A great soundtrack can enhance a
restaurant experience, make guests
stay longer and spend more.
In this study, we wanted to find out
just how much music matters.
Do you think the music you hear in a
restaurant matters? And how much
does it matter?
Interior design strategies are vital for
any successful restaurant. Menus,
lighting, seating layout, materials,
and colors all combine to deliver a
great customer experience and to
bring the brand to life.
Of all sensory inputs, we respond
quickest to sound. It’s the sense that
reaches the brain first and functions
as an organizer for the rest of our
senses. Whether we realize it or not,
sound guides our choices every
So why are sounds and music
so often overlooked as part of
the design strategy? Mainly, it's
because nobody has tested exactly
how music that matches a brand
influences sales, emotions, and
The diﬀerence in overall sales
when playing music that
matched the brand compared
with playing randomly selected
of its kind.
Previous research* has shown that music can
influence sales and customer decisions. But
technical constraints limited the size and scope of
those studies and made it difficult to determine the
exact impact music had on sales.
Surprisingly few studies have examined the business
impact of in-store music that reflects a brand’s
values. And no earlier studies have looked at the
impact of playing music by artists from outside the
charts that nevertheless is a good fit for the brand.
A system change
Soundtrack Your Brand's streaming solution made
it possible to schedule music across an unlimited
number of locations. Now we could see precisely
how music moved sales, second by second. This
technology revolutionized how music is played and
the way we can measure its impact.
A massive study
This study, analyzing a pool of nearly two million
purchases, is by far the biggest study on the
subject to date. Researchers from The Swedish
Retail Institute and Soundtrack Your Brand
combined rigorous quantitative research with in-
depth fieldwork research. Each method helped
paint a picture of just how music moves sales, what
effect brand fit music has on customer satisfaction,
and what role song popularity plays.
*Among others Milliman, 1982; Areni, 2003;
Lammers, 2003; North et al., 2000 & 2003.
What is brand
Studies show that music can have a significant
impact on the brain and our behavior. Music mainly
activates areas of the brain associated with emotion,
motivation, planning and reward.
This study compared the effects of brand fit music
and popular music.
But what is brand fit music? Music with a strong
brand fit matches the brand’s personality. It’s music
that “feels” like the brand. In the same way that
the chosen interiors, materials and lighting in a
restaurant can evoke certain emotions, music can
also play an integral part in how a brand is perceived.
Because the sound is unique to the brand, it
becomes ownable and helps a brand build stronger
and longer lasting relationships with its customers.
Customer fit music, by contrast, is music that
matches the customers' taste in music. But the more
diverse the customer base is, the more difficult it
becomes to develop a distinct sound that matches
the full spectrum of musical preferences. An entirely
diverse customer base yields a list of the most
popular current songs across all genres – and as
a consequence, this sound is not ownable.
This is the biggest study ever done anywhere in the world to
look at the effects of music in commercial settings.
Difference in sales
Shakes & Smoothies
To test our hypotheses, we packaged the music
into four different playlists.
1) Brand fit A.
Songs that fit the brand. Includes both songs from
Spotify’s top 1000 Sweden list and songs that are
less well known.
2) Brand fit B.
Songs that fit the brand. Includes only songs
from Spotify’s top 1000 Sweden list. Only well-
3) No brand fit.
Songs randomly selected from Spotify’s top 1000
Sweden list. Only well-known songs.
4) No music.
By comparing 1 with 2, we could study the effect
of less popular music in the playlists.
By comparing 1 + 2 with 3, we could investigate
how music that reflects the restaurants' brand values
By comparing 1 + 2 + 3 with 4, we could examine
how much the mere presence of music moved sales.
store music and
Professor Sven-Olov Daunfeldt
How music affects sales.
Playing music that ﬁts the
brand makes guests more likely
to buy additional items. In our
experiment, dessert sales rose
by more than 15%.
Findings. The researchers set out to discover just how much
brand fit music could influence consumer behavior
and perceptions. Quite a lot, as it turned out.
Playing music that reflects brand values makes
a big difference in sales compared with playing
random popular songs.
Playing a mix of popular and less known songs
that still have a good brand fit turns out to be
a recipe for even higher sales.
Playing music that has a good brand fit with the
restaurants evokes a broad range of positive
emotions among the customers.
Your senses collaborate to create a uniﬁed impression of
your experience. People tend to think of sight ﬁrst, but when
it comes to designing for the senses, we respond just as
strongly to sound. In fact, sound reaches the mind ﬁrst, much
quicker than touch or vision. Music is one of the most useful
components in an ecient interior strategy.
ANo music No brand
ANo music Brand fit
ANo music No brand
ANo music No brand
11 Jan–7 Feb 8 Feb–28 Feb 29 Feb–20 Mar 21 Mar–10 Apr 11 Apr–1 May 2 May–29 May
Pre data Post dataExperiment period
The research team designed the qualitative part
of the study using a so-called Latin Square. The
point of the Latin Square is to block out random
influences such as time and location-specific
factors. During 20 weeks, we tested 16 restaurants,
which yielded 2232 unique daily observations.
The method, combined with a difference-in-
difference regression analysis, makes this the
most robust study of its kind.
Afterword. When it comes to playing music in stores and
restaurants, common sense suggests the perfectly
reasonable idea is that one should play music that
the patrons enjoy. However, our research shows that
this approach often proves surprisingly ineffective
as a way to increase sales.
Three years ago, researchers at HUI Research – the
Swedish Institute of Retail – wanted to investigate
if music that aligns with a brand’s values moves
sales. Until then, researchers across the world
had conducted smaller field studies on how
music influences sales and customer perceptions.
However, those studies had been limited to the
effects of different music characteristics, such as
tempo and music style.
We wanted to take a radically different approach –
investigating how the congruence between music
choice and brand values affects sales.
Earlier research suffered from technological
restraints. Playing the exact same songs at the same
time across many stores or restaurants was simply
unfeasible. That’s when a startup called Soundtrack
Your Brand knocked on our door and said they had
the tools to help us conduct a much more extensive
field study. And so we did. It’s the largest field
research on the influence of music in restaurants to
date, and the results were mind-boggling.
This field study is only the beginning. Soundtrack
Your Brand’s streaming technology has opened
the doors for even larger and more comprehensive
research. Stay tuned, and keep listening.
Professor of Economics
Director HUI Research
None of the photos included are from the restaurants that participated in the study.
Photo pp. 13: Gustav Arnetz
A field study by HUI Research
and Soundtrack Your Brand.
Professor Sven-Olov Daunfeldt
Professor Niklas Rudholm
Doctoral Candidate Hampus Sporre
Lund University School of Economics
Soundtrack Your Brand