Tips for Film Composers Transitioning to Music for Games

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Recently, one of my past composition colleagues reached out to me for tips on transitioning from a film/classical composer to writing music for games. I gave her some brief introductory tips on how to get started and figured this would also be a good place for anyone who is interested!

Creating music that loops seamlessly is essential. Snipping off the tail end of a piece of music and cross-fading it with the beginning of track is how it works functionally but you should also making sure from a musical standpoint, it doesn’t sound boring or repetitive when it keeps looping. That is an essential thing to be learned if you want to make music for games. Make sure that there are no clicks when the music loops back around because in the game, the player needs to be fully immersed into the music and it will be distracting if the loop has hiccups in it.

Listening to the Track on Repeat
The track shouldn’t be too repetitive or boring but at the same time; it should be interesting but not have too many different things going on, otherwise ear fatigue may occur. Write music with the assumption that this is a track that someone might listen to for 15 minutes or more.


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The big difference between film and games is that games are interactive and not linear. The game play can be different if the player makes different decisions in the game. For instance, maybe the game starts off more calm, but as the player progresses, it gets more difficult. A way to implement the music would be to have a neutral base layer of music but then another layer of music that is on top of it that fades in when things get harder. If you write music in discrete layers, it allows for more flexibility in game play and implementation.

Think about music in different states. This is similar to the idea of music in layers but instead of layering on top vertically, you would have tracks that transition to another music track (horizontally) when the state of the game changes. So for example, if a player is playing through a level in the game and then encounters a boss, the state of the game changes and the music should transition from the normal game play music to something more challenging and daunting to reflect the game play. Then say you defeat the boss. This would be another transition to a victory or defeat stage with win or lose music. It’s important to understand the flow of game states so that you can write music that matches those game states accordingly.

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Audio Middle Ware
Learn the basics of audio middle ware. Audio middle ware is the software that sound designers, technical audio artists, or sometimes composers use to implement music and sounds into the game. This is helpful because it allows you to test and implement your audio without having to bug your programmer for everything.  It’s good to understand the basics of these types of software so that you understand how your music is implemented as well as what parameters are available to affect your music. Implementation can also make or break the audio. Wwise is a common audio middle ware program. With Wwise you can add effects to your music in real time. Maybe some of the music is for an underwater part of the game. Low pass filters is parameter that you instantiate in Wwise to affect your music in real time. Or perhaps you want to delay when the music gets played until a certain event happens. You can attach it to an audio event and enter in a certain number of seconds of delay to play when that event is called. There are many cool and interesting things you can do to implement your music creatively. On the flip side, bad implementation can really mess up your music. So while you might not have to know everything about middle ware, it’s good to have some basic knowledge of how it works so that you can speak to whoever is helping you implement the music. Wwise, FMOD, Unity, Unreal are all good things to learn.

Dive In!
You will learn a lot just by working on a small project. Maybe it’s an indie project or an iPhone game. Regardless, I always think the best way to learn isn’t necessarily to read a book but just get some hands on experience. It also helps to build your portfolio and you learn quickly what works and what doesn’t.

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Actually Go Play Some Games
If you want to write music for AAA games, go play some AAA games. That is the best way to learn and hear what the standard is. Similar to people who want to score music for films, imagine if they did not actually go watch any movies. The more movies you watch, the more you understand the nuances and also get a feel for what type of movies you want to score. The same works for games!

Hope this proves helpful to anyone looking to get started in music for games! Feel free to post below for any questions.


Validation, Social Media, Happiness, and Creativity

Today I want to talk about a topic that’s been on my mind for a while and that’s the concept of validation in social media as it relates to happiness and creativity. We live in a world where we’re constantly judged to a certain extent by how likable we are, whether that’s how many likes, loves, wows you get on your Facebook post, how many retweets and favorites you get on your Twitter post, how many hearts you get on your Instagram picture, etc. the list goes on and on. Though it’s fun to share with your friends the important events that happen in your life, your proud moments, your sad moments, I think at least for myself, and maybe some of you reading this, we begin to attribute our self-worth and value based on the validation we receive from others in the forms of these social, virtual reactions. It becomes almost like a game where we try to post things that we think will garner the most amount of likable attention from our friends and Facebook’s algorithm, further propels this idea where rich posts become richer. It’s easy to lose your sense of self in this world where you’re constantly feeling an obligation to receive validation from others and this can often affect people’s happiness or unhappiness.


