Holiday Music

A couple of weekends before Halloween, I was sitting in my favorite café, watching golden leaves twirl by the window when ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ jingled loudly through the tables. Holiday music… 

People paused, turned, and grimaced. 

A staff member promptly skipped onto the next track and Mariah was cut off before she could soar to her high A. 

The waiters looked embarrassed. 

This musical faux pas is a key example of the importance of holiday music etiquette. No business wants to be on the fringe of holiday overkill or too late to the party either. 

So here are some guidelines and insights to get you safely through the blizzard of holiday music planning. 

Timing is important.

We’ve all had that moment after Halloween when holiday advertisements start playing on the television and radio. Uneaten Halloween candy is still in the kitchen; the pumpkin freshly carved. You’re not ready to face it. 

Does this mean that retailers should start playing holiday music this early too? 

Yes and no. 

It depends on what you sell. Say you’re a hardware store that also has a huge range of holiday decorations. You might want to start playing holiday music as soon as you can to encourage your customers to get into the holiday spirit. If you’re banking on selling holiday gifts and merchandise, it would make sense to play some holiday tracks as soon as the need is there. 

Your store’s playlist doesn’t need to jump to 24/7 holiday music overnight. Pepper holiday music into your soundtrack as the holidays draw closer to inspire that festive feeling. 

Why holiday music could inspire more in-store spend…  

Playlists can take a lot of time and effort to create. While curating a playlist might not seem like the pressing thing on your daily agenda (like finding time to build an online presence that gets customers through the door), considered in-store music has been linked to in-store spend.  

Studies have shown that music has a big influence on consumer behavior. One consumer study played French and German on alternate days in a grocery store. When French music was played, French wines outsold German wines and vice versa. 

Holiday music can help encourage your customers into the holiday gift-giving mindset, especially when coupled with effective visual merchandising

Don’t feel pressured to play holiday music if it isn’t the right fit either. Customers might appreciate a refreshing break from it. Do what feels right for you and your store.

Holiday shopping

Photo by

Build a soundtrack that reflects your store’s personality.

If you feel like your soundtrack can help you win more customers, start with the basics before moving onto your holiday playlist. It’s important to pick genres and styles that represent the personality of your store and target customers.

Take the Danish lifestyle store, Søstrene Grene. 

The retail chain aims to ‘invite guests to explore the labyrinth of aisles, where pleasant lighting, classical music and the smell of untreated wooden crates create a unique experience for anyone who enters the store.’ 

Søstrene Grene embodies the Scandinavian concept of Hygge, instilling a sense of coziness and comfort, as does the music of Mozart and Chopin playing across the aisles. The store’s choice of soundtrack is inspired by the owner’s ‘history at the Ballet Academy in Aarhus and a love of classical music.’ 

The use of soft classical music relaxes customers, as well as adding a premium air to the store, which works nicely in Søstrene Grene where the merchandise looks a lot more premium than it costs. 

Your store can paint a similar narrative with music too, and use it to tell a story about what you sell and who you sell it to.

Pick a couple of genres and styles for your store. Think carefully about what you like, and what reflects the mood of your store.  

Maybe you have a bookstore where you want people to feel chilled as soon as they walk in the door. Why not consider acoustic versions of your favorite songs? 

Once you have decided on a style and genre for your store (or a few styles and genres), simply apply the same principles to holiday music. 

Indie, reggae, acoustic… there’s a holiday playlist out there for you.  

Spotify funded Soundtrack Your Brand makes this super easy for retailers. You can quickly pick your style and genres, adapt to holiday music and schedule when you want it to play. It also makes it super easy for retailers to build a soundtrack and have fun with it. 

Pump up the volume? 

Music volume is also key. While there is no cardinal rule around decibels, you should always be mindful of your customers’ eardrums. 

Teenage brand Abercrombie & Fitch’s stores’ speakers are infamously known for their loud music.  

According to a New York Times article: ‘At the Fifth Avenue flagship store of Abercrombie & Fitch, which has designed many of its stores to resemble nightclubs, pulsating music hit 88 decibels, just shy of the limit at which workers are required to wear protection if exposed to that volume for eight hours.’ Without generalizing, younger people tend to have a better tolerance for louder music – plus it can create a feeling of energy and excitement. 

You are what you listen to

Photo by Mohammad Metri

Most stores will probably want to keep the music at a level where people can easily have conversations. The last thing you want is to drive holiday shoppers out of your store because their eardrums are about to burst. You know your customers well. Go with what you think will appeal to them. 

If you haven’t updated your speakers in a while, think of something that will integrate nicely with music providers like Soundtrack Your Brand. Sonos speakers are brilliant for commercial use. They are small and discreet but powerful. 

It all works on an app, so easily change your store music through the app on your smartphone or iPad. Plus, you can add new speakers if you need to. 

Think of your staff’s morale too. 

Holiday music can leave staff seething before the year is even over. Don’t let this happen in your store. They have to listen to it all day long so help them keep their energy levels up during the busy season through your music selection. Why not include them in the music selection too?

One last tip… 

Plan your holiday playlist early so you can focus on providing great customer service during the height of your busy season instead. 

These tips should help you provide an in-store musical experience that should keep customers and staff happy. Happy holiday soundtracking!


Not prepared to face the holiday music?

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Ellie Hughes
Ellie Hughes

Writes about all things retail at Pointy. Irish. Blog posts may/may not have been fueled by copious amounts of tea.

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