Barista Magazine

APR-MAR 2014

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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still get excited about it, and I hope that people do the same thing. At Porchlight, someone will come in and get really excited because something's playing and they haven't heard this song in 10 years, or because it's a really weird little band that came from this other punk band. I definitely hear whatever's playing when I go somewhere and take note of it, whether it's kind of generic, or if it's something I really like or something I really hate." Meanwhile, the new app and program Coffitivity (www.coffitivity.com) provides the murmur and gentle clatter of the café as background noise to stimulate productivity and motivation—minus the coffee-shop music. Backed by find- ings presented by authors Ravi Mehta, Rui Zhu, and Amar Cheema in the Journal of Consumer Research, Coffitivity seeks to supply users with ambient—but not distracting— background murmurs, which help to keep minds sharp and focused without causing drifting or startling interruption. According to the study's authors, "…a moderate (vs. low) level of ambient noise is likely to induce processing disflu- ency or processing difficulty, which activates abstract cog- nition and consequently enhances creative performance. A high level of noise, however, reduces the extent of infor- mation processing, thus impairing creativity. In addition, findings from our last experiment extend our theorizing by showing that a moderate level of noise also increases buying likelihood of innovative products." "The subtleties of every retail environment are different: The themes are different if it's a gift store or a health-food store or a café," says Putumayo's Dan. " When I started to go around to cafés [to market Putumayo compilations] it was always a challenge, because not every café is the same. Some have a hipper, more alternative vibe; some cater to an older audience. My thing was, 'Let's come up with com- pilation that everyone can love—the hip young kid and the 80-year-old grandmother.'" Zack agrees, and seeks to strike that perfect balance at Porchlight, too—even if what's playing isn't necessarily what he always wants to listen to. "The customer base at Porchlight is all over the place: young people who are into punk, office people, and the 80-year-old guy who just comes in by himself to drink coffee…" (This is starting to sound familiar!) "If I look around and everyone is just studying," Zack continues, "I generally put something on that you can get away with—something quiet and relaxed. If a bunch of people are talking, nobody wants to hear everybody else's conversations, so you gotta pick something a little louder." "The really small indie cafés generally seem to play the same stuff: Neil Young, Simon and Garfunkel, Band of Horses…" Zack laughs a little: "Not that there's anything wrong with that, but there might as well be some generic indie playlist. I personally got really involved in punk, but that's not really conducive to a café setting. There's a lot of music that can be good in a café but without being the generic boring stuff." Choosing the COFFEE-SHOP MUSIC DOESN'T all have to be smooth jazz and acoustic guitars—though there's nothing really wrong with that. Here's a few tips for curating the right sound in your space. Time Of Day What's good for happy hour might not be great for the morning after, if you know what I'm saying. Having a few mellow morning standards or an "In Case of Total Chaotic Line Emergency, Play This Record" set aside can help baristas select wisely all day long. Investing in a stereo that can play music continuously for several hours—as in a multidisc player or a streaming digital-radio setup—can help with scheduling and program- ming for the morning, afternoon, and night. Know Your Audience Who are the people who come to your café, and what sorts of stuff might they be interested in hearing while they're there? (Remember not to make assumptions: There are definitely 80-year-old grandfathers who love hard rock, 60-year-old officey types who love hip-hop, and 15-year- old girls who listen to nothing but classical—everybody's different!) While you absolutely can't please everybody all the time, you can certainly set a tone and establish a rotating record collection that is inoffensive and dy- namic without being bland. Ask your customers what they like: Sugges- tion boxes, a record-exchange program, a CD library, or one day a month with a "customer-created playlist" can go a long way toward making your regulars feel appreciated and welcome in your shop. Anticipate Volume Understanding the way sound travels in your space is hugely import- ant when trying to create a comfortable environment: While the baristas might want to crank the tunes so they can hear over the grinders and steam wands, that might create a wall of sound that customers have to compete with on the other side of the counter. Take a stroll around the café and assess how noise travels. Are there especially quiet corners that might even be labeled as such for those who'd like to escape the din? Can you establish a max volume setting for the café stereo so the baristas know how high they can pump up the jams? Approve, Assign, and Accumulate As boring as it is to hear the same tunes over and over again, it's good to make sure everyone on staff is also on the same wavelength. Having an "approved" collection of music, assigning a few baristas the (coveted!) responsibility of being in-store music director/s, and accepting and accu- mulating recommendations for new additions to the café playlist can go a long way toward helping stabilize your shop without making everyone's eyes (or ears) glaze over. —Erin Meister 96 barista magazine B o o k 5 5 - 1 0 8 . i n d d 9 6 Book 55-108.indd 96 3 / 2 4 / 1 4 7 : 1 7 A M 3/24/14 7:17 AM

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