How to make your music work harder

How to make your music work harder All you need to know about playing music in your hair salon. Why use music in hair salons? Playing music in hair ...
Author: Arleen Pierce
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How to make your music work harder All you need to know about playing music in your hair salon.

Why use music in hair salons? Playing music in hair and beauty salons can relax customers and create a welcoming atmosphere. Customers are more likely to return and recommend the business to others if they enjoy the music played. We asked experts to conduct some research and this is what they discovered:

90% of salon owners agree that playing the right music can be beneficial to their business*. Music in salons creates a better atmosphere for customers and staff alike.

80% of customers would like to hear music when visiting a salon*. A further 81% agree that playing music puts staff in a happier mood*. Many salons compete in an environment where differentiating their service can be a tricky task.

Making music a feature in your salon can have excellent benefits and help you to stand out from the rest.

“Music is such an important part of my business. We play music all the time there would be no atmosphere without it. I want our customers to feel relaxed when they come into the salon and music definitely helps.”

83% of people say that silence makes a place feel

Louise Robinson, Zanders Salon Owner/ Design Director, Newcastle

unfriendly and unwelcoming*. Good quality music will ultimately make your customers and staff happier, creating a more pleasant atmosphere. 60% of people agree this would increase the likelihood of customers returning*.

*Research was conducted by VisionCritical in April 2012 among 1,000 UK businesses and Entertainment Media Research (EMR) in 2009 among 2,000 UK consumers. EMR also conducted research in 2010 among 400 small retailers, hairdressers, offices and factories. Go to to find the results.

In addition, your playlist can be used as a powerful tool to attract more custom. 53% of people agree they’d recommend a salon if it played music they liked*.


How can you enhance music in your salon? What can music do for your hair salon? We’re here to explain. “There are many very cheap and simple ways in which salon owners can enhance their music quality. Sometimes the issues lie with the equipment and other times the quality of music being played or the way the room is decorated and furnished can affect the way it sounds. Small tweaks can potentially make a huge impact on the popularity of your salon — through music.” Steve Levine, renowned record producer, audio engineer and resident sound expert at PRS for Music.

Anyone who has ever had a haircut may have experienced the annoyance of low quality speakers playing poor quality music, alongside the noise of cutting scissors and hairdryers. While at the salon, a customer will usually want some time to relax, sit back and enjoy their treatment. So when music is used correctly, it can act as a very powerful marketing tool.

Using music effectively within your salon may sound simple. However, hair salons are nothing like recording studios. They are often one of the hardest places to control acoustics as the room commonly includes obstacles associated with the worst environments for sound systems.

What is your room like? Sound expert and record producer, Steve Levine, has compiled a list of problematic areas common in salons. There are many ways in which you can enhance the sound with just a few adjustments to your set up: PROBLEM: Rectangular spaces with flat walls are very common in salons. Large corners can create ‘bass traps’ where low frequencies are accentuated in the music. The results make it more difficult to hear music evenly.

PROBLEM: What kind of ceiling do you have? It is common for salon ceilings to be fitted out with lighting, creating a suspended ceiling. This leaves a large void above it for bad frequencies to be accentuated in the music.

SOLUTION: Soft furnishings can alleviate unwanted frequencies in the music. You may even want to try hanging curtains or placing plants in the corners of the room to break up the sound waves.

SOLUTION: Consider padding out the large void above your ceiling with a material like rockwool. This is available at a low cost from most hardware stores. 2

PROBLEM: Hard floors? Although they’re easy to sweep, hard floors can be terrible for audio as they provide a highly reflective surface for sound waves which can result in a lower volume (see fig.1 for an example of how sound waves can be affected by reflective surfaces).

PROBLEM: Mirrors and windows are a necessity for your salon business. However both create an optimum reflective surface for sound waves (see fig.1 for an example of how sound waves can be affected by reflective surfaces). SOLUTION: You can combat this problem with a few easy tweaks. Is it possible for you to offset your mirrors so they are not directly facing each other or the windows? You can benefit from slanting mirrors at different angles, or by using blinds. Curtains can help too.

SOLUTION: Perhaps there are areas in your salon away from stylist workstations that could be carpeted or where rugs could be placed. This can look tasteful for decor too.

