lol And surprisingly they didn't fire me, even though they could have easily replaced me with some younger kid who would have done whatever they wanted.

But I quit soon after since the holidays had come and I knew I was going to have to play "Jingle Bells Rock" a thousand times, and I knew I couldn't really get out of that.

When my boss asked me why I was quitting, I said "I found a better job."


> They did not like this. For whatever reason, which they refused to explain to me, they insisted I played their stupid mix that had been playing for months.

Could licensing have been the reason? Not sure about the US, but in Europe, you frequently need a separate license to play songs in stores, bars or really any kind of public venue. I imagine this is probably even stricted in the US. So the crappy mix might have been the only thing they had bothered buying licenses for - and they might have been afraid to get sued when playing anything else.

I still can feel the pain though, and I have no idea why the bosses didn't even bother to give a reason. So I guess quitting was the best thing to do.


That's probably the reason if corporate were asked, and I probably would have understood if they told me. The 18 year old me took my boss's "because I say so" attitude as a reason to be defiant.

My main boss was pretty miserable but loved ordering people around like he was the king. He once tried to convince me to go to a conference about cell phones, on my own time and my own money, because... I don't know, I guess he thought I needed to know more about the devices I was selling. I never had problems selling phones to people or helping people with issues, so of course I didn't do it.


It could well have been, but the reality is that most middle managers have no idea why such decisions are taken and just try to assert them mindlessly using their managerial authority. People like that aren't worth the trouble it takes to deal with.


The term middle manager in any low-wage, high-churn corporate retail environment is a joke.

Because why would you empower someone to fix problems, when you can give them just enough authority to act as a glorified day care overseer and only pay them a couple bucks more than their employees?


A friend of mine made more money from licensing a single song to Armani stores than he made from the entire rest of his sales put together.


Now that you've pointed out that this process exists, I'm super intrigued to hear the playlists of different stores and compare that with the brand image of said stores.

Maybe if I like 'x' brand, I'll also enjoy their store playlist... could be the key to finding lots of great music.


Maybe if I like 'x' brand, I'll also enjoy their store playlist... could be the key to finding lots of great music.

It actually is. My wife has the sort of job where she spends a lot of time in high-end retail stores, and at that level the music is very important so she's very aware of it.

It's not just selecting the right music, but making sure your company isn't playing the same songs as the competition.

CBS Sunday Morning had a nice long piece about this last year.


I stayed at the W hotel in Chicago on a business trip once years ago. The music sampler they provided was like listening to some mix made from my wife's playlist. So yeah, I don't plan to take her to the W, or that will be the only place suitable for the rest of my life. It's pricey and they have expensive stores all around it.


Sort of ironically given the linked article's subject, Starbucks used to take music very seriously, to the point of selling CDs in store, setting up CD burning kiosks, and even running their own record label in partnership with jazz/folk label Concord. (There were even standalone Hear Music stores for a few brief years.)

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/02/st...


https://archive.org/details/attentionkmartshoppers - not quite what you're after but fascinating nonetheless.


I happen to own an oddity in a CD form called Pottery Barn Mix. Mostly jazz/lounge remixes, similar to Verve Remixed. It is really quite nice... except for the disk title :)


I actually often go to one chain because I always pick up one or two nice new songs while shopping, and I like their clothes.


I agree it could have been a licensing thing. ASCAP representatives have been well known to send shakedown letters to businesses that haven't paid their BMI/ASCAP dues, and lawsuits can be very very expensive.


> DO NOT CHANGE THE CD IN THIS STEREO

Reminds me of working in a big box electronics store during college. One day I answer the phone and the line sounds dead, but I say "hello" a few times and a woman finally acknowledges me and then goes on a long rant about what the world is coming to and she can't believe it. She eventually gets to her relevant question and I answer it. I didn't think too much of it because strange interactions with customers aren't all that rare.

A few hours later I answer another call and it's a teenage boy and he's just laughing but quickly acknowledges me and we sort out his problem. Again, didn't really think too much of it.

The third call I got was from the store manager. "Oh my god. What is going on over there?" "What do you mean?" "Nevermind, go check the hold music CD and change it to something else. Anything else." "Was that it?" "Ya". I go change the CD and carry on.

About an hour later the night shift restock crew comes in. A few minutes later one of them comes out and asks me if I had seen a CD he left in the warehouse CD player last night. My eyes open like I've seen a ghost and he's like, "What?"

The thing you have to know is that the night crew are all West African and they listen to the most hardcore gangster rap you've ever heard in your motherfucking life. The warehouse stereo he's talking about is actually for the store's PBX (phone system). It was in the back warehouse and there was a small bookshelf stereo system next to it with a CD player that was on loop to feed the hold music into the phone system.

After the store closes and the phones stop ringing, the night crew switches the CD to their music. Apparently someone had turned the volume down to take a phone call so they forgot that CD was still in the transport. The amp volume doesn't affect the line out volume so it was still feeding the phone system.

We laughed. Oh, we laughed so hard. Then I paged all the other employees over and told the story and they laughed too. The assistant manager laughed the hardest, then he went and called the store manager. He already knew of course.

The warehouse crew was no longer allowed to use the hold music stereo.


Now I want to know what they were listening to.


It was about 20 years ago, I wish I could remember the CD.


This makes me laugh out loud. Forced to listen to the same music is a form of torture. Glad you rebelled against that.


The way I remember it the store has to buy rebroadcast a license for each song.


I worked at a Macy's in college one holiday season, right across the aisle from the dancing santas that alternated their tinny versions of "rockin around the christmas tree" and "jingle bell rock". The tinny sounds on top of the general background muzak was extra-insanity-inducing. One day after being at work for 10 hours I got in my car and jingle bell rock came on and I totally broke down crying.

