Q&A with Custom Channels Account Executive Mark Willett


CC: What are the common problems you hear from business operators with their current music service that prompts them to contact you?

First and foremost, the music they’re getting is stale. If I’m talking to a company that’s had the same corporate music provider for years and years, which is often the case, they end up with the same kind of music and the same songs playing for a long time. There hasn’t been much care given to it. Also, there’s nobody at their music provider dedicated to helping it get better.


CC: So they don’t have a dedicated rep?

Right! Or, if they do it’s an account rep, not a music expert, who’s trying to sell more stuff.

Similarly, what many businesses that contact me have in common is playlists that they can’t really do anything with. It’s not interactive. It’s close, but they don’t necessarily hear exactly what they’re hoping for. They’d like to add a few songs and remove some songs they don’t like.  And that can be frustrating not being able to do that, because it’s almost what they want to hear, but not quite. And so, they can’t modify the existing playlists. They’re looking for a music service where they can make adjustments to playlists that are already built and curated by music pros. That’s what we have! 

I also hear this all the time: the technology doesn’t work. Then, they can’t get fast access to support. Nobody at their current music provider seems to answer the phone or reply to email. 

Those are probably the big two: the music is stale and the service doesn’t work correctly.




CC: Music is available from many sources. What makes Custom Channels music service stand out?

It is based on a very thoughtfully curated library. And that might seem unfamiliar to people at first. They might look in our library and be like, how come it’s not just every album, every song by every artist? The reason is, because somebody thought about it. We have chosen songs that make sense in a business environment.  Our phrase is “what you leave OUT is just as important as what you leave IN.”

Plus, all this music is listened to by real people at Custom Channels. I’ll use the word again, thoughtfully arranged and organized specifically to be used by businesses. We think long and hard about how this music should sound, the flow, and how songs should sound in sequence.




CC: How does a business owner or manager know what style of music, or what songs, to play in their business?

They might not. They can always ask us. And based on our experience, we can make recommendations of what similar business categories use or what people with similar attitudes have. But a lot of music choice just seems really personal. You know, there are some owners who have strong opinions. They know exactly what they want their atmosphere to sound like and they know the songs to play and not play based on their taste.

There are other owners and brand managers who are data driven. Data on customer demographics, who’s shopping or eating there, how long are they staying, social media trends,and such. More and more businesses have that information and they share it with us and our music curators can then turn that data into a full-on customized music channel.

Still, it’s more often the case that a business owner or a manager comes to us and doesn’t know what to play. It’s OK. We got it!

Mark Willett

CC: What’s the most popular style of music and/or popular era of music that’s best for in-store play?

While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, I see trends in what people ask for. Lately, I hear a lot of requests for down tempo, lo fi, ultra-cool, somewhat urban, beat driven but not danceable tunes that are a mix of vocals and instrumentals. This sound works especially well in lobbies or other neutral spaces. It’s more background than foreground music.



CC: Do you recommend playing in-store music mostly for your customers, your employees, or both?

Music for the customers is the obvious answer. However, you definitely can’t discount the employees. They have to stay happy. Bad or repetitive music makes for less happy employees. 

But you also can’t program just for employees because the research shows that the music that the employees want to listen to is not usually the best music for the atmosphere, the brand and the customers. The way we can keep the employees happy is through music variety and a well thought out playback so that they’re not hearing the same things over and over again – keeping it fresh.


CC: Is it a good idea to let the employees choose the playlists and the songs?

Yes and no. For example, we have a few clients who give employees the chance to create their own playlists and choose the music. It’s a reward for, say, the employee of the month or the weekly bonus. It can work well with long term employees who have a sense of ownership within the company and really understand the customers and the business’ image.

But if you’re a typical business, with moderate to high turnover, putting employees in charge of music selection is strongly discouraged. They weren’t hired for that job. We’ve had instances where the person who set playlists isn’t working there any longer and now people don’t like that music.

Music selection, the audio soundtrack that’s the brand’s music signature sound, should come from the top. It should come from ownership or the marketing department or the branding department. Music direction should come from somebody who knows the vision of the business. And that person doesn’t have to be a music expert. That’s where Custom Channels and our music experts come in to help build playlists that match the vision. We’re here to help so they don’t have to go it alone.




CC: What do you tell someone that inquiries about the Custom Channels music service about how music can play a role in the customer experience?

There’s a couple of different ways. So, if you’re going into a certain kind of business that’s all about fun and enjoyment, you’re going to want to hear music that’s familiar and fun – that reminds you of other good times that you’ve had. You know, songs create memories so a customer unconsciously thinks “Oh, I remember this song and I associate it with fun time memories. I’m here to have a fun time.” Music is a foreground part of that experience.  

Then there’s hip cool stores or pubs that lean more on music discovery. A customer unconsciously thinks “Oh, I’ve never heard this song before or I know this singer but I’ve never heard this song.” That’s more of a cool factor, trendsetter image. This type of store/brand is where customers are exposed to something new and different. It’s a unique, leading edge customer experience.


CC: Do customers really pay attention to the background music that’s playing?

They do. They absolutely do. Especially when it’s well done. The customers will also know when the music mix and songs are bad. So, it’s both ends of the spectrum. The in-store, in-office, in-restaurant music will stand out if it’s really good or if it’s really bad.

It’s all about being appropriate for the space that you’re in. And if the music is inappropriate for that space, it’s gonna stand out, and people will hear it in a negative way. And if it’s truly appropriate for that space, and affects a customer emotionally, it’s going to stand out in a really positive way, and people will hear that with positive image associations.


CC: Some businesses with multiple locations want to have each location choose their own song list. They want a local manager to be able to choose what songs sound right for that location. Every place gets different music. Is that complicated to do?

It’s not complicated. We have the capabilities to not only do that, we can go a step farther to focus what each of those stores can choose. Let’s say management wants each of many locations to have the ability to choose their own playlist. Yet management also wants to keep the choices within the sound and scope of the brand image. Only approved customized playlists are available. That avoids the predicament of locations playing classical or rap or some off-brand genre. We can do that. It’s curated choices for each location. Our user dashboard for each location makes it simple, too.


CC: Some businesses and employees want to play different styles of music every day. Switch it up. Play country one day, hard rock the next day, and hip hop the third day. Is that a good idea?

I don’t recommend that. If you’re fiddling too much with the music then you don’t have enough customers to stay busy. If people are wanting to change the music all the time, then they don’t have an audio identity with their brand or atmosphere. 




CC: Do most business owners know that music playing in a business needs to be a licensed commercial service and not a free consumer service?

Probably more than 50% of inquiries know that music playing inside public facing businesses needs to be licensed and that’s why they’re calling or emailing me. We cover all music licensing fees and royalties with our low monthly subscription. No hidden costs. However, there are still plenty of businesses that we talk to that think they can just use a consumer service like Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube or Pandora. Some savvy business people know about music licensing and others have no clue.




There aren’t any real hurdles here with getting a better music service and better sound. We first have a short conversation to find out about what you do and who your customers are. Then, you can have the right music in your business pretty quickly. The setup on the front end is minimal.  The Internet music player is plug-play, guaranteed for life, and we pay shopping costs. And the benefits of getting better music start paying off immediately!

Got a question about music and service? You can email me directly. MarkWillett @ CustomChannels.net