Recent research shows that your “social network may have a negative impact on your self-esteem.”   This article further states that,

One recent study examined the links between Facebook use and wellbeing. “We found that the more you use Facebook over time, the more likely you are to experience negative physical health, negative mental health and negative life satisfaction,” says study author Holly Shakya, assistant professor and social media researcher at the University of California, San Diego.

I think most of know this in the back of our minds but in our day and age, it’s such a deep part of most our worlds that it’s not really something we can get out of at this point. Yes, we can minimize the amount of time we spend on social media and that will help but I think as humans, we have this natural desire to connect with other human beings and this is just a very convenient and hassle-free way to do so. For a while now, I’ve been trying to change my mindset and post things that I truly want to post, that I care about regardless of if it receives attention or not.

Validation and Creativity

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As a designer of sound and music, I think this is also a very critical concept as well. Within your palette of skills, it’s important to know how to create art, sound, music, or whatever form of media you’re working on for others, whether it be clients, projects that caters to the masses because we don’t always get the luxury to choose what we want to work on in order to get paid. However, it’s also important to take on projects for yourself, that you truly care and are excited about, whether those projects be popular and garner a lot of public attention or not. If we base what we do solely on the concept of receiving validation, we’re limiting the bounds of your creativity by only creating things that are fall into the formula of virality. That’s not to say that you can’t create something that is truly innovative that goes viral (which is the best of both worlds) but popular music and media often follow formulas. Just think of some of the most popular songs out there; they probably all follow a similar chord progression. Or if you think about movies, there is a certain formula to Michael Bay’s films that will just naturally garner likes. A lot of these popular forms of media employ formulaic elements to them because in general, people like things that are familiar to them and that are in their comfort zones.

Summary: Screw the System

So in conclusion, I think that whether it’s creating a social media post, a piece of music, a project, try to think outside of the validation bubble we live in. Screw the system. How likable your post or design/creation is doesn’t determine your value and shouldn’t dictate your happiness. I know this is something easier said than done, but like anything, it takes practice to develop this type of mindset and the first step is always to develop an awareness for it. Focus on what you’re actually passionate about and that will naturally make you happier, more creative, and in turn improve your emotional and physical health.

Side note
: I do think that social media algorithms do have an important part in the world of e-commerce and running a business, which I’ve been exploring lately, but that is a different topic, which I will likely save for the next blog post. 🙂

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Collaboration with Wavedash Games

I’m excited to anounce that I’ll be sound designing Wavedash Games’ new eSports platform fighter game, “Icons: Combat Arena!”


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It’s refreshing to return back to the eSports genre after previously working at Electronic Arts’ Dawngate. I love when the players have that passionate, competitive spirit. I feed off of that energy and it helps motivate me to strive to be better at what I do and it’s also nice to know that you have an audience that cares.

How I Landed This Gig

It’s an interesting story how I landed this gig. I was recently contacted by a talent agency that mainly had art and engineering talent but was looking to incorporate some audio people onto their roster. They told me they had a gig that was looking for someone like me and if it was okay to pass my portfolio onto their client. I said sure, that’s fine. A couple of days later,  they told me that their client, Wavedash, liked my work and wanted to work with me. However, the agency needed some time to get their agreements in order and in the end, after waiting a while, they requested I work with Wavedash without them in the picture since time was of essence and they didn’t want us to keep waiting on them for the contracts. I was also told that Kris Orpilla, a good friend of mine, who was the VFX artist for Dawngate, was also working on the game! I was really happy to hear about that because we had a great collaboration together on Dawngate and knowing the people who you’re going to be working with makes all the difference, especially as VFX and audio tend to go hand-in-hand.

Audio Actually Matters!

