Wednesday 3 August 2016

Hip vs Hop

As you will gather from reading this blog, I’m a great fan of classic rock music, and nothing would give me more aural pleasure on walking into a pub than hearing Brad Delp wailing “I see my Marianne walking away”.

However, I recognise that what is music to one person’s ears may be an unholy racket to someone else, which is why in general I prefer pubs without piped music.

If there is to be music, though, the pub should at least make some effort to tailor it to the tastes of the customers. I’ve noticed a growing number of examples of pubs playing modern hip-hop/R&B music to a clientele whose average age must be well north of fifty, if not sixty. A point I’ve made in the past is that, all too often, music in pubs is played for the benefit of the bar staff, not the customers.

I fully accept that one generation may not share the previous one’s musical tastes. If that style of music floats your boat, fair enough, but it is clearly inappropriate for the more mature clientele that is typical of so many pubs. I find the widespread use of artificial-sounding “treated” vocals particularly grating.

If you have to have background noise, then either Radio 2 or an anodyne music station such as Smooth Radio is likely to cause the least annoyance. Anything, of whatever style, that is too intense doesn’t suit the generality of pubs.

There’s also plenty of music being made today in other styles. I remember a few years ago being in a pub in Hastings which was playing some cheerful, jangly indie-pop. I asked the barmaid who it was and was told that it was The Kooks. Not really my cup of tea, but to my ears much preferable to hip-hop. And also quite local.

Also see The Ultimate Curmudgeonly Jukebox from 2010. “I make no apology for liking Magnum, and for liking Sam Smith’s Old Brewery Bitter.” Talking of which...


  1. I totally agree. One pub which I occasionally visit on a Sunday afternoon undoubtedly fits the criteria of "music in pubs is played for the benefit of the bar staff, not the customers" - until the landlady comes down and changes it to what she likes, rather than what her younger staff like. Fortunately she is of a similar age to the majority of her customers.
    On the other hand, The Crediton Inn (Crediton, Devon) makes a point of playing what their customers might like. When I visit, Dire Straits is fairly often heard for the 50-60ish year old customers. At lunchtimes Frank Sinatra might be more typical - the customers are older & prefer ballads. The music selection is constantly changing to suit the age range of the customers - a rare thing and something which makes the pub such a delight for me.

    1. Sounds great - if only more pubs actually consulted with their customers.

  2. Been in a couple of places where the staff (landlord) has a keen interest in music and allows punters to plug their smartphones into the system to play specific songs. Small places, yes, and quite chummy, but it works well for them.

    Also been in a couple of Belgian beer cafés that have orchestral music (dislike using the term "classical" for nerdy reasons), which is quite fitting there.

    I guess if I'm alone in a pub, I like music to be on, provided it's music I can stand or find interesting, say, Led Zeppelin or Soviet sacral minimalism. If I'm socialising, generally no music, obvs.

  3. Professor Pie-Tin4 August 2016 at 15:29

    Not sure how you'd get on in Burp Castle in NYC.
    The only music played and loudly is Gregorian chanting and any customers talking in voices any higher than a low murmur get shushed by the bar staff.
    Strangely - because I usually hate all that bollocks - I rather liked the place for about an hour.
    Then I got pissed off and pissed of.
    You know my ultimate aural pleasure in a pub ? Test Match Special with Rooty on a roll at the crease.

  4. '... artificial-sounding “treated” vocals ...' - this is autotune, a computer program that puts even the most tuneless voice in tune. The more it has to distort the original vocal to force it in tune, the weirder it sounds. It has been used massively in the music business over the last 20 years. I wrote about it in January this year.

    1. Seriously? I thought it was just an effect to make them sound "wack" or whatever.

      Mind you, it's a bit of a challenge for me to listen to the talkbox bits of "Do You Feel Like We Do" these days.

    2. Autotune has been used as a special effect, as Cher did in 'Believe', but it's in massive use by singers who either aren't able or can't be bothered to sing in tune.

  5. which is why in general I prefer pubs without piped music

    Yes and no. In most cases today, yes but it sometimes depends on the landlord's tastes or whoever controls the box. And if they're similar tastes, then fine. But you said piped music - ah, yes, not good.

    1. If a landlord is familiar with the tastes of his customers and then responds to them, fine. Or if you're specifically running a rock pub or a soul pub and people know what to expect. But, as a general rule, nothing is better than something that half the customers won't like.

      I'd define piped music as any precorded music disseminated around a pub or other building by means of remote speakers. A vintage gramophone can be excluded :-)

  6. A similar irritation for me is beer festivals that insist on having music. Fine if you have multiple areas/rooms so it can be avoided, but if you only have one common space you just end up annoying loads of attendees.


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