Fig 1. Incident waves are the first occurrence of sound from the speaker. Reflective waves are those which occur when the incident waves bounce off reflective surfaces. The sound of the incident wave may be altered, depending on what it reflects against and the angle of the incidence. Room resonance occurs when a sound wave of a certain frequency bounces off parallel walls and cancels itself out. The image above details how the incident wave reflects off the parallel wall and as a result, the reflective wave bounces back – cancelling out the original sound (incident wave) – making it harder to hear above other sounds in your salon.

1 2




—1 Speaker —2 Incident Waves —3 Reflections —4 Result —5 Wall

What kind of sound system do you have and how is it positioned? Not only does the type of sound system you use for playing your music matter, but also the way it is positioned and wired can have a negative impact on how it sounds. Below are some common problems and advice points to help you get the best sound possible. PROBLEM: Are your stylists’ workstations so far from where the music is played (the speakers) that the music can barely be heard by your staff and customers?

PROBLEM: How are the speakers mounted? Poor mounting solutions can contribute to lower quality sound. If speakers are mounted too closely to the wall, vibrations can be created, while placement in the corners of the rooms can create ‘bass traps’ (where low frequencies in the music are accentuated).

SOLUTION: Is it possible for your speakers to be closer to stylist workstations? Perhaps you could use multiple speakers and place them strategically throughout the room? It is better to use multiple speakers, which distribute the music around the room, rather than just one or two blasting out a louder sound in one particular area.

SOLUTION: Ensure you leave a generous gap between any wall, corner and the back of your speakers. 3

Fig 2. PROBLEM: Are you sure the speakers are wired correctly? Much of the time, bad quality sound is linked to power connections and wiring rather than the sound system itself. A very common problem is that speakers are wired out of phase (see fig 3). This can easily be fixed.

‘In phase’ speakers

+ –

SOLUTION: An easy way to tell if your speakers are out of phase is to have a look at the cables. Usually your cables will be labelled positive and negative or colour coded red and black so you will easily be able to see this. If not, a simple way to check is to place yourself so your ears are at equal distances from both. You should hear the sound come from the middle of the two speakers. If the speakers are wired ‘out of phase’ the sound source will be vague and almost sound like it comes from behind you. If the sound isn’t quite what you’d expect, it is likely they are out of phase. You can try swapping the two connections from the speakers to achieve an ‘in phase’ speaker set up.

+ – Speaker phasing: As you can see in the image in Fig 2., speakers that are said to be ‘in phase’ emit two associated sound waves of the same frequency at the same time (notice that the sound waves are shaped in a way which correspond with each other). Fig 3.

‘Out of phase’ speakers

+ –

PROBLEM: Is the amplifier up to the job? Salons tend to have a large space where a 5 or 10 watt amplifier is nowhere near powerful enough to fill the space with high quality sound. The danger of this is that you may be tempted to turn up your system too loud and distort the sound.

+ – The image in Fig 3. depicts two speakers ‘out of phase’ (notice that the sound waves are shaped against each other). The result is that when one signal is going into positive amplitude and the other is going into negative amplitude they will cancel each other out. A lower sound quality will be heard as a result.

SOLUTION: It is important to ensure that you use a system with the correct outputting power to fit your space. If you are unsure, seek advice from your supplier.


Where are you sourcing your music from? PROBLEM: Pirated music is often lower quality because it has been obtained from second or third party sources. Files taken from the original source get degraded each time they are transferred between systems. No matter the quality of equipment you have, if you are playing inferior quality files, the audio will not sound as enjoyable to listeners as it could. SOLUTION: Are you using a CD, tablet or MP3 player? Be sure to select your source carefully. CDs are of optimum quality and, equally, an MP3 player stocked with legitimately obtained files will sound excellent. Pirated music may be low quality and it also infringes copyright. See page seven to find out more about your legal requirements for licensed music.

Playlisting advice Rob Wood, whose agency Music Concierge specialises in designing and supplying playlists to businesses, advises you how to create playlists that can make your customers want to come back. Like customer service, lighting or interior design, music plays an important role in creating an inviting atmosphere customers want to spend time in and return to. When used effectively, it’s a tool that can really add to the customer experience, your brand positioning and even your repeat visit revenue. It can also motivate your staff.