Another reason why I’m excited about this project is because the players actually care enough that they would complain about the audio. Matt, the CEO of Wavedash had told me that the players made comments about the stock sound effects in their initial trailer and that really motivated them to search for a sound designer for their game.  In a world where audio people often go unnoticed and underappreciated, this was something very encouraging to hear. As an audio professional, we often try to convince people about the importance of having good audio in whatever project is at hand but people often don’t realize the actual importance of it until it’s done poorly. It’s kind of like this picture of toilet paper – you don’t know what you have until it’s gone 😉

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I think Wavedash is lucky to have a playerbase that wants them to bring the game to higher and higher levels and I’m excited to help them out with their sound design. It’s also nice to work on a live game where players can give you immediate feedback on your work and keep you accountable to make sure that the comabt sounds you make are satisfying and have enough oomf to them!

The Power of Sound
For combat games especially, sound design is very important. I remember when I was working on Dawngate and we would playtest some of the box characters without any of
the sound to them. Even with the VFX in, the abilities just don’t feel powerful.

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Source: Desperately Unrehearsed

After adding in the sound design, people’s perception of the strength of their characters immediately changed, thinking that their abilities were much stronger than they were before, even though all of the balancing and numbers were the same. There is something about the sound that emits from a character’s ability and the immediate feedback that it provides that helps create this perception. I often find myself playing games better when I turn on the sound compared to turning it off. Being able to know what your character is doing and what kind of damage they’re taking based on the feedback of sounds within a couple of milliseconds can often determine your success or failure in a game.


In summary, I’m excited to be working on Icons: Combat Arena and doing my best to help make the gameplay an even more satisfying experience than it already is for the players! 🙂


Sacred Spaces Project – A Tale of Two Cities


A little while ago, I was part of a cool project called Sacred Spaces, headed by Cities and Memory. Field recordings were contributed from various churches, temples, and other sacred places from all around the world. After gathering together all of the field recordings, they had different sound designers “re-imagine” the field recordings and put their own creative spin to it. For mine, I chose a recording of a church in Greece.

The original recording can be heard here. While listening to this, I happened to be looking at some pictures of Syria online. There was a picture of what Syria looked like before and after all the wars and turmoil occurring in the area.

Syria: then and now

It definitely struck a chord with me, seeing the amount of devastation that the city had undergone and how time can just completely transform a city. This inspired me and I wanted to capture the dual, contrasting nature a city can have through my sacred spaces track.

This was what I ended up with for my final arrangement.  To check out other songs from the Sacred Spaces album, click here.


Thought Process

The first half of this track represents the dark and tumultuous effects of war on a country. This was done through taking the original recording, starting with the section with the bells clanging. I reversed the audio of that whole section until the end. If you listen to the recording at 0:12, that is the sound of the clanging bells reversed with an added delay. Then I composed an unsettling music ambience that creates a sense of uneasiness with its unstable meters and eerie sounding textures. The percussive nature of the piece starts off with some organic sounding hand drums that grow into loud booming drums that further develop into exploding distorted electric booms panning back and forth, representative of flying explosions and the destruction that occurs in wars. The piece then unravels a little bit and you get from 1:20- 1:48 little after shocks of the war that haunt you (bringing back the short snips of reversed materials).

The second half of the piece until the end is reminiscent of the land before being ruined and a sort of emerging from the ashes toward a more hopeful future. I took the original recording, cleaned it up and enhanced it and played it forward (instead of backward/reversed like in the first section) to show that this is how things should be. The city sounds healthy with its natural bustling energy and there is music I composed below it that represents a sense of serenity and hope. It is indeed like its title,  “A Tale of Two Cities.”

Why People Turn Off Audio – Designing Audio that Accommodates Rather Than Dominates


This concept of audio respecting the user has been something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I know that often times people who work in audio may feel that they are the scapegoat or the black sheep, that they are ignored or only paid attention to when the audio is broken. Audio is also usually the last part of the production cycle, so people often don’t think about it until the very end. I don’t know if this contributes to the need often times for some people to overcompensate by mixing audio to be super loud, to make sure that they are heard and that the proper attention is given to audio, but there are so many things nowadays that are mixed so loudly to the point where it is disrespectful to the user.

