Friday, 9 September 2016

Pipe down!

The Good Pub Guide always comes across to me as more like the “Good Middle-Class Dining Pub Guide”, and its independence has to be called into question given that they charge pubs for entry. However, it can’t be denied that they have a knack for gaining plenty of publicity for their annual launch. Last year, they highlighted the widespread irritation at badly-behaved children in pubs, and this year they have focused on another common bugbear – piped music.

I’ve written about this recently, and it’s certainly something I find a frequent annoyance, although nothing on the scale of children. I’ve started a Twitter poll to give people the chance to choose between the two:

One reader and pub reviewer told the Guide: ‘At best it is bad manners foisting a random choice of music on you that you have not chosen and do not want to hear, at worst, it interferes with people’s hearing.’

Another complained: ‘Somewhere in the past, someone has persuaded publicans that canned music relaxes customers and encourages them to spend more. It doesn’t.

‘People go to pubs to meet their friends, be sociable, have a drink or a meal and discuss the problems of the world.’

The idea that piped music creates instant atmosphere is a surprisingly pervasive myth. There are two pubs I regularly go in, both of a broadly traditional character, which in the past were proudly music-free. Now both play contemporary pop music, either from the radio or recordings, despite catering to a generally mature clientele. It isn’t so bad as to drive you out, but it certainly detracts from the atmosphere. The absence of piped music is, of course, one of the many plus points of Sam Smith’s pubs.

Ironically, the Good Pub Guide’s Pub of the Year, the Horseguards at Tillington in West Sussex, does have piped music, but that is a carefully curated selection tailored to the customer mix and the time of day. If more pubs did that, there would be much less of a problem, but unfortunately too often it’s either the latest warblings of Adele, Beyonce and Taylor Swift, or some contemporary dance music chosen by the bar staff that is totally inappropriate for the clientele.

Now what’s the betting that CAMRA’s launch of the Good Beer Guide next Thursday will have nothing like the same appeal to headline-writers, and instead be the usual worthy guff about a record number of breweries?

17 comments:

  1. I'm trying to think of a pub I go to regularly that has piped music, but can't come up with one, but I tend to think that music is devalued when it is treated as aural wallpaper. What I do find more irritating is music in supermarkets in the run-up to Xmas: from next month, we can expect Roy Wood, Slade, Paul McCartney, Wham!, and all the others from late October to Xmas Eve. I now dislike all those Xmas singles, including any I used to like.

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    1. I have to agree, Nev. The aural torture will be starting next month, and there will be no escape from the likes of Noddy Holder, Roy Wood, George Michael, et al.

      I too liked some of these records when they were first released, but playing them, ad nausea, in the run-up to Christmas, has totally killed the enjoyment I once derived from them.

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  2. I've never paid to get into the Good Pub Guide, and at least one of the pubs I have run was in it more than once (I only know because a customer always got a copy - it's not something I would buy).

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    1. It's only in about the last three years that the Good Pub Guide has charged for entry. I think it was initially £200 for dining pubs and £100 for more traditional pubs.

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    2. The GPG started charging for entry from the 2012 edition onwards. Know that because the 2011 is the last on my shelves. Never bothered with it since.

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    3. I blogged about the GPG introducing charging back in 2010. I made the point then that it would end up excluding some of the most characterful pubs as the owners wouldn't see the point.

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    4. That makes sense - it was before 2008 that my pub was in it.

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  3. The single most annoying thing in pubs is people sitting under the dartboard and them getting all upset when your dart bounces out of the treble and lodges itself in the top of one of their heads.

    I quite like piped music, personally, as long as its not so loud that I have to raise my voice. All good pubs should have a jukebox with a good eclectic mix.

    and children are fine as long as they don't knock over my pint. I'd rather a screaming child than some selfish knobhead blowing smoke on me in the beer garden.

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    1. If they blow smoke on you it means they fancy you.

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  4. That selfish knobhead you despise is only out in the garden because anti smoking twats like you have driven him/her from their rightful place inside the pub !

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    1. I'm not an anti smoking anything. I'm fully in favour of people's right to smoke, as long as they are considerate enough to avoid their smoke annoying anyone else. I wouldn't pull up beside you in the beer garden and rev my car so that you choke on my exhaust fumes, and I would expect other people to show the same level of consideration towards me. There is nothing wrong with smokers, none of the smoker I know would dream of smoking around a non-smoker. Its the height of discourtesy. The problem is rude, inconsiderate smokers.

      Please observe the rules stated below "Please be polite and remember to play the ball, not the man.". Calling me a twat in an unprovoked personal attack quite clearly contravenes this website's guidelines.

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  5. I like to listen to what i call background music in pubs,i find pubs without it are far too quiet even if busy,
    i do agree some of it is crap,but a recent pub i went in was playing Time by Pink Floyd,what more could you ask for a decent drink and good music.

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    1. That underlines why piped music isn't a totally clear-cut issue. Obviously if it's music you personally like you won't mind. I'm usually listening to music when working at the computer, but I appreciate that Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and Rush won't be to everyone's taste.

      It's also less objectionable when specifically chosen to suit the mood and the clientele. What I really don't like is when it's played for the benefit of the bar staff, not the customers, and when there's a total mismatch between the type of music and the customer profile.

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  6. At the risk of repeating myself my idea of pub heaven is listening to Test Match Special while supping a pint of proper English ale.
    I'd take that over Sky Sports showing the match in the same pub.
    Sadly it has only ever happened to me once.
    Generally I'm not a fan of pub music although the Mutton Lane Inn in Cork has a music selection to die for with a lot of well-curated tracks from across the decades.The last time I was in there they played the Grateful Dead,Elvis,Uptown Funk,Stevie Wonder and The Troggs in succession.
    And Bradleys Spanish Bar in that there London always had a great jukebox selection.
    I draw the line at Simply Red.Puts me right off my pint.

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    1. Test Match Special - now you're talking. Aggers, Blowers and of course dear old Geoffrey Boycott. Don’t forget the cake either, or all those pigeons on the pitch, to say nothing of a Number 19 bus passing behind the gasholder at the Oval!

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