The Effect of Music on Your Spending Habits



As most of you know, I am a huge fan of Chipotle.  I am normally eat there at least once or twice a week.  I have made friends with everyone on staff at the location I go to, and I usually don’t even have to place my order.  They normally start preparing my burrito when I walk into the restaurant.  I’m that predictable.  It’s pretty amazing.  


musicOf course, some of you shudder, wondering why I wouldn’t save some money and pack a lunch from home.  Two reasons.  First, I use it as a forced downtime from work, which allows me to declutter my mind.  Secondly, my wife typically purchases gift cards online from Cardpool with some amazing discounts.  So it’s not a huge cost savings for me to bring lunch from home.  Plus, I love devouring those delicious Chorizo burritos.


Music at Chipotle

musicWhile I’m dining at Chipotle, I’m pretty focused in on enjoying my burrito.  But recently, I’ve noticed that the background music has been very eclectic.  One song might be a folksy song, while the next is an uptempo instrumental.  I’ve always wondered how they choose the music that they use.  


So then, I started thinking about why retail stores pipe in music.  There has to be a reason other than to eliminate the doldrum of silence in the store.


Chipotle actually hires Studio Orca, a company that creates music for hospitality and retail businesses.  Chris Golub, the founder of Studio Orca says, “What our company does is, what I like to call, creating a musical identity.  We’re sourcing out unique material that has a freshness about it and a sense of place, if you will.”  Needless to say, he has definitely created that type of environment at Chipotle.  


Music & Psychology

musicIn 1982, researcher Robert Milliman found that “the tempo of instrumental background music can significantly influence both the pace of in store traffic flow and the daily gross sales volume purchased by customers.”


According to Dr Vicky Williamson, the authority on the psychology of music, “Music positively influences consumer mood/emotional states through psycho-physiological reactions and autobiographical memory associations. Silence, by comparison, can be intrusive, as it throws unwelcome attention on the consumers’ behaviour.”


Abercrombie & Fitch

musicWhen I was younger, I hated shopping at Abercrombie & Fitch.  The music was always so loud, and the customer service was usually pretty horrible.  I had to scream in order to talk to any of my friends in the store, let alone trying to communicate with the sales associate, who was probably going deaf due to how loud the music was.  


According to a study done by the NY Times, one Abercrombie & Fitch store hit a pulsating 88 decibels.  As a reference point, standing next to a lawn mower is 90 decibels.


So, why did Abercrombie & Fitch keep their music so loud?  It’s because young people can sustain loud noise longer than old people.  Abercrombie & Fitch purposely wanted to maintain a youthful image, and one of the best ways of that was to keep old people out of the stores.  


Although I’m not sure how effective this strategy is/was in the long run, as Abercrombie & Fitch stores are closing left and right.  Maybe they should have welcomed mom and dad into their stores to help buy some clothes for their kid.  


Doctor’s Office

musicIn contrast, whenever I go to the doctor’s office, more times than not, I hear classical music.  Personally, I don’t really care for classical music as I find it pretty boring, but according to a study done by Nicolas Gueguen, classical music projects an air of expense and quality.  So playing classical music in a doctor’s office makes a ton of sense.


Wine Stores

Now this shouldn’t shock you, but when wine stores changed from Top 40 music to classical music, they increased sales while influencing consumers to purchase more expensive merchandise.  This means less Two Buck Chuck and more Cristal.


musicSomething that I found even crazier in that study was the influence of the genre of the music.  French music at a wine store causes shoppers to buy French wines more often, while German music causes shoppers to buy German wines more often.


The Best Type of Music

So what type of music is optimal for stores to play?  According to studies, more leisurely music causes shoppers to spend more time contemplating musictheir purchases and enjoying the atmosphere.  It also leads to a significant increase in sales.  On the other hand, louder and fast-tempo music cause shoppers to spend less money and less time in the store.


So next time you’re in a store, listen carefully to what the store is playing.  More likely than not, they’re letting you know whether or not you are in their demographic.  Happy shopping 🙂


Readers, do you pay attention to the music in the store?  Were you aware of the influence of music on your shopping habits?  Share your thoughts below.

Mustard Seed Money

Welcome to the website. A mustard seed is a very small seed but astonishingly grows very large over time. My hope is that through your financial journey that your small investment in time, money and faith will grow beyond anything that you could ever imagine.


  1. I certainly notice the music in stores and restaurants, but I don’t think the choice of music influences my purchasing decisions. There could be some subliminal effects that I’m not aware of.

    I will say that the volume of the music impacts me the most. I guess I’m not young and hip anymore, but I can’t take loud music at a restaurant. We will avoid some restaurants, even if they have good food, when they are blasting the tunes too loud.