So what do I mean by audio that respects the user? It has to do with the volume of the mix, but it also has to do with the content design as well. Let’s first talk about the volume since that is more straight forward.

Loudness Wars 

Many are familiar with this concept of loudness wars or have heard it in pretty much most forms of media. With so much flashiness going on in today’s media, it’s always about capturing the audience’s attention and wowing them. What better way to do this than by making things loud and bombastic. The trend for a lot of albums, trailer music, game audio, etc. is to make things louder and louder. I used to work with a movie trailer composer and the amount of loud music he had to compose regularly was making him deaf. This is not healthy for the composer or for audiences in the long run.


There is a lot of artistry and beauty lost when everything is just loud all the time. There is no contrast, no dynamic range. Everything just sounds the same all the time like someone is constantly yelling at you. It is an understandable trend though. How are you supposed to hear your bumping music in the car if there are sections that are too soft that get lost in the roar of the engine or in loud conversations?

I remember when I was studying composition in college, one of our teachers told us that most pieces that end with a bang or a loud section generate a louder applause from the audience compared to pieces that end more quietly. This is not to say that we shouldn’t ever make things loud, as there are many situations that call for this. Loud music helps get the adrenaline going, which is why a lot of people listen to fast and loud music to enhance their workouts. They are also effective in clubs or any setting where the desired effect is to get your audience excited and pumped.


However, there are also a lot of inappropriate places for music or audio in general to be too loud. One reason I wanted to write about this is because I was watching two different streamers on Twitch; one was trying to talk to some of his viewers and the other was trying to talk to his friend on Skype while streaming the game but the in-game VO was so loud that it blast through everything that was going on. It was jolting even for me as a viewer who wasn’t involved personally in any of those situations. I think this is especially important for multiplayer games where gamers may use voice comms to communicate with each other. Some games also have really loud theme music or menu music that I always have to turn down by at least 50% to be at a comfortable listening level. I think there needs to be more sensitivity to this as you don’t want your users to just turn off all of the audio just because they had one bad initial experience with things being too loud but many people will not think twice about doing just that and switch off the audio if anything gets on their nerves.

Respectful Sound Design in Content
From a content standpoint, it’s also important to consider what draws people’s attention and what is more subtle and respectful.

A lot of the sounds that are most annoying to people are things that contain high piercing frequencies. Think about fingernails on a chalkboard, a baby crying, metal scraping, a beginner playing a squeaky, out of tuned violin, or microphone feedback. These are all relatively high in frequency and have a harsh timbre to them that lend itself to irritating people quite easily. It’s important to think about the frequency spectrum when designing your sounds, especially if the sounds will be repeating quite frequently, or if you are creating a loop of some sort.

Repetition is not always a bad thing. People like things they are familiar with so using repetition properly will allow you to reap great rewards. However, it’s important to have some variation when repeating sounds. That is why random containers exist to help ease the machine gun effect. Think of someone talking. When someone says the same thing the exact same way to you constantly again and again, it will begin to get irritating. However, if they try to prove the same point to you using different words and in a different angle, it will come off as way more enlightening and persuasive.

The duration of a sound plays a big role in how noticeable a sound is to someone. The new short and nimble typing sounds on my iPhone made my actions feel way more tactile and pleasant; it was the first time I left the sound on my phone on for a very long time. I’m usually very disturbed by all the longer duration notification sounds that occur that I don’t want to risk it bothering me during the day but this was very unobtrusive and actually gave me satisfaction when using the product. I think that this is what we should strive to do – create tasteful and appropriate sounds that don’t try to dominate but rather accommodate.

Sounds that have a gentler fade in with a slower attack tend to give sounds a gentler and more background feel. Of course this depends on the content you’re actually working on, but in general sounds that feel like they’re swelling in and out are more pleasant and less disturbing to the ear.

Dialogue is obviously super important because it is always used as a form of communication of some sort. If anyone came to the Seattle Game Audio HoloLens meetup, you will have heard talk at lengths how important the human voice is and how it should be used as a guide for your sound design. However, if the VO is blasting at extremes in order to cut through the rest of the loud noises, then the mix may be improperly balanced and everything might need to be taken way lower in order to accommodate the VO.