I've a lot of sympathy for retail people since then.


https://youtu.be/hTcfDX1NvMk?t=54 (i promise it's not jingle bell rock)


I worked at a toy store for a couple years and had to endure The Goof Troop movie on repeat all day as well as a toy crate at the counter that would vibrate and say “Excuse me!? Can you let me out of here!??” Just thinking about this toy now makes me feel a little sick.

But what I find interesting is back then you just put up with it. Awful repetition was just an accepted part of a minimum wage job then. Nowadays, we question everything. I do think our questioning is a good thing though.


I moved from the UK to Canada 20 years ago this September. Back in High School and University, I worked retail for about 5 years or so. By the time I left, I haaaaaated Christmas music. Couldn't stand it.

Now after 20 years in Canada, I really miss it. Nothing here is the same as it is in the UK when it comes to Christmas traditions. There's no carolers, the smells aren't the same, the shops aren't the same. Everything that made Christmas Christmas to me is missing. For everything I love about living in Canada, that's been the hardest thing about living here instead of where I grew up.

I actually have a Christmas playlist made up entirely of Christmas songs from when I was a kid to try and kick start my Christmas mood when the season rolls around :D


My children are in a primary school level 'English as a second language' program in Australia right now, and my son got a 'Spot's first Christmas' book to take home to read yesterday. So then I had to explain what 'Christmas carolers' are, and why they would be at Spot's door if they're only a thing on the other side of the world? And also - snow? In December, at the height of summer? So that quickly devolved into a long story on colonialism, British world dominance of yore, and what a 'pommy' is . Ah that Spot.


In December I took a trip to southern California, and it struck me as really bizarre to have these songs on local radio repeatedly mentioning snow when it was a relaxed 70°F (≈21°C) on Christmas Day.


Most of those stations transmit up into Big Bear where there is snow. But yeah, most snow in LA is added by movie magic.


>There's no carolers, the smells aren't the same, the shops aren't the same

Growing up in Canada, I thought carolers and olde-timey Christmas themes only happened in movies these days. Are these traditions still alive in the UK?


Carolling largely follows a bimodal distribution based on social class. It's still reasonably common among lower-working-class kids looking for a bit of extra pocket money before Christmas; for similar reasons, they're the last stalwarts of the penny-for-the-guy tradition. It's very common for those at the upper reaches of the middle class, who have a real penchant for old-fashioned community activities like choirs, fetes and street parties. It's all but dead for the majority in the middle.

Speaking more broadly, there has been an effort in many rural areas to maintain and revive particular local cultural traditions. Perhaps the most spectacular such tradition is the tar barrels in Ottery St Mary[1], but I'm also rather fond of the Royal Ashborne Shrovetide Football game[2] and the multitude of mumming and wassailing traditions[3].

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8-0wQmPeMg

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uV1zrZFzZo

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEDaRQO5Utk


How on earth did the Tar Barrels become a tradition?! :o

and the Shrovetide Football with only 1 rule?! :'D That's insane!

Only in England! I miss you guys :D


Well, obviously I've been gone for 20 years, so I can't speak to whether they still happen but growing up in the village I did, they happened every year without fail. Some years we'd go with them, other years we'd stay home and have hot mulled wine to offer them when they came around.

Another thing I struggled to find this year in my local area was midnight mass. This just doesn't seem to be a big thing here either. The best I could find was a 10pm mass, which just doesn't seem to cut the mustard... plus what's with the singing carols to the wrong tunes?


U.S here. I know carolers who get together and go through hospitals and retirement communities. Definitely a nice way for children and teenagers (who come with) to learn about giving back to a community.


Canadian here and these happen in my neighborhood. YMMY elsewhere, as OP has mentioned.


Canada is a big place, which city are you in?


One of my family members would go with a group caroling in Winnipeg.


I can't say they're common, but they definitely happen. We usually get 1 or 2 small groups each year.


Lived in the UK for a few decades. Have never seen a carolers. Thought they were a weird USA thing.


Not only in the UK. Carolers are a thing in other places of Europe, for instance Greece.


In Portugal we have "singing the kings" in the first days of January, and traditionally people shared the Christmas food and drinks with them.

https://youtu.be/JlBnLlKPPGA?t=11


> no carolers

Grab a couple of neighbors and go caroling yourself. In my experience it can snowball quite rapidly if somebody actually gets it rolling...


Nice! I may try that next year. I could be amusing to do that around our village.


Carolers aren't common in Canada but they aren't unheard of. Different places will have different Christmas traditions so you're unlikely to ever get the same smells and shops. If you miss carolers I'd suggest you try getting a small group together and go out caroling.


When I worked at Radio Shack and they mandated that we play Christmas music all the time after Halloween, I'd switch it to one of SomaFM's more casual Christmas stations (Xmas in Frisko) when the boss wasn't around.

No one ever noticed except for us employees, and it was so, soooo much better than hours of the same five songs on repeat.


no doubt your brazen cavalier attitude towards corporate rules were the prime reason behind radio shack's downfall. corporate had it just right, except for those pesky employees failing to follow their edicts. Good thing you're using a pseudonym!


I hate the omnipresent Christmas music in stores around the holidays, but had never linked that to the fact that I worked in a store through college that repeatedly played the same music. Now that I'm thinking about it, I probably had the same experience as you. Thanks for the insight!


I've never worked retail, only been a customer, and I hate christmas music in stores.

Playing christmas music is surely the quickest way to drive me away from your store.


I had a similar experience working at Macys during the holidays many years ago. I had to listen to about 100 different versions of whatever that “last christmas I gave you my heart” song is every day, and to this day it drives me bonkers when I hear it.