  2. Nice article – I hadn’t thought about this before, but the music playing in the background obviously plays into the ambiance the restaurant or company wants to portray to customers.

    I’ll admit, though, I haven’t noticed any music playing typically at doctor’s offices. Where I work, we don’t have any music – maybe we should change! The sound I find most synonymous with doctor’s offices is the background TV showing cartoons or the news.

    • That would be a really interesting experiment to see if classical music helped soothe the nerves in your office or gave it a more upscale vibe with just the addition of music. I’ll be curious to hear if you do this 🙂

  3. I did pay attention to the music that stores are playing. However I did not know how they affected my purchasing behaviour. I like classical music. Lucky for my I don’t shop at the liquor store that much.

  4. Interesting article MSM. I hadn’t ever thought about music’s impact on purchases. I usually tune it out except when it’s obnoxious in which case I leave. I always thought it was jus White noise to keep you focused. Thanks for the food for thought.

  5. We used to play music in the used bookstore that probably drove customers away (particularly Pink Floyd’s Meddle). As I got older and into management, I got way more aware of what the music was doing to sales. It was a constant battle to get our mostly early 20s hipster workers to play stuff that kept the customers happy, or to even think in those terms. (although by Dec 1, I was awfully tired of Christmas music too.)

  6. Yep, I study this kind of thing in my degree (Criminal Psychology, obviously the latter part!). There’s a lot of techniques they use, such as slower songs when they want you to walk around slowly and look at everything.

    • Thanks for sharing Francesca!!! That’s really cool all the various techniques that stores use to keep consumers in there to spend. Truly amazing stuff.

  7. Very interesting. I’ve never thought about this before, but it makes complete sense. I can definitely see how the tempo of the music can dictate the pace at which a person shops. Nice post.

    • Thanks for stopping by The Magic Bean Counter!!! It’s amazing all the psychology behind these types of things. I’m surprised Amazon hasn’t tried to influence our shopping at home with some music 🙂

  8. Hahaha, this is great! I’ve heard of retail stores using music to control the flow of people in and out of the store. Slower music made people stay longer in the store, while faster music made people get out faster. They would order things like this to have a stream of regular traffic. Dang!

    • Thanks for stopping by!!! I think it’s so incredibly interesting how tempo can affect shopping. It’s definitely not something that I’ve ever thought about.

  9. Excellent article! I learned something new today. Starting the day off right.

    I’m with you on the chorizo at Chipotle. That stuff is amazing. Will be checking out Cardpool shortly. Thanks for the tip.

    • Thanks for stopping by Holden!!! Chipotle is amazing and definitely something I look forward to eating 🙂 Let me know what you think about Cardpool, I think it’s super helpful.

  10. Man… I’m the same way with Chipotle… at least once a week if not more! I’ve memorized my order… white rice, pinto beans, chicken, fajitas, no salsa, corn, sour cream, lettuce, cheese 🙂

    Very interesting post. I’ve started listening to classical music if I need to think through a problem. Otherwise, anything with a beat is great!

    • Thanks for sharing Erik!!! I tried to get into classical music but I just couldn’t do it. I found myself becoming bored and I found myself getting distracted thinking how I would rather listen to anything else.

  11. Thanks for supporting my Chipotle stock!! 😉
    I pay particular attention to the music in a hotel lobby. One in LAX plays club music and its such a drag to go to the bar because you have to listen to the bass pumping the whole time. I try to avoid that hotel…maybe I’m getting old?!

  12. Apparently there are also wineries that pipe in music into their cellars to agitate the wine molecules, for a more “holistic” approach to wine making. The vina vik winery is an extreme example of what you’re describing before the product even makes it into a store. Marketers are so creative!

  13. I just do not hear music well. So all the clever thought they put into their music selection is lost on me. I am immune to their manipulations, HAHAHA. Can I now have my own comic book pretty please? I am also mild Deutan colour blind if that helps ..

    • Thanks for sharing Financial Freedom Sloth!!! That would definitely be an interesting comic book idea although it might have a small subset of readers due to it’s PF nature 🙂

  14. I LOVE Chipolte also! Although, I don’t usually dine in. There are some Indy coffee shops near me that play some cool Indy music and one even plays punk rock…. so, I have to decide what kind of mood I’m in. 🙂

  15. That is really interesting information and makes sense. I know music can be used to boost productivity, but I’ve never thought about it from the marketing/sales side.

    With my recent work travels I have been taking advantage of getting Chipotle for lunch at least once or twice a week. Their speed alone is amazing (even though I’m not a regular and I have actually order), but they also make some pretty tasty food. I will have to pay attention to the music more when I back next week.