Whatever device you use to play music, you always need to question if every track is right. Ask yourself these six key questions: 1. Is the music right for my brand? The music you play says a lot about who you are. There is nothing wrong with playing chart tracks if that works for your business, but it will tend to make you sound like the rest of the high street.

Get it wrong though and music is at best dull and insipid, or worse outright annoying. It needs to be thought about because music used creatively can make your business sound If you want to sound different create playlists that make you warm, appealing, inspiring, even unique. sound more unique. For instance quirky or arty music might So how is that achieved? Well you could rely on the make you feel more ‘boutique’, giving the impression of an radio, but it comes with potentially depressing news independent store. Music that evokes glamour would make broadcasts and adverts so is not ideal. CDs will sound you sound more stylish and denote a high-end experience. better but invariably have gaps between tracks, meaning Cool, cutting-edge music would make you sound more hip the atmosphere regularly dips. CDs also only contain a and fashion-conscious. maximum of 76 minutes of music. Even with a CD changer, You could even use music to underline your brand attitude, this is probably not enough to prevent the music from story or concept. There’s a whole wonderful world of music becoming repetitive and keep your salon sounding fresh. out there — why not use it creatively to inspire and delight Digital solutions such as MP3 players are better ways to your customers? People’s tastes and expectations are far more deliver music. These devices allow you to store far more tracks sophisticated now. Creating small bursts of customer delight as and create playlists tailored to different parts of your trading they hear something brilliant and unexpected is a very powerful pattern. Remember tracks should be from legal sources and in way of building loyalty and word-of-mouth promotion. Use high quality audio files to give a brighter sound. music creatively and sound as unique as you are. 5

2. Is it right for my audience? Inappropriate music will annoy people. Playing loud rock music will probably alienate older customers, but might be right for younger gig goers. Likewise, classical or downtempo music might be perfect for those looking for a relaxing spa-like salon experience. However, it could be a complete turn-off for switched-on 20-somethings who love the latest sounds. You need to think about your audience’s tastes, age range, and the local population you operate in. If your crowd is a broad mix, consider carefully curating eclectic playlists with music that works for everyone but put them together carefully so they are not too disjointed or random. 3. Is it right for the time of day? We all feel different during different parts of the day and on different days of the week. So think about how you want your salon to sound in the morning, during the day, and towards the end of the day. People are unlikely to want busy, dense music first thing in the morning. Instead consider using light, airy, uplifting music that is not too attention grabbing — this could make people feel relaxed and be an easier way to start the day. Towards the end of the day from around 3.30pm/4pm people’s energy and concentration often starts to flag so music with a little bit more energy might work well. Different days of the week might need a different mood too. For example, you could create a ‘weekend starts here’ mood on Friday afternoons with music that makes customers and stylists feel great.

4. Is the tempo or energy right? The right atmosphere will be governed by the tempo or energy of the music. On a basic level, fast music will make the salon feel busy and potentially even stressful, especially when combined with the noise of hairdryers. Slower music will tend to make people feel more relaxed. What you choose depends on how stimulating you want the environment to be. However, inconsistent tempos are likely to be unsettling and disconcerting as the music jumps from slow or serene, to upbeat and manic. If you feel uptempo dance music represents your brand well, consider using it from noon onwards rather than first thing. Also make sure you are playing it at the right volume level so as not to be annoying — keep in mind that most salons are already very noisy and busy places. 5. Is the music going to upset people? Plenty of tracks have sexual, drug or political references. It’s obviously best to avoid upsetting your customers by choosing music that is not going to cause offence. 6. Is the music fresh? Are you playing music that is the musical equivalent of a 1980s perm? Or are you playing the same music again and again, demotivating staff and bugging regular customers? Salons should sound non-repetitive, so you need a lot of appropriate music — a few hundred tracks won’t be enough. Tracks should also be randomised so they play a different order every day. Crucially they need to be updated regularly to keep your salon sounding fresh and relevant.

Ideally curate playlists for different parts of the day and make sure staff remember to activate them at the right time. Better still, get the music timetabled to change automatically in line with your trading pattern.