Wham, that’s a good one, in small doses.


I flew on the same international airline for business dozens of times and they always had the same tune on for the first hour during boarding/etc and then again during landing. I've now developed a bad Pavlovian response to that track because it is associated with brutal long-haul travel, jetlag, dry air, customs hassles, etc.

Note: I then got Gold/Platinum ranking, started boarding sooner, and so got exposed to the music even more!

Note 2: International flights have much longer boarding periods and usually large plans, so the time intro music is played is long.



I walked out of at least 3 restaurants this "season" because they had Christmas music on. Can't stand it.


"40 Year Old Virgin - Michael McDonald Scene" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRdLWbOAUEY

This movie was ahead of it's time. :)


I feel you, I used to work in a hardware store and would loathe when it came time to switch over to the repetitive Christmas music. Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime" is my most cringeworthy song. Argh that syth intro...


Simply having…


Get an android phone with a 128GB sd card and fill it.


In general I don’t understand why people think that it’s ok to pollute every bit of space with noise of their choice (aka music). I view it as a big nuisance.


I think it shows the motivation of the business. They're creating an area of easy conversation, not concentration.

By having something similar to the volume of conversation, you make conversation both "safe" and less distracting. Safe since speaking won't break some period of silence that is bound to happen. Breaking silence in a populated area requires a certain amount of social tension, "Why is everyone quiet? Will I bother people if I talk here?" etc. Less distracting since there is no period of silence for someone to break. The two people talking to each at a normal volume no longer become loudest thing in the room and the center of attention, they're just "lost in the noise". Many references can be found for these concepts, but I apologize for not providing them.

Sound masking would be more ideal for concentration, but I'm sure the regular Starbucks patrons would be a bit confused at constant "hoooshhhh" sounds of a noise generator.

You can find a few quiet coffee shops with very quiet music, but it's extremely awkward having a conversation in a place like this. I don't frequent these places with company.


>Sound masking would be more ideal for concentration, but I'm sure the regular Starbucks patrons would be a bit confused at constant "hoooshhhh" sounds of a noise generator.

Sound masking is very dubious with respect to the ADA - you're deliberately making it harder to understand speech, which has obvious implications for hearing-impaired guests or employees.


Absolutely. I avoid places that are dead silent because I don't really want some random employee listening to everything I say.


[flagged]


Its not a security issue, its an awkwardness issue.


I think it's because the alternative is silence, which many merchants see as setting a scene that is low energy and makes people lonely -- the last thing a retailer wants.

Most retailers want to set a mood that attracts their target demographic groups. In some clothing stores that serve women age 30-40, they play pop music that was in vogue 10-15 years ago, when these customers were in their teens or twenties and had more youthful energy, knowing this music was a very big part of their lives.

It wouldn't surprise me if music were also intended by PR/marketing types to put these customers in the same frame of mind they were in when they were most socially vulnerable (their teens?), when fashion was a necessary way to become more popular... or less unpopular, anyway.


Hence the litany of companies advising/streaming music for businesses based on the ideas from those PR/marketing types. Creating playlists for consumer-driven companies to match their brand image, target audience, etc. Such as MoodMusic[1]

[1] https://us.moodmedia.com/custom-music-business/


> In general I don’t understand why people think that it’s ok to pollute every bit of space with noise of their choice (aka music). I view it as a big nuisance.

I presume your comment was addressed to businesses, but I've noticed it for people as well; there seems to be a growing trend of believing that it's perfectly OK to listen to music, or watch TV, in public, without headphones, and without even a minimal attempt to lower the volume. I've noticed this increasingly over time in the US on trains and—this one really gets me—in the bathroom. (I suppose I can see watching a video in there, but without headphones?)


And on bushwalks, and on beaches.

Those bloody bluetooth speakers are too cheap. It's so rude IMO to force everyone to be subjected to your noise.


As with many things, it's profit-driven. As a related example, bars intentionally turn the music up loud enough that conversations are difficult because this causes patrons to buy more drinks.


" loud enough that conversations are difficult because this causes patrons to buy more drinks"

I know that I am weird but this makes me just want to run away,.


This is a symposium of nerds so I suspect we will all agree with you.


That doesn't make you weird, that makes you sane. You couldn't pay me to drink in bars like that.


I'm the same, but I guess we're not the target market then.

They want mindless binge drinkers, not talkers.

It's weird because I feel I'd drink more when I'm comfortable, with music audible but not loud enough to drown out conversation or be too offensive.


>They want mindless binge drinkers, not talkers.

I'm friends with a lot of bar owners, and have had a few bars in the family in the past.

Owners don't want someone getting plastered. We want the high functioning alcoholic who orders 3 pints to his partner's 1 and draws his friends to come to the pub with him every night or two.


Seeing that you have experience in this sector, what is the purpose of a bar exactly? I never have gone to a bar, but always have had the assumption that bars are pretty much for getting plastered.


If you want to get plastered, you can buy absurd amounts of alcohol by volume by purchasing cheap vodka and making it palatable by running it through a water filter to remove the bitter contaminants, then soak fruit in it to give it some flavour.

For 30$, you can make yourself enough very nice booze, flavoured to your tastes, as you would be able to get for $300 or so at a bar.

As for the direct question: different bars have different purposes, which is why there are so many different types.

Bars in the financial district are often vehicles to waste money as a social display. Bars in the artistic sector are often vehicles to meet likeminded poor, but cool, artists and misfits. Bars in residential areas are normally places to relax and have a few pints. Bars in the nightlife areas are normally places to meet people. Some bars have good food. Some bars have cheap drinks. Some bars have great music. Some bars have familiar staff.

There's a bar near where I used to live that offers manicures, male model servers and foot rubs. A few streets down is a sports bar which seems to employ exceptionally chesty waitresses. As you might imagine, the target demographic for each is different.


Nah, it's generally not very economical to do so. They serve primarily as a evening/weekend social hub, much like a restaurant. If you want to get plastered, you're much better off doing that in a private residence, in my experience.


> bars are pretty much for getting plastered

They might actually be the least efficient retail or service venue for achieving that purpose.


Weird generally, but probably much less so here.

It's not terribly surprising that people that choose to spend a lot of time interacting via text vs. conversation (e.g. programming) could have sensory processing disorders. Research in auditory processing disorder is relatively young, but at least some cases can be objectively diagnosed with FFR https://journals.lww.com/thehearingjournal/FullText/2016/080...

If you have difficulties understanding speech, it's worth talking to an audiologist; you can effectively train for this! https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29056453

It's also worth noting that auditory processing disorder is associated with autism spectrum disorder. I'm particularly interested in the various etiologies of autism, and whether the traits of 'minor' autism are well explained by simple sensory or sensory-processing disorders.


That’s really interesting. I definitely always had problems with understanding people in noisy environments so I often avoid them. I once went to an audiologist and based on the measurements my hearing is way above average. But I still have trouble listening to people.


This is what made me realize 'my type of people' wouldnt be at the bar or club.

As I was trying to scream in my friends ear, I looked around, just drunk. No one there was exchanging ideas.

Obviously not all places are like this, but I didn't need to go back there.


OTOH, I find this also makes it difficult to order drinks.


That encourages making the drink orders simpler too, which means the bartenders can have a higher throughput


I notice this with some people in general, that seems to always want to pollute the air with words when sometimes, there is beauty in silence. And then I get called "quiet" for not doing the same. Ugh.

I know a few people that for some reason feel the need to narrate what I can see with my own eyes.


I love the click-baity videos that carefully spell out what you can plainly see on the screen.

Some people have a strong urge to socialize. I was on a long drive with one guy like that, there were four of us in the truck. He'd go for almost exactly 3 and a half minutes before he'd start talking, then get an "uh huh" response, and go awkwardly silent again. He was pretty consistent, this pattern repeated a good dozen times.


> I love the click-baity videos that carefully spell out what you can plainly see on the screen.

Don't forget about the Nostalgia Critic-style "review" videos that are actually just an extended summary of the source material.


“Before you speak, ask yourself: Is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve the silence?”

― Sathya Sai Baba


"The empty can rattles the most".


Being stuck on the subway several times a week with 1 or more people playing bass dependent music/game audio through their phone speakers... shoot me now.


I haven’t been to malls in a while, so maybe it’s done stateside too, but some overseas malls go the extra effort and make sure they pump it up to 11 (as if at a bar after hours) It's as if they’re trying to drive traffic out of their stores instead of trying to keep them in.


They're not trying to drive traffic out, they're trying to discourage loitering. If you're there to buy something you're likely to just go in and buy it despite the problem. And if you're on the fence, you're likely to just make a hasty decision instead of considering it if it's too loud to avoid.

The big impediment though, is loiterers. If there is a problem with people loitering in or in front of your store that tends to drive away more people than the music will.


Is that true?

eg if I'm going to the mall to buy a shirt, I'm not really interested in how many "loiterers" are in the store browsing, I just want to go in and buy a shirt.

If the music's offensive then I'm not going in at all.

I'm sure they've done studies and focus groups and whatever, it's just odd to me that even with all the comments here to the contrary, businesses still think they're going to make more by making their stores unpleasant to go into.

I have quite a bit of discretionary income so I would have thought I'd be a desired customer, but malls are so unpleasant that I do almost all of my buying online.


I'm put off going in a place if there are people hanging around outside. I guess it's the subconscious thought that I also have to meet them going out and face their silent judgement. It's not rational, but little is in non-B2B business.


>Is that true?

Depends. Some places just like it, but a lot of it is to shoo loiterers away.

>eg if I'm going to the mall to buy a shirt, I'm not really interested in how many "loiterers" are in the store browsing, I just want to go in and buy a shirt.

You're not thinking like a status conscious retailer. Some retailers prefer to not have people of certain races be seen associated with their brands. Their target market will be disinclined from shopping there.

Also, in many cases loiterers actually just intimidate people.


I've read that classical music is traditionally used to drive away loiterers. I find that amusing, although I can't quite explain why.


It actually makes me sad to see great music used as a tool for coercion, but I get why it happens.

Classical music is actually really mentally engaging. I've tried listening to stuff like Brahms or Gershwin while working and it's kind of hard. Chamber music is designed to be kind of ambient and inoffensively bland, but most of what's on a classical album just engages your brain too much to let you focus on what you're doing. Even if people don't realize that's what they're listening to, I can see how just being around it a lot can get agitating unless you can consciously tune it out.


My wife managed a department at a craft store and one day their sound system broke. She said that was worse than the repetitive music. Retail spaces are not designed for good acoustics and that music really drowns out a lot of even more nuisance sounds.


O/T but people do the same thing with light, as well. e.g. just had a nighttime flight (so they turn off the cabin lights) where the person diagonally in front of me blinded me with his 100% brightness screen for hours.

Couple that with the countless people using their phones at max brightness, and I would've just preferred keeping the cabin lights on.


My kids are in an orchestra and half the audience is holding up a big honking bright phone or tablet recording the whole thing. Its annoying


I can't say why everyone does it but soft/moderate volume music does encourage people to talk to each other more. No one wants to break silence. People are more likely to talk when they think no one can hear them.


