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 music in public places. However, if you say nothing, shops and restaurants 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.


At times the music may be switched off in a shop where it is usually played. Whatever the reason (the system might be broken or someone might have forgotten to turn it on) 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 ill-temperedly  about the 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 – a point often overlooked. Sales assistants are a captive audience, unlike shoppers.


Unless you are being served by the manager of a small business, it’s unlikely that the person dealing with you will have any control over the playing of music. They usually say it is a “management decision”. It is far better to write to the Chief Executive Officer.


When you write in to protest, companies will often tell you that no-one else has ever complained about the music. This is strange and is almost always untrue, as revealed by the fact that they usually send out a standard letter. To avoid getting this standard letter, try to ask a question, point out research or provide personal experience (see the Pipedown website) so that they have to think about their response to you as an individual. For example, if you are unable to enjoy a meal in a noisy restaurant because of a hearing problem such as presbycusis, point this out and ask if they have a quiet area to enjoy a meal in their restaurant. Ask them what research they have done to show that their customers want music as they shop or eat. They will often ignore this last question either because they have done no independent research, or reply inanely or irrelevantly as they rely on research from the music industry.  Often they don’t realise that the ‘research’ they are quoting is supplied by the music industry; they think that, if something is on the internet, it must be accurate. If they ignore your question, write back and ask politely why they haven’t answered you.


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 and other places 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.

(With many thanks to Dorothy Lewis)

Are supermarkets & department stores run by idiots? Which? magazine readers wonder.

The long (since July) debate on the evils of piped music in supermarkets, department stores and other places in Which? magazine shows no signs of ending. see 
http://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/annoying-background-music-shops-supermarkets/#comments

One recurrent thread  is contributors’ astonishment that managers  of stores like Marks & Spencer simply ignore every protest. Such chains,  inherently aimed at the middle market with many potential customers over the age of 45, seem frantic to chase only the youth market.  (Though many young people will never shop in such uncool places anyway.) Older shoppers  are voting with their cash and abandoning these music-fouled chains  for quieter places (Aldi, John Lewis/Waitrose, Lidl, Primark…)

Two questions arise: are managers and chief executives idiots to pursue such policies, or are they bent on commercial suicide?

The answer to both queries is probably no. Managers and CEOs (probably) don’t lack intelligence, but they apparently suffer from two self-reinforcing defects:

1 Closed, indeed sealed, minds when it comes to listening to customers’ comments and complaints. (And often to the protests of their long-suffering staff,who have to endure the same music  repeated through the working week.)

2 Remarkable credulity, indeed, gullibility, when it comes to listening to  bogus statistics from the music industry and its ‘specialists’. This leads stores to pay thousands of pounds to fill their branches with music which most customers (and many staff) really do not want.

Hence the persistent cacophony, always at its worst over Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

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.’

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/study-shows-background-music-hampers-1901675 

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

 

Which Magazine and piped music

The July issue of Which Magazine on-line discusses the issue of piped music in shops – for the first time, remarkably.

This article has generated a huge number of  comments on varied types of piped music infestation. Almost all demonstrate how much people hate it, at times for differing reasons.

Add your own comment  http://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/annoying-background-music-shops-supermarkets/ 

North Korean style ‘research’ about piped music’s benefits

North Korea, the world’s last true Stalinist dictatorship, seems to have a strange rival in producing polls to show that 99.9% of people love and support its deeply unpopular regime. It is the piped music industry! This too regularly publishes surveys quoting  figures from its supposedly ‘scientific research’  that piped music is adored by, say, 99% of  customers.

Typical is that from Musicworksforyou, the research site for the two main licence fee collectors, PRS and PPL. According to this group, 71% of us like to listen to music whilst on hold. (A poll conducted for the Co-op Bank suggested just the opposite: 60% of people hate being forced to listen to unwanted music when on hold.)

An even more incredible statistic is that ‘99% of staff who work in stores without music agree that they think customers would be happier if music was played in store’, and 93% ‘agree that if the music was turned off in their workplace, then they would ask their manager to turn it back on.’ Such unbelievable figures – unbelievable by any impartial, reasonably alert person – are blazed on the group’s website and, it seems, believed by enough people in the retail and entertainment worlds to ensure a plague of piped music. The fact that the research is directly linked to the piped music industry is simply ignored.

A typical statement about how everybody loves piped music 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 loved piped 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 most people state they value music highly – which is no surprise – they must therefore love piped music. Such distortion of people’s real reactions to unwanted music comes from  Heartbeats International, ‘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’.

All such agencies have so strong a vested interest in persuading stores/hotels/restaurants  to play piped music that it seems odd any sane person still takes their findings seriously.  The Co-op, like Marks and Spencer, is a chain fast losing touch with customer’ real wants. Instead, it prefers pseudo-scientific findings produced by a couple of academics, who are mainly funded by  the piped music industry. Coincidence? Almost certainly not, although the academics concerned no doubt believe their own research. Both the Co-op and M&S are in deep trouble commercially.  This is no coincidence either.

 

Two seminal academic research papers are often cited as proof that playing background music is good for business. However, it is useful to look at what the authors actually say.

Milliman (Ronald E) “Using background music to affect the behavior of supermarket shoppers” Journal of Marketing Vol 46 (Summer 1982) pages 86-91
In this paper Milliman concluded that playing music can influence the behaviour of shoppers. He reported a 38.2% increase in sales volume when slow tempo music was played, rather than fast tempo music.  And “There was no statistically significant difference in sales volume between [no music] and [slow tempo music]” In view of these findings why do most shops now play fast tempo music, which Milliman demonstrated is the worst type for sales volume? Who is advising them to play this type of music? And why play music at all when there is no statistically significant difference in sales volume between slow tempo music and no music, and when so many people dislike it?

Yalch (Richard F) and Spangenberg (Eric) “Using store music for retail zoning: a field experiment” Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20, 1993 Pages 632-636
This paper is often mentioned by the music industry because it demonstrated that people made more purchases when music was playing.  However, this is what Yalch and Spangenberg actually said:  “When music was played, about 55% of the shoppers made a purchase compared to 47% when no music was played. However, this difference is not statistically significant. Further, it did not affect total expenditures because the average amount spent per person making a purchase (as opposed to the number of shoppers) was highest in the NO MUSIC condition ($51.70 compared to $43.29 when music was being played)”.  At the beginning of this article Yalch and Spangenberg thank Ellen Goldblatt of MUZAK “for assisting in planning and executing this study”.  So, even though the piped music company, MUZAK, was involved in setting up this research, Yalch and Spangenberg ended up showing that shoppers actually spent more when no music was played!

 

 

Loud television music campaign

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  richardhb@btinternet.com

Or complain directly to the BBC – it’s best to telephone, as all calls are logged – on 03700 100 222

QUIET NEW YORK published

Cover of Quiet New York

In May 2014 Siobhan Wall 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.  Produced by Frances Lincoln, this is the fourth of her Quiet City Guides (after Amsterdam, London and Paris.)

In August 2014 she published three smaller guides, additions to Quiet London: Food & Drink, Culture and  Quiet Corners produced by Frances Lincoln.  Like all her books, they are elegant and useful and marvellously illustrated throughout in colour.

Why music really does get louder as you get older

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.

see http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/science/why-at-70-is-it-harder-to-hear-conversations-yet-music-is-too-loud.html?

 

As the overall population ages, governments and businesess should take notice.