    • You’ll have to let me know if the music influences you at all. Since I order the same thing every time it doesn’t really do much for me but it is interesting what they decide to put out.

  16. I definitely prefer hip hop in the background.

    Do you have a work break room available? We have a big one here to eat in, and it’s just like stepping away from work or my office. I eat there. I do like burritos though, and even getting out, but I am focused on the end goal here.

    Now you’re making me hungry. Yum.

    • Thanks for stopping by Finance Patriot!!! We have a break room but we don’t have any music playing. Only a lonely tv that is normally tuned to the news. Sounds like you have a much better break room 🙂

  17. Dam I wish we had Chipotle around here. It sounds good. I notice the music and would definately agree it influences me. Whenever I go into a store and there’s no music. It seems really boring for the people working there. If I’m driving and a good hip hop/ rap and rock and roll song comes on I’ll definally drive faster. Bars or restaurants actually have a factor if I will eat there based on music and volume. I want to still have a conversation.

    • Thanks for sharing!!! I’m like you I will definitely skip a restaurant based on noise level and the music. If I’m spending money I want to enjoy the experience.

  18. I can definitely see how music can affect a customer’s mood and therefore their propensity to purchase something or not. I don’t think it affects me too much in terms of buying stuff… at least I don’t think so. Probably good that I don’t like to go shopping in the first place. 🙂
    SomeRandomGuyOnline recently posted…Friday Blog Roundup – 3/24/17My Profile

  19. So interesting. I always noticed the background music, but never realized it’s importance or role in the buying experience. I will be sure to look out for that from now on. On a separate note, I have been considering investing in Chipolte, what are your thoughts from an investment perspective? Have the stores been more crowded at lunchtime? It’s been almost 18 months since their outbreak and I think they are fairly priced. If they can draw customers back in, I think in the long run they could be a good potential investment.
    Courtney @ recently posted…How to Use Mutual Banks to Increase Your ReturnsMy Profile

  20. I’m not surprised at all. I have my own various playlists depending on what I’m doing for a workout too. High intensity or weights is hip hop or industrial music, but often on runs I like steady tempo music and occasionally girl power music like Pink and Lady Gaga. Sometimes if I’m trying to calm down I listen to ramblin’ music like Eddie Vedder.
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…Being Brutally Honest With YourselfMy Profile

  21. So intriguing! It totally makes sense that silence would force customers to focus on their behavior and maybe spend less. And I’m so with you on A & F. I was never trendy enough for them anyway, but the few times I ventured into one, I loathed the atmosphere–dark and noisy! Not my cup of tea.
    Mrs. COD recently posted…Job Hunting and WaitingMy Profile

  22. This is fascinating – I have always been aware of stores and restaurants playing music but I had no idea there was a hidden psychology behind it…I can’t say I’m surprised though. Just as the layout of stores and the pricing of goods is all designed to make the consumer spend more or act in a certain way, it only makes sense that music would be part of the scheme as well. Nice article 🙂

    • Thanks for stopping by Four Pillar Freedom!!! Those big box retailers are trying to squeeze every extra dollar they can out of us. Good thing I don’t do much in store shopping these days 🙂

  23. You always have the MOST interesting post topics! I love it 🙂 I love music, but typically don’t notice it too much when I am shopping, so it may very well be subconsciously affecting my spending! But I do notice music at restaurants and coffee shops and typically enjoy a more mellow/eclectic mix of music.

    I have definitely been in restaurants and even some stores where the music is too loud or unenjoyable to me, and I leave pretty quickly because I have sensitive ears (i guess they are subtly telling me I’m not their demographic lol!)
    Katy recently posted…What I spent and What we AteMy Profile

    • Hahaha…I can’t tell if they’re being mean or nice when they crank up the music. In one way they’re letting me choose to leave, in another way they’re saying we don’t need your business.

  24. I know that most sporting goods stores tend to play really upbeat and moving pop music. I guess it puts customers in the mindset of excercising. When a customer can picture in his mind doing the sport that he loves, he can more easily picture himself buying the equipment that he needs.

  25. Interesting. I think I’m more visual than auditory, so display and color definitely influence my mood and spending more than music.

    BTW I’ve never heard of cardpool and it’s unfortunate that it has been missing from my life until now. Thanks for the intro!

  26. In college when I worked retail in the summer, we would get a new cd every month to 6 weeks. It definitely put me off some songs hearing the same playlist all the time. I’m sure hearing ‘hot hot hot’ influenced people to buy more summer clothes. 🙂

    • I can’t even imagine listening to the same songs over and over again. There is a local radio station that plays the same top 4 or 5 songs every hour. I had a co-worker that would listen to it non-stop until I finally said I can’t do this anymore and bought headphones to drown out the music.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge