The Sound of Consumption: Music as communication in Clothing Stores

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Christina Ranum
4. term, Communication, Master (Master Programme)
Walking through the streets of Aalborg, I hear the music from the various clothing stores. Each store has a different sound that radiates a certain characteristic. But how does this in-store music affect cus-tomer decoding of a store’s characteristics and which impact does it have on the customers?
In continuation of DeNora (2000a) I have studied this question empirical on the basis of an ethno-graphic research from a consumer perspective, by which I have observed the customers in two of Sal-ling’s clothing departments for young women (“Ung Mode” and “What's Up”), interviewed the custom-ers outside the entrance in Algade, and conducted a research with a focus group of four women. Unlike DeNora I have (besides observation) conducted interviews with the focus group during and after the observations. To identify how music is experienced and understood, and how music has impact on and importance to the customers, I have applied Bonde's four levels of music and Ruud’s ways of listening. Furthermore I have made use of Jantzen’s and Vetner’s psychological approach of the characterizes of an experience to understand, how the customers perceive and interpret the department’s characteris-tics (including music) and in addition I used Kathrine Heiberg’s ‘Flow zone’ model to get the description of these characteristics structured.
On the basis of my studies I found, that the customers perceive ‘Ung Mode’ as a plain, pure and upper class women's department with a quiet and calm ambience, which is supported by the department's anonymous music (soft pop), which Mood Media delivers through a satellite service. The ambience is reflected in the customer agency; they speak softly to each other, fold the clothes after use and the interaction is composed. In other words the ustomers find a style of behaviour that matches the am-bience (including music) in the department and attempt to adapt to the ambience.
Likewise the costumers in What’s Up adapt to the ambience. What’s Up is by the focus group perceived as a messy and more loud youth department in which the customers agency can be loud, energetic and free, notably by the motor-reflective way of listening; customers are singing, nodding along to the mu-sic and catwalk through the department. That indicates, that the 'noisy' design (the jeans-/trash theme) and the high volume music from a music channel, which is shown as music video on a television screen in the department, reflect in the customer’s agency.
These perceptions of the departments and of the customers agency are linked to the overall impression of the departments characteristics including context and other people (customers and shop assistants) in the department. Therefore the music in the departments affect the agency of the customers, but the impact is not caused by the music alone; it is the overall ambience in which music contributes to the impact on the customers. Accordingly, the study in this thesis supports DeNora’s levels of behaviour and that the customers decoding is based on the department’s overall characteristics.
Publication date27 Jul 2010
Number of pages77
Publishing institutionAalborg Universitet
ID: 34834163