I've heard they do A/B testing on this across stores and across time for the same store. The treatment probably increased sales.


Same here. Actually that and perfume!


I go to the coffee shop and bar to avoid silence.


I agree.

What's wrong with a bit of quiet reflection?


I went into a Starbucks the other day early in the morning that didn't have music playing yet, it was really weird. It was actually kind of disconcerting. I think that's the only time i've ever been in one with no music. Everybody's voices echoed really loudly. You could hear every conversation going on and people ordering from the other side of the store.

As much as I dislike their music choices usually, I kind of understand why they have it going. Though a redesign of their interiors could probably do a lot to help the empty echoey feeling without constant music.


Ironically, there are sound loops that remote workers use to make it sound like they're working in a coffee shop (sans music)

https://coffitivity.com


Sometimes I use a rain loop for a similar effect. For example:

https://rainymood.com

There are other sites that do a similar thing. This one just has a memorable name.


I use the Sunny app on my iPhone. It lets you calibrate different amounts of rain, waves, music, and bird noise.


All coffee shops and restaurants these days have terrible acoustical design. It's because any kind of acoustic treatment is more expensive than none at all.


I guess also because hard surfaces are easier to clean.


I worked in retail for years before moving out of the states. Pharmacies, specifically. The last couple of years I worked overnights at a 24 hour location. (Hey, only robbed once while I was working - a bonus!).

Anyhow, I used to go into the office and turn off the music at night. The silence you speak of was my entire excuse for turning it off: Corporate expected us to do things in the store at night, yet wait on customers like normal. The added benefit was that the store was sooo peaceful without the bad covers plus adverts they played on a loop.


I experienced this in a Target last year sometime. No music over the intercom, and the energy in the place just felt more... nervous, restless. I don't know whether that's an effect inherent to silence in large spaces or whether it was an effect created by the absence of something we took for granted.


Wait, target plays music? I've literally never noticed and I was just in one last night. Only thing I've heard is their movies section playing teasers pretty loudly.


After that one experience, I'm pretty sure that if I walked into a supermarket or department store and they weren't playing music, I would immediately notice.


I was in a Target yesterday that played fairly loud music over their PA. I’m not sure if it’s normal or not, because I only noticed due to the volume.


I wonder if other sounds besides music would work. Like coffee pouring background noise or panther sounds or something.


Rainforest Cafe had (has?) nice ambient rainforest sounds which I enjoyed as a kid.


Perhaps the music is to keep people from talking on their cell phones.


I once sat in a Starbucks for a few hours and I noticed that the music shifted with the customer base. So oldies and jazz got played around the time senior citizens would come in and the vibe would change depending on the demographic at that time. I thought it was interesting.. Maybe coincidence.. maybe not.


Definitely not a coincidence. Starbucks puts a lot of effort into music curation. Here's a good article that goes into some detail - https://www.fastcompany.com/3067250/meet-the-music-nerds-beh..., and also touches upon what you mentioned.


I think some Starbucks have a little more agency. The one near my apartment in NYC is always playing a mid-00s hiphop/R&B throwbacks playlist. Definitely not the mainstream suburban mom stuff, but, ya never know, maybe they have separate "urban environment" playlists.


I've heard "Dare to Be Stupid" in one and I really doubt that would be a corporate-approved item, so there's got to be some kind of local variation.


Obviously "cafe has music" is going to be a popular comments section on HN where we all relate our horror stories of working at places with nonstop music.

But this is a surprisingly terrible article. Guantanamo bay, really? Quoting a no-name Adam Johnson with a head shot, unrelated to the source, to weigh in on music? Focusing on Starbucks as linkbait when this is ubiquitous?


Sure, comparisons to Gitmo might be unwarranted, but this article is not about cafes merely playing music nonstop (which is indeed ubiquitous), but about Starbucks playing the same few songs over the speakers repeatedly while denying employees the ability to control the playlist (and therefore the environment around them). FTA:

> Earlier this year, irritated Starbucks employees took to Reddit to rage about how they had to listen to the same songs from the Broadway hit musical Hamilton on repeat while on the job. One user wrote that if they heard a Hamilton song one more time, "I'm getting a ladder and ripping out all of our speakers from the ceiling."

At a smaller cafe, I'd imagine employees would get much more control over what music to play (often I've noticed it's just some employee's phone plugged into the speakers).


Funny, I haven't heard any Skinny Puppy[1] at Starbuck$ recently. (Ironically, I'd find that a reason to go there...)

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/feb/07/skinny-puppy-p...


I experienced this on another level while working retail at a musical instrument store for a few years. People would pick up any instrument and play whatever they wanted for however long they wanted-- at whatever volume they wanted. Although some people are quite talented, most are not. One lady would sit at the piano for hours, playing the musical equivalent of nonsense.

Around that same time, I had my own home recording studio and sometimes wound up recording musicians that were on the scale of bad to downright terrible. If I reacted negatively to the sound they made, that would only make them want to re-record it, which meant I'd have to hear it again. I quickly learned how to keep a straight face and mentally treat the music like background noise or focus intently on the parts of it that weren't too bad.


I was just wondering if music instrument store employees would be affected by everyone playing. I'm learning guitar and my housemate says it's disconcerting to hear me playing parts of a song he recognizes without the full instrumentation/song structure. I can't imagine if 5 people were doing that all at once for an 8-hour shift.


When I was 16, I spent 3 months working at a Hollister store in the nearby mall.

They had the same 6 songs playing on repeat all damn day, every single day. It was tortuous.

That was the second worst thing about that place. The first being the hourly spray of chemical fumes everywhere for their signature smell.


I wonder if any Hollister workers have had adverse physical effects from working in an environment chronically saturated with their fragrance.


