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Music in the store: How music affects retail workers

We are very glad to invite you to the Sound and Music Interaction Seminar with Stefan Carlén.

Tid: Ti 2022-12-13 kl 14.30

Plats: KMH Royal College of Music, Lilla Salen, Valhallavägen 105

Videolänk: Zoom

Språk: English

Medverkande: Stefan Carlén, Chief economist, The Commercial Employees' Union

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Dubai Mall  - Photo by Meyer Sound https://meyersound.com/news/dubai-mall/
Dubai Mall  - Photo by Meyer Sound https://meyersound.com/news/dubai-mall/


This study examines how sales workers experience the music played in the shop from an occupational health perspective. Music has a major impact on people’s minds, feelings and behaviors. Therefore, music affect both sales and work environment for those who work in workplaces where music is constantly being played. Research supports that background music in stores leading to higher sales than if music is not played. As regard to the impact on the work environment, there may be both positive and negative impacts.

The results in this study show that a large group (45%) of the workers experience that music has positive effects for the occupational health. But at the same time it is a relatively large group (24%) who perceives that it is negative, which means that the music still needs to be examined based on the employer’s work occupational health. Furthermore, one third (31%) of workplaces never play music during opening hours. At these, it is a large majority of workers (71%) who want music in the workplace. The study also identifies factors that affect if the music can lead to a positive or negative experience of the work environment. A well done brand work, where music plays a role in combination with involving workers would lead to a significant improvement in the work environment. This study shows that employees who receive information or education, and have an increased influence in music selection, significantly experience the music as more positive. In this, the acquisition of an organized music agreement is an important factor. There is a significant link between music agreements and improved work environment, probably because it allows for greater variety, wider supply and higher professional quality in the music the companies accesses. Work places that lack music agreements and make use of free music show major shortcomings. Employees at these workplaces often find that the music creates stress and fatigue, that it lacks variation and has poorer quality. The survey also shows that the perception that Christmas music is extraordinarily stressful is certain, but is somewhat exaggerated. A majority does not consider Christmas music to be more stressful, but still one third does. The difference between how music is experienced during the rest of the year is rather small. Finally, this study reveals that the retail industry in Sweden has huge challenges regarding brand work and music. Despite the knowledge that the right music can increase sales and the need of involvement of staff, this survey shows that the industry does not seem to be able to handle this. However, the positive side is that the results show that there is a win-win opportunity. If the companies really work to involve the music in the brand, involve employees, provide music agreements, and within reasonable limits allow employees to participate in co-determination, not only can it lead to a better work environment and reduced sick leave costs. It can also lead to an increased positive customer relationship and likely to increase sales.


Stefan Carlen is chief economist and head of the research department at the commercial workers union. He has a Phd degree, and is researcher at Stockholm University in the department of economic history and international relations. He has completed studies in several different areas. Mostly labor market-related studies on wages, working hours, working environment, etc., but also industry studies on profits, structural transformation, digitization, etc. In his study, Music in the store, he could combine his interest in music with how it affected retail sales workers occupational health.

Musik i butik - En studie av hur musik påverkar handelsanställdas arbetsmiljö

Ny studie visar att butiksanställda mår bättre av Stims musik

About the seminar series

Sound and Music Interaction Seminars is a seminar series organized by the Sound and Music Computing group  at the division of Media Technology and Interaction Design , KTH. The list of past and upcoming seminars is available here