Café Playlists. The Bitter and the Sweet.

Music and coffee. The right combination magical, the wrong likely to leave a nasty after taste.

Melbournians take their cafe scene seriously. Baristas spend hours perfecting the perfect pour and undergo studious training in attempt to not just survive, but thrive in the city’s competitive café industry.

What is interesting to consider, is that cafes in Australia pay a fee to gain legal rights for the use of background music. The playlist a business has on rotation is believed to drive profits in commercial enterprises. APRA states that music, “creates atmosphere and helps shape a premises’ style, which encourages customers to stay longer and spend more.”

Since music is recognised to attract and retain customers, the Melbourne café scene, being as prosperous as it is, would surely take into consideration the playlist play list on rotation, and choose to opt for one that complimented its service?

I tried and tested two of inner Melbourne’s most reputable cafes, to see how as a customer, my overall experience could be tainted or triumphed by the tunes.

The first establishment I put to the test was Auction Rooms. Likely to ring a bell, this joint earnt a name for itself as ‘Melbourne’s Best Café’ a few years back. With such a status on its shoulders, you would assume the café would have perfected its playlist.

Upon taking my seat on a busy Sunday morning, my disapointing initial thought was ‘I can’t hear any music?’.

All that could be heard was the conversations from tables nearby. Yes, there was a distant beat playing in the background, but the sound was hidden beneath the constant chatter that bounced off the brick and mortar walls.

Due to this, the atmosphere was not at all authentic. It appeared uncomfortable, rushed and almost over rehearsed creating a false sense of awkwardness.

As a well-established café, where customers travel from afar, waiting 30 minutes for a seat, you would hope that perhaps the bench time would be aided by some soulful tunes.

All in all, the music obviously isn’t anything worth a visit for. If you are visiting solo i.e. not going to be yapping away at a sound level louder than your neighbour, BYO headphones or opt for Take Away.

For my second, comparative destination, I paid a visit to Seven Seeds. A popular spot for students and millennial’s who brunch.

Upon my arrival, the buzzing cafe’ could be mistaken for a scene out of a happy-go-lucky romantic comedy. The trendy, inner city joint has it’s imagined audience in mind, with its playlist including mostly late 90’s tunes.

With smiles all around, this is no dreary start to the working week. The floor staff are moving with the rhythm of the music and customers are grooving in their seats, tapping their feet to the beat.

The music seems to emit contagious energy through the air. The volume is loud enough to cut through the chatter, but in no way, is it offensively interfering.

The playlist is considerate to the time of day and seemingly progressive. From morning to noon, the tunes slowly become more up tempo, easing into the busy lunch period.

Not only are the customers catered for with food and a top-notch brew, they can enjoy both whilst bopping along to the soulful funky tunes.

This final coffee spot, was proof in the pudding. Having brought headphones as a safety precaution, I was delighted to leave them unplugged.

Upon observation, I can acknowledge just how the overall feel and energy within a café changed purely due to the song on the speakers. From my efforts to put the theory to work, I can concur my experience as a café dwelling customer was greatly determined by what music played in the background.

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