When I was in high school I worked in a Pizza restaurant that had a CD player in the closet. There were two CDs--The Carpenters Greatest Hits, which was used January to November and The Carpenters Christmas album, which they used in December. I must have listened to the Greatest Hits hundreds of times.


That sounds like my childhood. We had an 8 track with Mamas and the Papas California Dreaming and Random MARCHING MUSIC. The radio was broken.

It was Russian Roulette with the revolver loaded when mom ask what music you want to listen to. You want audio arsenic or audio cyanide?


Similar experience. It's why I can't stand to listen to Led Zeppelin and absolutely despise showtunes...


That should be an OSHA violation.


OSHA? That should go straight to The Hague as a crime against humanity.


I worked at a particular RadioShack store where the manager played the movie "Top Gun" over and over to demo the surround sound system.


I work at Starbucks and I completely disagree with this article (as it pertains to Starbucks). Starbucks has a partnership with Spotify, all employees get a free Spotify account. Every Starbucks has an iPhone used to handle inventory & play the store music. This iPhone has the Spotify app installed and a fairly large collection of Starbucks playlists which accrue over time. Each playlist varies in size but some are quite large, e.g. the "Chill" playlist is likely over 50 songs. Moreover, I consider myself a hipster when it comes to music and can tell that each of these playlists has been curated in the same manner as Apple playlists, by using people "in the know". What that means is that many songs are extremely new and underground. A good example of this are songs like "High 5" by Sigrid, or "Lucky Girl" by Fazerdaze listed when they're released. So, any employee (at least at my store and those in the surrounding area) can simply change the playlist at any time. Don't like the Hamilton playlist?, go change it to the "Dinner Party" playlist. Not only can we change the playlist, we can simply use our own iPhone and play are own playlists with our free Spotify account (as long as it doesn't contain profanity). The one gripe I have is that some songs on the Starbucks playlists are completely inappropriate such as "Get Out" by CHVRCHES. If you haven't heard this song, go listen to it on Youtube and figure out why this is an awkward song to play around customers. So, imo Starbucks likely has the most lenient music policy of similar shops as well as the best music selection.


I worked at a movie theater and we were supposed to get a new CD every month from corporate to play in theaters before the movie started, but in the year or so I worked there it never changed. I don't remember all of them, but the ones I do remember are a cover of Convoy by Mannheim Steamroller, which is a godawful treacly piece of shit to begin with, and a cover of Girl You'll Be a Woman Soon by Urge Overkill, which I utterly loathe to this day.

This makes me think of Groundhog Day, and how brilliantly the film used the repetition of I've Got You Babe to show how the protagonist was going crazy.


  cover of Convoy by Mannheim Steamroller
Did MS actually do a cover of Convoy? The original "C.W. McCall" Convoy stems from the same people, but I didn't know they redid Convoy in the MS style.

The 1980s McCall-branded reunion album ("Comin' Back for More"?) is good.


CONVOY!!


This seems petty in comparison to what many store clerks in Japan have to put up with. Bic/Kojima Camera (perhaps comparable to Best Buy) normally has the same 10 second long jingle playing on auto-repeat all day everyday. That is the definition of real torture.


An elementary school I attended from first to fourth grade would play Beethovan's Moonlight Sonata in the lunchroom as the song that signaled "quiet time," when we'd have to eat our food without talking. Occasionally we would get another song, something by Chopin I think, but in my memory 90% of the time it was Moonlight Sonata. Whenever I hear that song now, ten years later, I get teleported back to fourth grade quiet time where all I could do was stare into my carton of sometimes half-frozen strawberry milk or prod miserably at my collard greens (invariably quiet time came near the end of lunch when I had already eaten everything not terrible). I have an almost physical revulsion when I hear it.


The first movement is overplayed. The second and third are really awesome actually.


The third movement is a banger. Should sound familiar to anyone who played Earthworm Jim. I believe it also made an appearance in Looney Tunes in one form or another.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zucBfXpCA6s


Thanks for the info. Maybe this will let me reclaim something from the negative conditioning!


> in the lunchroom as the song that signaled "quiet time," when we'd have to eat our food without talking.

That sounds like a really oppressive school. hope you made it out OK.


My high school would play the William Tell overture in the morning as everyone was scrambling to get to their first class. It was amusing for a while but got pretty old after four years.


I attended university in the very early days of MP3s. In a microcontroller lab, the TAs hooked one of the lab computers to a pair of speakers and set up their collection of MP3s to loop indefinitely. I still remember the whole playlist:

* White Wedding by Billy Idol

* I Am The Walrus by the Beatles

I may have the order reversed.


You'd appreciate this John Mulaney bit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnkrL42R7gk


But that was all the disk space they had!

You were lucky!

Some of us could only walk through the snow uphill one way!

;)


Some guitar shops have a list of songs which you are absolutely forbidden to sing if trying on their guitars:

https://i.imgur.com/Pzd3lIk.png

https://i.imgur.com/qXkEUZl.jpg


I'm also sick of Sweet Child O' Mine.


I worked at Chick-fil-A in high school and experienced this but with Christian contemporary music. If I never hear "Jesus Take the Wheel" by Carrie Underwood again it will be too soon. I feel the same way about steel drums after a summer working at Bahama Breeze, a Caribbean themed Olive Garden.


I always feel so bad for people that work at Hobby Lobby, it's just nothing but the WORST elevator music versions of Christian shit. I give thanks everyday for the Michael's we got a few years ago, so much better in every single way. Every time I'm forced to go to Hobby Lobby when Michael's doesn't have what I need, I can't get out of there fast enough.


This isn't really a whole article, is it? It's an anecdote.

I don't doubt that this is a problem, but this isn't a good look at it.


