Instore music as background music: How to find the ideal volume

The Hollister example became world-famous: The fashion label wanted to appear young and hip and therefore played particularly loud music in its stores. The strategy was successful with the young target group, but most other customers felt disturbed by the enormous noise level. So, disco volume when shopping is too much. But what is the appropriate volume for background music in your store? When does music promote sales and at what decibel level does it cause the opposite? The following information about volume levels and instore music will help you hit the right note.

Shopping at 85 decibels – how loud is that?

If a decibel number is mentioned, most of us can’t really relate to it. The unit is less integrated into our everyday lives than metres or degrees Celsius. Above 85 decibels, noises are considered acutely harmful to health. For comparison: A washing machine spinning laundry has about 75 dB, a speeding truck approximately 80 dB, a passing ICE causes about 85 dB of noise, and the music in modern clubs booms from the speakers with 100 dB. A level of 65 decibels is enough to cause stress in the body if you are exposed to this volume for a longer time. 30-45 decibels are ideal if you want to concentrate.

Instore music at a conversational level – a pleasant volume

When customers are asked what kind of music they want when shopping, their answers vary depending on taste and style. Also, whether the selected playlist “matches the product or not” is not a top priority for customers. But almost everyone agrees on this: If the music is too loud, they leave the store faster. You want something that plays in the background, something that still lets you concentrate on the offered goods and talk to someone. “Conversational” is the term used to describe the volume of normal speech. Music and announcements should therefore not exceed 64 decibels, which is the upper limit of the conversational volume. By the way: Complete silence is also not advisable. It seems strange or even unpleasant, because people have already become accustomed to music while shopping.

Instore music throughout the day – which customers at what time?

Not all customers prefer a quiet background sound. Young people are indeed open to faster, harder and louder beats, even during shopping. Since they usually go shopping in the early afternoon after school, louder music can be played at this time. In the morning, when mothers and seniors, in particular, are doing their shopping and customers want to wake up slowly, quiet sounds are appropriate. If the general noise level rises in the late afternoon, the music can be gradually adjusted so that it can still be heard. In the evening, when people are in a party mood, loud music encourages them to eat and drink more. This can promote sales, but it also makes conversations more difficult. Therefore, pay attention to the reactions of your audience and adjust the volume if necessary.

Occupational health and safety – making instore music enjoyable for your employees as well

Sales-promoting measures that appeal to customers are one thing. But your employees also influence the success of your store. A visitor who only stays in your shop for ten minutes may be delighted by the intense music. Someone who has to work there several hours a day is exposed to increased stress. Routine tasks and those that require little concentration should ideally be performed at 45-55 dB. There are rules and regulations about noise exposure at the workplace in nearly every country. For example, the Control of Noise at Work Regulations applicable in the UK states that regular noise exposure at work should not exceed 80 dB. For a short time, it may rise to a maximum of 85 dB. Another very important reason not to turn up the music too loud is to protect your company from frequent sick leave, resignation or even lawsuits filed by employees.  


Since music can lift the mood and is considered a sales-promoting factor, many entrepreneurs believe that they should turn up the volume of the music in their store. However, only young people are attracted to loud music when shopping. On the contrary, customers – starting from young adults – can feel disturbed if the in-store music is too loud. The appropriate range is between “playing quietly in the background” (approx. 40 decibels) and “slightly louder than a normal conversation” (approx. 64 decibels). Loud music can be played depending on the target group, business concept or time of day. It is important that you not only keep an eye on your customers, but also on occupational health and safety. Volumes above 65 dB can cause stress in the long run – which in turn has a negative impact on the mood and motivation of your employees.