Volunteers wanted for Hearing Survey

Volunteers needed!

Gorki Duhra of Action on Hearing Loss (formerly the RNID) is looking for volunteers for an experiment. Aware that many pubs and restaurants have become  much noisier due to the fashion for minimalist ‘hard’ decor, which echoes  and amplifies rather than absorbs noise , he is looking for volunteers to take part in an experiment in pubs and restaurants with such fittings to check their hearing. He himself, though only in his thirties and with perfect hearing, now finds it difficult to converse with his friends in such pubs.

Anyone willing to volunteer? This problem may seem rather tangential to piped music but in practice the two often go together, while co-operation with AHL is always a good idea.

Please contact me at newpipedown@btinternet.com if you might be interested.

Morrisons Supermarkets: a chance to change piped music policies?

Morrison Supermarkets have long been among the worst offenders when it comes to piped music, the despair of anyone who has to shop there (and of many who have to work there.) So Adrian Rudge’s recent experience sounds encouraging.

Complaining about the piped music in his local branch to Head Office (see below), he received a phone call of apologies and a compensatory gift voucher. He was also told that a new Chief Executive is reviewing all policies and that comments were not only welcomed but might shape Morrison’s future policies.

So, if you ever shop in Morrison’s, now is the time  to add your comments, either by telephone  0345 611 6111 or by using the contact form below.


Which? magazine publishes list of muzac-infested shops

Following its long-running debate on piped music in shops (see http://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/annoying-background-music-shops-supermarkets/), Which? magazine has published a short piece on the subject.

No surprise to see that the Co-op is named as the worst-offending supermarket chain, with Marks & Spencer as the worst department store.    (Not by coincidence, both have been doing badly in recent years.)  These findings echo those from our Quiet Corners’ Competition (see earlier entry.)

Which? magazine does not, however, suggest doing more than asking for the music to be turned down. It should be starting/leading a campaign to roll back the music.

Nicola Benedetti protests against forced music on planes

Nicola Benedetti, the award-winning violinist, has just tweeted to her followers: “Why is it necessary to subject us all to loud pop music on the plane? It’s like being forced to eat something you don’t want” She was travelling with Vueling, a Spanish airline (you have been warned!)  Vueling replied, saying the piped music was supposed to be enjoyable. Nicola thanked them for their reply but went on to say, “Quiet is a rare and precious thing these days. I think many of us would enjoy that more”.  Last July Nicola, who is 27, went into the Top Twenty of the Top of the Pops with her recording of Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, written in 1880.  

Losing the sounds of nature

Rising levels of background noise in some areas threaten to make people oblivious to the soothing yet inspiring sounds of birdsong, trickling water and trees rustling in the wind, natural sounds which can often be heard even in city centres, said Kurt Fristrup, a scientist at the US National Park Service.

The problem was worsened by people always listening to iPods and similar machines through earphones instead of tuning in to the birds and other natural sounds that can be drowned out by traffic, music and others noises, he said.

“This learned deafness is a real issue,” Fristrup told the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in San Jose. “We are conditioning ourselves to ignore the information coming into our ears. This gift that we are born with – to reach out and hear things hundreds of metres away, all these incredible sounds – is in danger of being lost through a generational amnesia . There is a real danger, both of loss of auditory acuity, where we are exposed to noise for so long that we stop listening, but also a loss of listening habits, where we lose the ability to engage with the environment the way we were built to”.

Much the same addiction to non-stop music  afflicts people who expect ubiquitous and ceaseless piped music in every shop, restaurant, pub…

see http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/feb/17/noise-pollution-is-making-us-oblivious-to-the-sound-of-nature-says-researcher

How to Protest: a Brief Guide for the Harassed

Make your views known – politely, pertinently but firmly

Many people find it difficult to complain about piped music. But if you say nothing, pubs, shops, hotels and restaurants with piped music will have no idea how widespread or deeply felt dislike of piped music is, nor how much business they are probably losing.

Here are some suggestions for positive ways to make your views and feelings clear.

If music has been introduced recently, emphasise how much you have enjoyed shopping/eating in the past without the music. Ask why they have changed their policy.

If the music is switched off in a shop where it is usually played, tell the staff how much more pleasant the atmosphere is without the music. Ask them if it is a new policy.

