Places that play piped music at times quote research saying that muzac is adored by, say, 95% of their customers. Such research is deeply suspect, however. It is normally sponsored by organisations involved, directly or indirectly, in producing piped music. The research is therefore inherently biased.
The latest statement about how (almost) everybody loves muzac comes from John Brodie, Chief Executive of Scotmid, which has introduced piped music into some Co-op stores. In response to protests, Brodie said that Scotmid had research to show that customers like background music: ‘We have also read a number of reports about the impact of music in public places and in one particular summary it mentions two key elements – “people rank music as more difficult to live without than sports, movies and newspapers” and “music enhances wellbeing amongst customers and employees in workplaces”.’
Note what is being suggested here. Because people state they value music highly – no surprise – they therefore love piped music. Such distortion of people’s real reactions to unwanted music comes from Heartbeats International. According to linkedin (http://www.linkedin.com/company/heartbeats-international), ‘Heartbeats International is a global brand communication agency with offices in Stockholm, Tokyo and New York. Our mission is to help clients worldwide to use the power of music and sound to stand out in today’s crowded marketplace and increase customer engagement’.
It appears similar to agencies in this country like Imagesound: see http://www.imagesound.com/
All these agencies have such a obvious vested interest in persuading stores to play piped music that it seems bizarre that any sane person takes their findings seriously. The Co-op, like Marks and Spencer, is a chain that seems to have lost touch with the real wants of its customers. Instead, it prefers to listen to the propaganda of the piped music industry. Both the Co-op and M&S are in deep trouble commercially, unsurprisingly.
Loud, often inappropriate background music on television documentaries – which can become foreground music – annoys many viewers. The BBC is probably the worst offender (partly because it is the biggest producer of documentaries), but it is showing signs of starting to listen. After uproar greeted a new series of Brian Cox’s science programmes, where pounding music drowned the professor’s illuminating words, the BBC amended the sound track on later programmes. This shows what can be done.
Richard Hill-Brown has started a sub-campaign against this music. Do support him firstname.lastname@example.org
Or complain directly to the BBC – it’s best to telephone, as all calls are logged – on 03700 100 222
Siobhan Wall has just published Quiet New York, a guide to quiet places of many sorts, from museums to cafés, from galleries to parks to libraries. Each of the 150 entries has a wonderful photograph, often in colour, and an evocative description. Published by Frances Lincoln, this is the fourth of her Quiet City Guides (after Amsterdam, London and Paris.)
Older people actually hear music as louder, new reports show. Presbycusis, an age-related hearing problem, means that older people find background music drowns out conversation even at levels younger people do not notice.
Age-related hearing loss, called presbycusis, is characterised by loss of hair cells in the base of the cochlea, or inner ear, that are attuned to capture and transmit high-frequency sounds,
says Dr. Anil K. Lalwani, director of otology, neurotology and skull-base surgery at Columbia University Medical Center, New York.
Loss of high-frequency hearing leads to deterioration in the ability to distinguish words in conversation. Additionally, any noise in the environment leads to even greater loss in clarity of hearing. Contrary to expectation, presbycusis is also associated with sensitivity to loud noises.
As the overall population ages, governments and businesess should take notice.
Julian Lloyd Webber and Prunella Scales will be among the judges of the Best Quiet Corner Competition in Autumn 2014.
Each category of place – pub, shop, restaurant, supermarket, bank, hotel etc – will be judged according to the reports now being solicited, and the Best in Category will be announced at a ceremony later in the year.