The Background on Background Music

The Background on Background Music
The concept that background music could benefit patrons’ emotional state was popularized by the Muzak company in the 1940s. The right background  music can either attract guests  or make them want to leave as soon as they sit down. I have one friend that says if he walks into a certain place and they are playing a specific genre , he will just walk out and go somewhere else. The Background music should match the theme of the restaurant, at the very least incorporate some related music . Mexican restaurant , Mexican music and so forth. Background music is one of the most overlooked details when designing the right mood for your location. It’s important people !!
As a DJ I have been in the music industry for over 40 years, recently I have seen a rise in the popularity of what I call the “Resta-Club” ( Restaurant/Club ) hiring DJs to be the “Live” Background Music, it’s a delicate situation and it takes the right DJ to find a balance between dancing and listening. I have consulted several establishments in the South Florida area on how to achieve this balance .
Let’s get this out of the way ,if you use copyright music at an audible level in your establishment, you will have to pay licensing fees to several organizations that represent songwriters and musicians in the United States.  Most business owners don’t even know that this  music licenses exist.
Here is a list of them:

Spotify or Pandora or any streaming station you get through the internet can only be used for private purposes. Just because you pay for it doesn’t mean you can use it in public.
Designing A Playlist
When I design a playlist for any location I will usually visit the place on several occasions . Peak hours as well as slow times , when believe it or not the customer is more likely to be listening and paying attention to what is actually being played than during peak hours where the hustle and bustle of a busy restaurant may drown out the music. I will take in consideration many factors such as age, ethnic composition, families vs couples, full bars vs beer and wine only.Finally I will asses the peak conversational sound level on peak hours as well as the position of the speakers ( facing down, facing out ).  The background music should be a combination of old and new and always ” family friendly” even popular hits that bleep out offensive lyrics do not make the cut if I am designing for a family restaurant. The duration of a playlist is usually around two hours plenty of time to have dinner or lunch and not hear the same songs. I suggest having a different playlist for all the days of the week, reflecting the amount of business the location does. Once these playlists are setup , then it’s as easy as telling a designated employee to select Monday, Tuesday etc.
A Business should never allow an employee to select the background music. 
They will usually select music that they ” want to work to” as opposed to music that is most suitable for the business. They will not filter offensive content and it is usually one genre . A young bartender in his/her 20s would not consider playing any thing  older than 10 years . The playlists must be set in stone and additions or recommendations should be discussed at staff meetings.
The Restaurant DJ
Most DJs are programmed to make people dance ,an empty floor is sign of failure to most . The new breed of DJ ” The Resta-DJ” must be able to program for the mind and soul and not for the feet. The DJ’s musical selections should target a period in the customer’s life by using “feel good” songs by determining the age of the patron and taking them back to their high school or college days.  Resta DJs are content driven as opposed to show off skills and beat mixing. It is their job to create an atmosphere where the patron can converse, interact and listen to what’s being played simultaneously. This specialized DJ is constantly adjusting their programming as different people enter the establishment, aware of sound levels. Requests must be handled on a per case basis and some will be inappropriate and must tactfully declined and not accept You Tube or cell phone connects.
 The Background Music Consultant
Yes , it sounds ridiculous,Background Music Consultant , but hundreds of thousands sometimes even millions of dollars go into designing a location and many owners ignore the role of music in their bottom line . As a professional DJ for many years I am skilled in determining the musical needs of people in any given scenario . Making them dance , or just feeling that much better as they take a bite of that thick,juicy steak they just payed Top dollar for. When a business played the wrong music, 44 percent of people surveyed  reported that they were negatively impacted to a large or very large extent.
Alex Gutierrez is a veteran DJ in the South Florida are since 1976 and has designed playlists for many of the area’s businesses. He was the DJ at the  South Beach restaurant ” Mezzanotte” which was one of the first to use Live DJs  in the early 90s.
Contact him at

32 thoughts on “The Background on Background Music

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