Category Archives: Pipedown News

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 piped music has been introduced recently, emphasise how much you enjoyed shopping/eating in the past without 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 pleasant the atmosphere is without the music. Ask them if the quiet 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 passing shoppers.

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

A list of CEOs is available at

Emails are faster and easier than writing but some people think that an actual written letter (provided it is legible)  has more impact.

IF 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 play it, ask how loud it is. If you find it a problem because of hearing difficulties, such as presbycusis or other health issues, make sure they know that this is why you object.

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, always praise 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.’

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 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 

Doubt cast on research supporting canned music’s popularity.

The ‘piped music industry’ often publishes surveys based on reputedly scientific research showing that its music is liked by most  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 stranger statistic is that ‘99% of staff who work in stores without [background] 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.’ These implausible figures 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 music industry is  ignored.

A typical statement about how everybody loves piped music comes from John Brodie, Chief Executive of Scotmid, which 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 say they value music highly – not a surprise – they must therefore love inescapable forced piped music. A similar 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 these agencies  have a strong vested interest in persuading stores/hotels/restaurants  to play piped music. To take their findings as impartial suggests huge gullibility.


As two academic research papers are often cited as proof that playing background music boosts business, it helps to look at what their authors actually wrote.

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, although a 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!



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.


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