Yes. Any premise can be created if all that is needed is the argument of "...one writer and podcaster...".


I don't know about Starbucks but have you ever been to a Family Mart convenience store in Japan? I'm wondering how the music didn't drive the employees mad.

The Family Mart welcome song is probably the most recognizable but the same goes for stores like Bic Camera and many others.


The Japanese take this to another level. Imagine listening to these all day, every day:

Don don don, donki, don quijote...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJyYrrDKYZE (Don Quijote)

Kamera wa yodobashi kamera!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4QSu1ZHunw (Yodobashi Camera)


Dear god. Listening to that first link all the way through was a poor decision. It won't go away!

How do marketers come up with such reliably earwormy stuff? Are there papers I can go read about this?


Don't forget classics like the sakana ("fish") song ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJDCDF2xnf8 ).


This one? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igGcWRYhr1Y&index=14&list=RD...

But yeah, I feel for the retail employees in Japan. Several of the franchises and chains jingles really get to you after a while. I think Don Quixote and Lawson are worse, because they actually have vocals.

It's just on a completely different level. The same 45-something-seconds jingle on loop, perpetually 24/7, interspersed with ads.


Don't forget "Daydream Believer" by the Monkees at the 7-11s here. It's incessant. I can't stand it and I wonder how the staff survives ...


The local Target used to be music free, and was the only big chain shopping experience I’ve ever enjoyed. I’d go out of my way to go there over competitors. Then they renovated, and now they blast the same terrible noise that every other retailer does. It sucks. I haven’t been back since.


I worked at a department store for a year in the gifts department (think Hummel figures, Precious Moments figures, candles, lava lamps, crystal dishes, various crap like that). There was a CD player that had a single CD in it that played on repeat. It was a CD of showtunes, like Oklahoma, etc. The only song on there I could tolerate was "If I Were a Rich Man" from Fiddler on the Roof, all the rest drove me nuts. I could escape it though, by going to a different corner of the department, so it wasn't too bad.

There was another time I worked in a factory job for a year, and the forewoman would blast the local Top 40 station throughout the whole factory all day every day. I would hear the same songs 3 or 4 times a day every day I worked there that entire year. To this day I get flashbacks whenever I hear Kylie Minogue's "Can't Get You Out of My Head" (specifically the "la la la, la la, la la la" chorus. Drove me nuts hearing that all the time).


Probably just a sidenote and maybe not that relevant, but I think 80s Japan had the right idea of environmental music which was considered as a meaningful part of a location, building or space - regardless of if it served artistic purposes or corporate interests. The reason this comes to my mind is this [1] recently released, utterly fantastic compilation that focuses on this very topic: Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990

Roughly explained in this excerpt:

> "Corporate big bucks and avant-garde music aren’t the most obvious bedfellows — but throw user experience into the mix, and you’ve got a viable cultural phenomenon: kankyō ongaku. In 1980s Japan, as the country continued to enjoy an unprecedented post-war boom, it became the world’s second-largest economy; companies like Sanyo and Muji pumped cash into the arts to enhance the experiences for its consumers."

For anyone interested I highly recommend the physical editions of the release as they include twice as many tracks (digital rights for japanese music are very complicated), some of them very rare and released for the first time outside Japan. In addition they come with a hardcover book featuring extensive liner notes and an essay explaining the circumstances and setting. However there are digital versions with a limited track selection: [2][3]

[1] https://lightintheattic.net/releases/4088-kankyo-ongaku-japa...

[2] https://daily.bandcamp.com/2019/02/15/kankyo-ongaku-japanese...

[3] https://open.spotify.com/album/0rrRvu7ObcLgxbuGGkx3Rn?si=V5Y...


Not sure if it is interely relevant for the thread. But I really enjoyed the music and also learning more about the genre so thanks for sharing.


I wouldn't be surprised if the real goal was to make customers spend less time sitting around.

In the last year or two, I've noticed Panera has been playing godawful music that makes it nearly impossible to sit down, relax, and work on something.

It works of course, but now I just don't go at all.


Almost every Panera I've been in was poorly run. Poor service and bad, old coffee more often than not.

SF at 4th and King was the lone exception.


Perhaps. I don't drink coffee, I liked their fruit smoothies, and bagels are bagels. The music used to be generic enough (probably something quiet and instrumental but I honestly cannot recall) that it was not something I registered, but more recently they've played loud country/pop (observed in both Massachusetts and Maryland) that I now avoid them.


I am never in a Starbucks for long enough to really notice the music. There usually isn't any place to sit, as the place seems to turn into an office or study space, with Macbooks (rarely something else) taking up nearly every seat.


I hate Starbucks in America. Usually looks like a sh#tty library with people all on laptops. If you want to actually sit, drink coffee and talk there is no space for you. I never go as a result.


That's the whole idea of Starbucks - it's the third place.


My Starbucks has a large oval desk with a raised central oval with lots of plugs (as a kind of divider), very reminiscent of University. Not a coincidence. They also have some soft chairs, some standard cafe tables and chairs. A real mix. Designed for each person to find their place.

Shame it takes them 10 minutes to make an Americano: they're often very busy washing the sugary goop out of the blender containers...


I have never been the kind to want to work from a cafe, but I know plenty who do it. Fair enough. I'm more of the kind who wants to meet friends to have a conversation at a cafe, which we really can't do when the seats are gobbled up by people who are camped out there all day long. There are cafes where this doesn't happen, and they seem to be the ones without free wifi. I guess there's a market for each.


For those unfamiliar with the reference:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_place


The Starbucks at Lawrence and El Camino in Santa Clara recently removed all the outlets from their back room.


