Giving customers an uplifting, stress-free experience can always present challenges – but in the midst of the current Covid-19 pandemic, it has never been more important.
The hospitality industry – known for its resourcefulness and creativity – is drawing on all the tools at its disposal, and this includes the power of music. Using music is a tried-and-tested way of ensuring that customers get the great experiences they expect and deserve, keeping them stress-free during all the current disruption.
We’ve probably all noticed at some point in our lives that moment when our foot begins to tap, consciously or subconsciously, when a favourite track is played – maybe there’s an extra spring in our step too, or perhaps we suddenly feel calmer. Music is inextricably linked to the human brain’s deepest reward systems. Scientific studies have shown this repeatedly (one study noted a 9% increase in dopamine levels), and – fascinatingly – even the anticipation of great music can give a dopamine hit equal to actually hearing it. For the hospitality industry, this means a subtle and effective way of interacting with customers, at a difficult time for the industry.
Elements of music – melody, rhythm, tempo, pitch – are echoed in our bodies’ heartrate and tone of voice. The brain is capable of making these associations before we’re even aware of them. Music operates on a spectrum, just as the brain does – so that fast music with a quick beat mirrors our heartrate when excited, whilst a slower piece in a minor key is more like our own subdued or thoughtful emotions.
There’s strong scientific evidence that anxiety and even pain can both be lessened by the power of music. According to the Journal of Pain (yes, there is such a thing), the way music does this is by competing with the pain pathways in the brain for attention, taking focus away from them. In one study, playing music after surgery reduced anxiety by 21% and pain by 10%. At a basic level, humans are social animals who need comfort, interaction and closeness with others. When these are reduced (or even removed entirely as with restrictions and lockdowns) then the comfort that music can bring becomes not just a nice-to-have, but a key part of the customer environment, providing places of escape from the outside world.
“In one study, playing music after surgery reduced anxiety by 21% and pain by 10%”
Yet more science shows how memory is affected by music – a 2007 study showed that around one in three songs evoked strong ‘autobiographical memories’ in people, such as nostalgia. It can help us remember the good times we had when we last heard a particular track; if we associate it with a really great night out at one location, then a different location (of the same operator) may achieve a similar result by playing that same track.
Music is great at creating a feeling of togetherness, community and shared experiences. That goes for both customers and staff, who can also benefit from ‘staff only’ playlists, engendering the same feelings of community, despite the challenges of visors, smaller rotas and distancing measures.
Great hospitality is not just about the products being sold; it’s about the atmosphere – the experience – on offer. Music is one of the most direct and visceral ways of influencing these atmospherics. Up-tempo music can make customers move more quickly through a venue, whether shop or restaurant, whereas slower music encourages them to stay awhile – a formula that may be useful for Covid-19 purposes to maximise throughput whilst staying Covid-secure. The atmosphere created is also happier and more productive with the right music – 77% of UK businesses reported improvements in staff morale when music was played.
“77% of UK businesses reported improvements in staff morale when music was played”
Our health – whether mental or physical – has never been more important. We’re used to being told to get as fit as we can to fight not just Covid-19 but the other illnesses we get, especially during the colder months. Gyms, spas and other fitness-related hospitality will be important places of refuge if they’re allowed to remain open – and yet again, music can play a vital role. Think of your average workout; beforehand, music gets us into the right mindset and ‘psyches us up’; during sport it inspires us and instils self-belief. (Think back to the late 1990s, when Haile Gebrselassie broke the indoor 2000m world record whilst running to the rhythmic song Scatman – he synchronised his strides as the song played through the stadium loudspeakers). And during warm-down and recovery it slows down heartrate and takes our minds off aches and strains.
The evidence is strong that as a hospitality business, you have the power of music at your disposal in these difficult times – supported by Ambie.
To learn more about how you can use music to motivate your employees, engage your customers and increase spend, sign up to our monthly newsletter.
If you’d like to know more about how Ambie could help your business, book a demo with one of our consultants.
Sources and further reading
Bowling, D. L. et al. Acoust. Soc. Am. 127, 491-503 (2010).
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17965981/ – Characterization of music-evoked autobiographical memories
Terry, Dinsdale, Karageorghis, & Lane, 2006 – music can enhance positive moods
Cain-Smith & Curnow (1966) – effect of music volume on shoppers’ behaviours
http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/4673250/atmospherics-as-marketing-tool – in some cases, the place and atmospherics are more important than the products being sold