In summary, I think that a lot of sounds, with the proper mix, can be made memorable, distinct, and effective by playing with a lot of those different parameters listed above. Of course there are also times when big sound design is needed in order to make the experience more visceral and “real,” but it’s important to know when this is appropriate and when this isn’t and what the role of audio is.  In terms of music, there are times when music should and can take the spotlight, which is often the case with music with vocals but if the music is in support of another form of media, it needs to actually be a support. Audio should enhance the overall experience and many times that means accommodating rather than dominating.

Human Perception, Media & Bubbles – Post Election Reflections


Note: This is not a post about politics or any of the candidates’ stance on things, but more about processing the events of yesterday and trying to understand more about human behavior.

Most of my blog posts are about audio, but yesterday’s elections was just so shocking that I had a physical reaction to the TV and felt a need to blog about it. When they were nearing the end of the electoral vote count, I started coughing, my nose started dripping, and I wanted to throw up but once the TV was turned off, my health returned back to normal and I passed out from exhaustion. I’ve never had such a strong physical reaction to something I saw on TV and I wasn’t hugely invested in the elections as I didn’t support either of the candidates, so I was surprised by my body’s reactions. And for those who read my blog, you probably have caught on to my tendency and need to analyze why things happen and the need to understand how things work the way they do. This is my attempt at rationalizing all the craziness and thoughts floating around in my head about these elections.


Your Bubble

The most shocking thing about yesterday’s events for me was how misinformed I was about America and how America actually felt about the state of things and the candidates. It felt like when you think you know a certain person only to find out that they are a completely different person. I honestly thought that the results from yesterday would have been flipped with Hillary winning in a landslide. I am back tracking my steps to see how I came to such a wrong conclusion as I have never predicted the outcome of something so wrongly before in my life. I think a lot of it stems from the fact that I naturally think everyone has a similar base perception of things and that others rationalize things in a similar way to me. I forget that everyone’s brains are wired differently and that each person possesses very different life experiences and backgrounds. We often surround ourselves with people who are similar or think similarly to ourselves, thus the saying, “birds of a feather flock together.” The problem with this is that your bubble’s point of view may be completely different from the vast majority point of view but since that is all you are exposed to, it becomes the justified and accepted view that you think everyone has. At least, that’s what I felt like happened in my situation. I knew there were others out there who supported Trump’s views but I didn’t know how widespread that sentiment was.

A lot of it we can see on social media as well. Like with Facebook for instance, it shows you things that they think you like or that you have similar viewpoints and perspectives to and that’s a big reason why their targeted ads are so effective. People like it when others agree with them, but often times that’s not the healthiest way to live and grow as a person. Conflict is never fun, but it’s important to have friends who are different from you and to not just cut them out from your life because they voted differently; it’s healthy to have people challenge your viewpoints and make you really think about things and why you believe the things you do. I think that Trump is also going to experience this when he goes into the White House and will have to learn to work with people that he may not like or have completely different stances on things with. It is why diversity is encouraged in the workplace because people with all the same ideas most likely won’t bring anything new to the table versus people with different perspectives and experiences may challenge how you think and create things. Though there has been a lot of division within this election, I think it’s important to accept the fact that people have different perspectives and values, which may be offensive to yours, but it is important to learn how to grow and work with these people who are different from you.  Sometimes the best things are created when this happens. I know it’s a hard road, but I think there is always hope to compromise to make things work.


The Media

Another thing that left me a bit perturbed was the media’s portrayal of the state of how each of the candidates were doing. A lot of the articles I read online were showing how Trump has a very little chance of winning or painting the picture of Hillary seemingly having a strong lead. Likewise with the polls as well, showing Hillary being up by however many points and how she clearly won the debates. Those were sentiments that I had tended to agree with so I didn’t think to question if this was actually a true reflection of how the vast majority of America felt, or more so just a collection of opinions of those that live within the west coast bubble. That is why there was such a big shock when I saw the actual numbers from the voters show something completely different. Nobody was expecting the turn out, both Democrats and Republicans, and I think it has a lot to do with how the media painted the story up to now. This is a bit scary because now I question a lot of my perceptions of things that were often times based on things that I assumed were true because it was portrayed in the news on TV, in a news article, or in some other form of the media. There is definitely a left wing bias in the entertainment business and with many artists, writers, etc., which could have affected how the media portrayed certain things. It felt like the media had also fallen prey to being stuck in their own bubble and was out of touch with the actual reality and state of the country we live in as well. Regardless, this really got me thinking about the validity of the things we learn from the media and how tainted by bias the information we receive is.