In the specific case of Starbucks (at least in the US), the employees do have a bit of control over the music. They're able to curate a playlist of store "favorites" and are usually able to change the playlist from whatever's playing to the "favorites" playlist. The problem is not very many employees know about it, and it requires using a specific piece of hardware (an in-store iPod also used for inventory). They playlist will also switch roughly every 30 minutes or so, so they have to keep switching it back.


I spend about 2 hours in Starbucks every morning before taking kids to school. Usually the playlist is tolerable, but every once in a while it's absolutely horrendous, particularly for 5AM. A couple years ago they had a 70s Soul Train playlist including Love Train which drove me nuts. I can only imagine being an employee on an 8 hour shift and not able to put on noise cancelling headphones.


Of course CBC would report this, they're in Big Tim Horton's pockets


Incidentally, most Tim Hortons I've been to don't play any music at all. I love it.


Reminds me of Yellocabs in NYC. The screen can be muted but you're still staring at a lit blue screen while riding in the back of a cab and it's very unpleasant at night. Try relaxing if you can. I don't take yellow cabs anymore but last time I experienced this I was thinking of taping a a cloth as a curtain.


Let us spare a moment of silence for the poor souls who had to work the floor and register at Japanese we-sell-everything store Donkihote, who had to listen to this piece of art on repeat, day or night.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJyYrrDKYZE


worked at a music store for a couple of years - part time, but the company-provided playlists did grate after a while. upside was it was fairly chart-driven, so you'd generally not get the same things for more than a few weeks in a row. it was mostly just very... popularity driven (of course, they're trying to push new stuff). We did generally have some down time each day which was 'staff choice', but even then they still wanted it to be from their approved list. We mostly followed that rule. It was a big corporate chain store thing, not a hip indie place.

At some point they moved in to promoting video in store, which got worse. The CDs they'd send were samplers, but the "now play this VHS tape"... the Garth Brooks concert VHS... ugh - however much you like him, having to listen to it 2x/day for weeks... (at least it seemed like weeks)


That's one thing I miss about record stores like Tower. The music was chosen by workers on shift, a full album side at a time. I discovered some great music that way, including "popular" artists before they were popular.


I worked for Toys R Us. The crappy music they played was synced to the hold music of the store. It was really weird.


I owned a Domino's and put up a LCD in the customer waiting area. I bought a BluRay player and a copy of Finding Nemo.

It took two shifts for me to fill a disc with <cough> backups <cough> of dozens of Disney/Pixar/etc movies. Once I broke 50 hours of video, I stopped being able to recite it at will.


We can hem and haw about piracy for personal use. But piracy and public playback of pirated media at a business you owned seems like a totally different beast to me.


I owned the blurays/dvd for everything I showed. I got the backups from the "usual places" because it was easier than ripping them myself. I had every single disc in the office.


I experienced this in college when I worked as a cashier at a grocery store. One particular "song" comprised entirely of whale noises. I probably heard it 15 times a day and it was always the target of employee aggression. For some reason the manager just refused to put on something else.


Try finding any public space in the USA where there is not blaring background music. Good luck. I always felt the reason Starbucks plays deafening music is to discourage people from lingering. It certainly has the effect on me, and I pity the poor employees.


I worked at a coffee shop that played a fixed set of songs which included the Sarah McLachlan song from her SPCA commercials. Every time it came on somebody would run into the back to change it, because we all grew to hate the "sad puppy song"


I had similar feelings in an open office. When it got loud, the suggestion was to put on headphones. But, in effect, that was just using more noise to drown out other noise. All I really wanted was some peace and quiet!


The new generation of noise-canceling headphones can block sound without playing other audio. It's not perfect, but it's much better than the "noise canceling" headphones from a decade ago.


The newest cans from Sony and Bose ARE pretty good, but the pressure always bothers my ears after a while, especially when I’m not playing music. There’s no real substitute for a quiet office, other than maybe working remotely.


One weekday morning I decided to take my wife and daughters (I was working from home, and we homeschool) out for breakfast at a new breakfast joint. The sun had just risen, they weather was perfect and they had a patio. We were seated outside and blasted by classic rock, really great songs actually, but not loud and at 8am. I asked the waitress what the deal was, she said it wasn't them, the property management company had them installed (it was in a strip with 4 other businesses). What benefit would it be to the property management company? I'll never know.


When I was in Japan, most of the bigger stores played one song, their 30ish second long theme, on repeat. It's been 15 years and I can still remember Bic Camera's, Yodobashi Camera's, and Geo's.


The Starbucks I frequent often (a kiosk at Glasgow (Scotland) Central Train Station) seem to have their own music on their phones or something. Always hear something different.

I suppose it depends on the type of Starbucks.


> The Starbucks I frequent often (a kiosk at Glasgow (Scotland) Central Train Station) seem to have their own music on their phones or something.

In the United States, a venue can be fined for playing music without a license. An acquaintance of mine has a restaurant and was sued for playing music that was unlicensed.


In the UK there's two main licensing companies called PRS/PRL. Businesses primarily have licenses with them that covers 99.9% of bases when it comes to licensing.


I think the one near my office in the US has its own Spotify playlist that they use in store. I am pretty sure they had a link to it or something on the wall if you wanted to follow. I'm going to have to try and remember to look again next time I go in.


Using Spotify in a business setting is actually against the Spotify Terms of Conditions.

https://support.spotify.com/is/using_spotify/the_basics/use-...

Not that most of the bars that I go to actually read the T&C's. I've heard Spotify adverts in some...



Not sure they're as flexible though. I think they're 'set a playlist and you're done' kinda deals.

A lot of bars I go to are basically 'DJ'ing with Spotify taking requests from punters etc.


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