“There’s a whole wonderful world of music out there – why not use it creatively to inspire and delight your customers. People’s tastes and expectations are far more sophisticated now. Creating small bursts of customer delight as they hear something brilliant and unexpected is a very powerful way of building loyalty and word-of-mouth promotion. Use music creatively and sound as unique as you are.” Rob Wood, creative director, Music Concierge.


How to create playlists that make your customers want to come back Cross-fades — mind the gap Once you have the right music, the audio experience will be improved by adding cross-fades to your playlists so you don’t have big pauses between tracks. Using cross-fades will provide a more consistent atmosphere. Volume levels — hitting the right balance Tracks sourced from multiple places will be mastered at different volume levels. The result will be that your staff end up dashing to and from the volume control trying to adjust the music as it goes too quiet or too loud from one track to another. It will make a huge difference if you can use volume-leveling software to provide a more steady level of music. Similarly the volume the salon’s music is played at is also obviously important in creating the right mood. You could designate a member of staff on each shift to regularly monitor/adjust the overall volume level to make sure it is never too loud or quiet.

Should I let staff choose their own music? Letting staff pick their own music to play in the salon can be problematic. Most staff will choose music they personally love without considering if it is right for your brand, your audience, or the time of day. Their playlists or albums might have some tracks that are appropriate but are unlikely to be consistently tailored to create the right atmosphere and experience. If you do have a real music expert on your team and you are willing to trust them with the sound of your business, make sure they understand how important it is to create the right atmosphere for your customers. Ask them to follow the advice above, but then monitor their progress and take feedback from your customers. Rob Wood is creative director and founder of the awardwinning music consultancy agency Music Concierge The company specialises in designing and supplying bespoke playlists to businesses.

Make sure you are licensed to play music PRS for Music and PPL licences

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If you play music in your salon for your staff or customers, by law you need permission from the relevant copyright owners**. But don’t worry, to get permission you simply need a licence from PRS for Music and in most cases, one from PPL too.

If from time to time you decide to have a promotional party or event make sure you notify PRS for Music as there is an additional charge for these. Also make sure you have Public Liability Insurance (PLI) and other relevant insurances in place, and that any DJs you hire have a ProDub licence. This is a joint licence between PRS for Music and PPL for the purpose of copying, burning or transferring music from vinyl, CD, MP3 or a CD+G collection onto a digital format such as an MP3 player, flash drive or laptop.

PRS for Music collects and distributes licence fees for the use of musical compositions and lyrics on behalf of songwriters, composers and music publishers. PPL collects and distributes licence fees for the use of recorded music on behalf of record companies and performers. In most instances, a music licence is required from both organisations when you play recorded music in public. For more information visit: **PRS for Music licences cover the vast majority of music originating from the UK and all over the world. However, if you play music that is outside of PRS for Music’s control, you may need an additional licence from the relevant copyright owner(s). You will require a TV licence as well if you are using a TV in your premises. You do not need a licence from PRS for Music in the unlikely event that all the music you play is out of copyright or is not controlled by PRS for Music.

If your DJ does not possess the correct licence for ‘copying’ music to create their playlists, then you may have infringing music being played in your premises which will not be covered by your licence. This will render your licence invalid and mean you may be responsible for any fines or legal prosecution under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. Please check our list of licence holders to find out if your DJ holds a ProDub licence:

To arrange a PRS for Music licence please call: 0800 068 4828 Lines open 9am–5pm Monday to Friday

PRS for Music are here to help Win a £5,000 sound makeover for your salon. Hairdryers blowing, scissors snipping, customers chatting — salons are noisy places. It can often be hard to make the most of your PRS for Music licence and give your customers an enjoyable background music experience. But we want to change that. We want to make sure your salon customers hear music as it was intended, so we’re giving one lucky salon a complete sound makeover — including a full expert consultation, £5,000 of new equipment, and a launch party. Want that salon to be yours? Then enter our competition now at: The closing date for entries to this competition is 31st October 2014. Entrants must have a PRS for Music licence in place to be considered. View the full terms and conditions at

PRS for Music, Copyright House, 29–33 Berners Street, London, W1T 3AB