The last thing I want to talk about is perception. We often forget how important perception is. Sometimes it’s not the person who is the best (skills wise) at what they do who gets the job but the person who people perceive to be the most capable at what they do who gets it. I have seen this happen in a lot of job interviews. When I ask the person making the decision why they decided to go with one candidate over another, a common response is that they went with the person they felt the most comfortable and reassured with, the person that was the most confident about everything, creating the perception that they can handle anything that is thrown at them. The feeling that we get from someone really affects our perception of them. I think this is where Trump excelled. He understood the working class and how they felt about the country and was able to speak in a way that showed them that he cared and understood them and wanted to represent them. It may not matter how inexperienced he is in the political realm compared to Hillary, it is how he made the people he was targeting feel about addressing their concerns, making their opinions heard, and making their perception of “America great again.” He spoke in a way they could understand and develop a trust in him.

Human behavior is deeply affected by perception. We tend to value things more or less based on our perception. Thinking of the law of supply and demand, people often value things that are less in supply because the perception is that there must be a huge demand for it if there are only a couple left. The diamond business for example thrives on this. Even though there are many diamonds in the world, the amount available to be bought by consumers is very few in comparison, so we perceive diamonds as being rare gems that we would value greatly and pay a high price for because of it.

Our human behavior is affected by our perception of objects but also applies to our perception of humans as well. I remember before when I was contracting for music and sound design, I was super busy and would take on many clients at the same time. Word spread and I got a lot of referrals. When asked, I listed out some of the other clients I was working with at the time and they immediately asked if I had time for their small little project. I said of course, and they were still concerned and offered to pay a retainer fee. Flattered, I agreed to it. This basically meant that when it came time to work on their project, I had to be able to drop other things to finish their project. I realized that day that perception is hugely important in the industry and that ties directly into how someone develops a reputation.

So coming back to the topic of the election and tying things up, I think that my perception of Trump was deeply influenced by the bubble I’m in, the state I live in, the friends I have in real life and on social media, as well as the media. Of course I also developed my own views based on his words and actions, but a lot of this was based on the information I got from the media. I think that one thing that Trump has to work on if he is to try to unify America is to work on creating a positive perception from people not just from the working class people that he was targeting but many of the other minority groups that feel shafted based on his past words or actions. It is hard to rebuild your perception of someone as it is a bit like erasing a first impression. There needs to be trust developed first, but it is not impossible. I think for the rest of us, it is important to embrace those who have opposing views from us. I know some may think that they don’t want to have anything to do with people who hate a certain type of people or exclude them but you can’t really put fire out with fire. I think it’s important to be the bigger person and show love to those who maybe in our minds hate others or don’t deserve love. You can’t expect people to change if you constantly hate on them but if you approach them in a loving manner, it is easier for them to take in what you have to say and that is the beginning of reconciling differences and compromise. I definitely need to work on this myself, but that is what I hope I and other Americans can strive to do in the days to come.


Music and Consumer Behavior

You sit at a fancy restaurant and savor each bite of your gourmet meal while drinking a bottle of wine, as some smooth jazz music plays in the background. You walk into a clothing store and they have loud, thumping music that gets you pumped as you sift through the rack to find your perfect shirt. These are two very different scenarios catering to potentially different audiences but both situations show how music plays a subtle but essential role in your emotions and motivations behind purchasing decisions.

We can all attest to the fact that music does evoke emotions in people, whether it’s a song on the radio or a film score that tugs hard on your heartstrings. Fifty percent of every purchasing decision is driven by emotion, so it is no surprise that music, with its ability to influence emotions, is closely tied to consumer behavior.


