AI helps retailers translate brand experience into music

Music in retail is moving from analog and passive solutions to a digital and active component in retailers’ brand activation toolsets.
Elizabeth Christenson
Editor, Retail Leader
Elizabeth Christenson profile picture

Retailers know music has the power to influence consumer behavior. The majority of consumers (79%) notice the music that is being played in store, reinforcing that auditory is a vital piece of a brand’s sensory puzzle, according to MRC Data.

Still, retailers need education on how they can easily and legally mobilize music to connect with their customers, as well as the risks of illegal streaming. Retailer Leader spoke with music industry veteran Ola Sars, CEO of Soundtrack Your Brand and co-founder of Beats Music, about how music can increase brand awareness and loyalty. Sars founded Soundtrack Your Brand as a joint effort with Spotify to help businesses strengthen relationships with customers through the power of music.

Retail Leader (RL): How can music help establish and build customer loyalty and influence behavior like time and money spent?

Ola Sars
Ola Sars

Ola Sars: Music is an integral part of the sensory experience, making it the center of experiential loyalty in hospitality and retail segments. Sound creates an often-subconscious attachment to a brand and can make or break a customer’s experience. This is why businesses need to program music that fits their brand – it’s an easy way to increase authentic brand loyalty.

For example, a study conducted by Gant, a U.S. clothing retailer with 500 stores worldwide, found customers spent 42% more time in the store when any kind of music was playing; stayed in the store 1.6% longer when the music was chosen to fit the brand and not random; and sales increased by 37% when brand-fit music was played instead of random music.

RL: Why is it important for retailers to stream music legally? What are the risks of misuse?

Sars: More than 70% of businesses are misusing music streamed in their commercial settings, which can be devastating to music creators and rights holders. Artists must be paid royalties when their music is played in bars, restaurants, retail shops and more. Music is an essential element of the brand experience and is still the artist’s property.

It boils down to copyright infringement. Consumer music services like Spotify operate under licenses granted to them by music content copyright holders. Under a subscriber’s terms of service, they only have permission to use this type of service and content for personal, non-commercial use. Therefore, if a retailer misuses Spotify or any other consumer music service in a commercial setting, they’re subject to an action for copyright infringement.

Retailers can easily stream licensed music while supporting artists through legal business to business music streaming platforms.

RL: What is the role of AI in music curation for retailers?

Sars: AI and automation have played an integral role in music services for more than 15 years now, making the music industry one of the most advanced in terms of AI usage in almost everything we do. Distributing 100 million pieces of art (music) to hundreds of millions of consumers in real-time requires significant AI empowerment.

For Soundtrack, in our mission to soundtrack every brand in the world. We have developed our proprietary music intelligence platform (AI) designed to help brands translate their aspired brand experience into music.

Soundtrack has decoded how brand builders define their brand attributes and based on that trained our machines to listen, analyze and categorize music based on these brand attributes. As a result, Soundtrack has categorized more than 100 million tracks based on brand attributes, providing us with a global AI-driven recommendation engine for brands looking for music.

RL: What do you think the future of music in retail holds?

Sars: Music in retail is moving from analog and passive solutions to a digital and active component in retailers’ brand activation toolsets. With real-time data, retailers can adjust to a contextually relevant music experience instantaneously, based on the specific requirements in a specific location at that point in time.

Music has been proven to affect consumer behavior, and if applied correctly, improves sales by up to 9%. But to do so the system delivering the experience needs to be dynamic and intelligent, adapting to specific customer flows, geographical prerequisites, time of day, weather and more.

The future of retail music will provide an intelligent AI-driven music experience, constantly learning and adapting to the interrelation of music and commercial results.

About Ola Sars

Ola Sars is a Stockholm-based serial entrepreneur active in the music-tech space. He is the CEO, founder and chairman of Soundtrack Your Brand. Soundtrack Your Brand provides a solution for streaming music that’s properly licensed for restaurants, retail stores, hotels and other commercial settings. Before Soundtrack Your Brand, Sars co-founded Spotify Business, a stand-alone effort to expand Spotify’s reach into business to business streaming. Sars pivoted Spotify Business into Soundtrack Your Brand in 2018 as a fully independent brand and business. Prior to co-founding Spotify Business, Sars was the co-founder and COO of Beats Music, acquired by Apple and transformed into Apple Music.