At the check-out don’t just complain bad-temperedly  about the piped music. Instead ask a general question, such as “Who chooses your music for you?” “Are you enjoying the music?” etc. It’s amazing how often assistants will start complaining about it, too. They have to listen to it all day long and are a captive audience, unlike shoppers.

Unless you are being served by the manager of a small business,  the person dealing with you will probably have no control over the actual music. They usually say it is a “management decision”. It is far better to write to the Chief Executive Officer. This is  the best way to get through the layers of middle management etc that try to silence protest.

A list of CEOs is available at http://www.ceoemail.com/

Emails are faster and easier than writing but some people think that an actual letter (provided it is legible)  has more impact. If you can spare the time and effort , a posted letter still offers real benefits.

If you are booking a meal or hotel room, ask in advance if they play piped music. This helps emphasise the fact that background music is not universally loved. If they say they play it, ask how loud it is. If you find it a problem because of a hearing difficulty or health issue, make sure they know that this is the reason.

All members of Pipedown receive, as part of their membership, a wide range of comment cards which quote surveys showing how many people really hate piped music. These can be left in shops etc to express your views and demonstrate you are not a lone crank.

Finally, please make a point of praising businesses that don’t play music! Enough e-mails to the Chief Executive might dissuade yet another business from taking out a music licence.

Julian Lloyd Webber announces winners of the QUIET CORNERS CONTEST

Julian Lloyd Webber has announced the List of Winners:
In the Quiet Supermarkets category Waitrose won first prize. Booths, a small northern chain, came second. Aldi and Lidl were third equal.   The Co-op was damned as worst offender.
Department Stores   John Lewis came first. Marks & Spencer was named worst offender, partly because of the arrogant management who dismiss  every letter of complaint with the automated (and untrue) response: ‘All shoppers like our piped music.’
Bookshops. Foyles was the winning bookshop chain, with Daunt Books coming second.  Individual bookshops Hatchards in Piccadilly was the best quiet individual bookshop
Pub chains Wetherspoons – Tim Martin, head of Wetherspoons who was present at the announcement, raised a glass at the news. Sam Smiths came second.
Individual pubs The Waterhouse, Princess Street, Manchester
Hotels the Evesham Hotel in Worcestershire
Restaurants  Sally Clarke in Kensington Church Street, London
Chemists/pharmacies Lloyds chain
Cafés  The North Star Delicatessen, 418 Wilbraham Road, Manchester

Banks  Nationwide and Barclays were joint winners, with HSBC the worst offender.

The Awards Ceremony

Piped music and even simple work don’t mix

Research presented in October 2014 to the American Academy of Paediatrics in San Diego has found that 85% of teenagers perform even simple tasks worse when they are distracted by piped music or phones. Only 15% manage to perform as well as when they are not so distracted.  Sarayu Caulfield, one of the study’s authors from Stanford University, California, says: ‘Most people still work at their best while focusing on one thing.’  http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/National/article1473083.ece

This result is no surprise for it corroborates a study from Cardiff University of August 2010  which found the effects of piped music on people in the work place to be generally negative. Dr Nick Perham, lecturer in psychology at Uwic’s Cardiff School of Health Sciences, said that background music harmed ability to memorise information in a set order, such as the order of chemical elements in the periodic table or the series of steps involved in solving a mathematical puzzle. ‘Most people listen to music at the same time as, rather than prior to performing a task,’ he said. ‘To reduce the negative effects of background music when recalling information in order one should either perform the task in quiet or only listen to music prior to performing the task.’


However the piped music industry continues to fund research – very smooth and plausible reseach – whose findings suggest quite the opposite.  See the latest from MusicWorksforyou  http://www.musicworksforyou.com/news-and-charts/news/269-music-hits-the-right-notes-for-business-success. No surprises here either, for the piped music industry has a remarkable ability to twist  facts, one rivals that of the tobacco industry, which for decades managed to squash findings  revealing how unhealthy smoking really is.

Which sources are to be believed?  Stanford and Cardiff Universities, which are impartial and highly respected bodies? Or what are essentially PR teams for piped music, often funded in some ways by the piped music industry itself