Do certain musical qualities put customers into buying-mode?

Fast music has been linked to car crashes. The ‘Mozart effect’ has been linked to increased brain power. Binaural beats have been proven to enhance meditative states of mind. There is little question that music can affect the ways in which people think and behave. As such, music is a crucial aspect of marketing.

Have you ever had a company jingle stuck in your head? Or heard a piece of music and associated it with a particular product or brand? The music that you choose for your on hold space is not an arbitrary choice – various scientific studies suggest that the right music can influence customers in a number of ways and increase your brand perception, identification, engagement, memorability and targeting.

The same energy that goes into deciding which music to play in a physical store should go to deciding the music for your on hold space. Music has a great effect on customer experience and action – it can affect how and what they buy, by appealing to either the pleasure centres of the brain or the parts that control arousal. Research has shown that there are three main qualities of music that can influence the mood and actions of customers: tempo, volume and genre.


music influence on mind
Tempo is the speed at which a piece of music is played. Tempo and pace are the simplest methods of influencing customers through music. Scientific findings from research so far suggests that slower, more leisurely music can influence customers to spend more time browsing (or in our case, holding), which can lead to an increase in sales (because they spend more time contemplating the products or services). Fast-paced tempo on the other hand stimulates faster movement and a sense of restlessness, which can lead to less product-contemplation and therefore decreased sales. For on hold customers, mid-tempo music can often be the least offensive and therefore the most effective choice, as customers will be sufficiently relaxed (which stimulates patience) but also motivated enough to stay on the line.

volume psychology

Numerous studies suggest that volume levels have a significant impact on how long customers will hang around in-store… or on hold. In 1966, Smith and Curnow conducted an experiment that correlated the levels of music in retail stores with the length of time customers spent browsing. The overall findings were that:

  • Loud music = less time in store
  • Softer music = more time in store

Less time in store means less time spent contemplating purchases. Research also suggests that music volume can affect a person’s perception of time, which is an important factor to consider when it comes to on hold music (as we want on hold waiting times to seem as short as possible). In particular, it was found that loud music can cause females to perceive time as moving more slowly than it is in reality.

Another interesting study suggests that loud music can be a turn-off for customers because it impacts their “psychobiological stress system,” and can cause anxiety in very sensitive customers (details here).

This is why the customer care team at Smart On Hold calls to check your On Hold Messages volume levels, every 8-10 weeks; because we know you don’t put yourself on hold to check. This ensures that our product is providing your customers with optimal hold music, and engaging them at the correct volume.


Genre classifies pieces of music according to tradition/conventions. When choosing which genre of music to play in your store or your on hold space, it is very important that you tailor your music selection to the tastes of your target demographic. If your customer appreciates your on hold music, they will be more likely to stay on the line. Music genre, and the relation that customers feel to music, can influence their purchasing choices and the amounts they spend. A 2007 study on the effect of background music on consumers found that playing classical music in a wine store increased sales while also influencing consumers to purchase more expensive merchandise. It was also discovered that when alternating between French and German music, French music led to the purchase of French red wine (and vice versa).

If you are considering having on hold music for your business or voicemail messages, or if you would like more information about brand music in general, contact us.