Music’s Genre and Creating Atmosphere

Out of all the qualities of music, the genre of music has the biggest effect on customers’ perceptions and preferences toward products. There was a study done in 1996 by North and Hargreaves at a university cafeteria. They found that if the customers liked the music they heard in the cafeteria, they liked the cafeteria more and were more likely to return there to dine. Our associations with the type of music being played while we shop directly affects our perception of the product.

Not only do we tend to like the product more because we like the music but specific genres also change our perception of the products. In 1993, Areni and Kim played music ranging from Top-40’s to classical music at a wine store to see how it would affect shoppers’ behavior. The results were that classical music led consumers to buy more expensive wine because it is associated with sophistication, class and expensive items.

@elizabethharbau I say we style your living room shelves with wall-to-wall wine. Just kidding. (Half kidding.):

Knowing this, it isn’t a surprise that for these same reasons, luxury car commercials often have classical music in their commercials as well.

North and Hargreaves continued their studies in 1999 where they alternated between playing French and German music in a wine store. On the days when they played French music, customers bought more French wine and on the days they played German music, customers were more inclined to buy German wine. When questioned about their purchases later, customers were unaware that the music had an impact on their purchasing decisions. Similar to film scores, we are often unaware of the music playing in the background but it has a deep impact on our subconscious feelings and can lead us to make decisions based on these emotions.

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Music Tempo

Miliman did a series of interesting studies in 1982 and 1986 on the speed of music being played and the amount of time that consumers spent in stores. In 1982, he found that with slower music playing, people shopped more slowly and ended up spending more money. In 1986’s experiment, Milliman played both fast and slow music at an upscale restaurant and found that customers ate faster with faster music and slower with slower music. Because they ate slower with the slow music, they stayed longer at the restaurant and drank more alcoholic drinks, and as a result, spent more money.Image result for person drinking in fancy restaurant


Music Volume

This one is not completely surprising. Smith and Curnow did an experiment in 1966 where they played loud and soft music in stores. They found that people spent less time in a store when loud music was playing compared to soft music but interestingly enough, the dollar amount spent by customers was not significantly different. In 1988,Yalch and Spangenberg‘s study showed younger customers spent more time with louder and more prominent music compared to older customers who spent more time with softer, background music.
Music and Product/Brand Perception

Research also shows that people are more inclined tend to buy a product if they like the music in the ad versus music they don’t like or no music at all (Mitchell, 1988; Simpkins & Smith). Similarly, if customers liked the music that was playing, they enjoyed their shopping experience more and felt less time went by, even if they waited a while in line. Furthermore, people are more likely to make a purchase if the music is fitting and appropriate for the brand or product (Oakes, 2007).


Music, Our Other Senses, and Our Brain

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Music also works great in conjunction with your other senses. In 2005, Spangenberg, Grohmann and Sprott tested the effect of Christmas music alone playing in a store, a Christmas scent that permeated the store without the music, and then a combination of the scent and Christmas music playing simultaneously. They found the scent alone had a negative effect on its customers, compared to the scent plus the Christmas music together created a very positive, seasonal, and holistic experience.

Music can often seal the deal for product branding and perception because it speaks to us in subliminal ways. Why is that? PAD (Pleasure, Arousal, and Dominance) is “a psychological model developed by Albert Mehrabian and James A. Russell (1974 and after) to describe and measure emotional states.” Music affects the pleasure and arousal centers in our brain, causing us to react or feel a certain way, thus influencing our purchasing decisions.


Tying it All Together

So knowing all this, which characteristics of music affect our perceptions and purchasing decisions the most? It is the genre of the music and tempo. The type of music being played while we shop directly affects our purchasing decisions. Volume correlates to how long someone stays in a store and tempo is precisely tied to the amount of money spent by customers. With regard to last week’s post about Music Genre and Personality Correlations, the genre of music we like is core to who we are and correlates with our personality, so it is critical to understand who your target audience is when you choose what type of music to play in your store or ads. You want your customers to have the best and most enjoyable experience possible; knowing their taste in music will help greatly in selling and branding your products effectively.