I was in a sandwich shop, and I heard some music in there that got me thinking, what's the PERFECT music to play in a sandwich shop? I mean, it's an interesting question for a variety of establishments, but there are a number of factors that play in, depending on the place.
1. familiarity. For some kinds of shops (most), familiar music is the best. Especially for drinking establishments, where people love to warm over the old rock classics. I can't remember the last time I went to a sit-down bar and DIDN'T hear Brown Eyed Girl. I'm told another kind of bar can't go a night without playing "Paradise City" by Guns'n'Roses (I usually avoid those kinds of places. In N. America, you're likely to run into a lot of cowboy hats and in Korea, you're likely to run into a lot of American G.I.'s there, which amounts to about the same: rednecks.) Bars like playing music people can sing along with. (Everybody say Hey Ya for Gnarls Barkley!)
Personally, I think sandwich shops and bars should play music that's familiar, like "Hey! I love this song" not familiar like, "Criminy! I swear Bob Marley's ghost is haunting me!" (My friend swears Bob Marley is the most overplayed artist in the world. I think it's a toss-up between Bob and the Beatles, with the winner depending on whether you count other artists covering the Beatles or not. Think about it. EVERY place that involves a beach and alcohol probably plays Bob once a night or more; a LARGE percentage of shops selling beach-ish goods [beach towels, tourist keychains, sandals, postcards] probably plays him once a day, and any establishment where patrons may purchase, use, or visit after using, ganga, will probably play Bob frequently, while any place far from a beach that has a beach/Carribean theme plays Marley on repeat. . . that's a flippin' lot!)
Tempo: tea rooms and wine bars ought to have slow tempoed music (they can even get away with classical), while coffee shops and sandwich shops want to have music that's upbeat but not too rousing. Bars want music that's more intense again -- hence the constant retreads of Doors, Stones and Green Day songs. (When will you ever hear THOSE three in a sentence together again, other than the sentence "Hey! I bet you can't use Doors, Stones and Green Day in a sentence that doesn't also include the words "conversely" "on the other hand" or "unlike" or "much much better than"!)
Volume: You want stuff that can fade into the background if you want it to be unobtrusive, but. . .
Quality: you also want it good enough that if somebody IS listening they aren't thinking "Cripes almighty! Boyz II Men? We either need to go, or somebody can just kill me now!" (Yes, I'm a hater now. Yes, this was my favourite song when I was twelve. I'll come clean.) I've been places where the music totally ruined the experience, and I've actually asked if we can go to a different place if the music is crappy enough -- music in a coffee shop is like cuisine during a trip: it'll make or break the experience. Nice beaches but bad food will dampen the entire vacation, turning it from an "it was great!" trip to an "It was great, but. . . " trip, and good coffee/food but atrocious music will make me never want to re-visit a coffee shop or restaurant. Like good/bad kimchi in a Korean restaurant. It's the final test of a place's awesomeousity. (I love inventating words.)
You certainly don't want to play something grating or unfamiliar unless you cater to a specific audience, or you're in a Portland coffee shop, so I've decided the perfect music for a sandwich shop or coffee shop is . . . Stevie Wonder. (For coffee shops, I will accept cool jazz as a good, but not original, choice.)
Who DOESN'T like Stevie Wonder? Nobody, that's who. He's not too loud, but if you DO listen, he's really good; he's happy and upbeat, but not cheesy (especially Songs in the Key of Life -- NOBODY else could have pulled off "Isn't She Lovely" -- a song about his newborn daughter, without rating eight out of ten or higher on the tripe scale). He's familiar, but not "Not this song again," familiar.
Marvin Gaye and Ella Fitzgerald are also good choices.
So the question of the day is,
What do you think is the best music for a coffee shop or diner?
Also: what type of establishment, as a rule, has the worst music (after country bars)? My vote goes to family restaurants like Swiss Chalet or ABC's.
(second one's funnier)