Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Turn it down!

The Morning Advertiser recently reported on a study showing that 80% of people had cut short a visit to a pub, restaurant or café because of excessive noise, with 75% saying they would eat out more if venues were quieter. This is a particular problem for the deaf or hard of hearing who, contrary to popular belief, do not generally live in a world of total silence, but often find it a real struggle to pick out sounds.

I have to say this chimes with my experience – it’s not at all uncommon to go into an unfamiliar pub at lunchtime or early evening and find yourself confronted with a wall of sound that makes it impossible to hold a conversation. The same can even happen with televisions, which can sometimes be turned up to a deafening volume. Bar staff often seem oblivious of the effect the noise level has for people actually out in the public areas.

Obviously not all pubs are the same, and there may be a justification for loud music in a late-night venue aiming to create a lively atmosphere. But, in the general run of pubs, there’s really no reason for it at all. Of course there is a place for music in pubs, but the whole point of background music is that it should be precisely that, rather than completely dominating proceedings.

This is really a separate issue from the type of music being played. Obviously everyone has their own preferences, and will generally be happy to hear their favourite genre being played at a somewhat higher volume than other people would be. But music being played in a pub with a broad appeal needs to avoid causing too much annoyance to any customers, and it has to be accepted that some genres such as hip-hop or thrash metal are likely be less generally tolerable than others. All too often, music is chosen for the benefit of the bar staff rather than the clientele.

I’m certainly not dogmatically opposed to music in pubs, but I do feel that the widespread view that a lack of music results in a lack of atmosphere is a mistaken one. And, if you really don’t want your eardrums assailed, in plenty of places you have the choice of going to a Wetherspoon’s or Sam Smith’s pub, who don’t play any at all.

This news item has been on my list to comment on for a couple of weeks, but obviously recent events have rather curtailed the flow of blogging. At the moment I’d happily endure any kind of racket for a decent pint of Bass! I have had some thoughts on how the coronavirus crisis is likely to affect the pub and brewing industries, but I really don’t feel it appropriate to comment on this until there is at least some sign of light at the end of the tunnel. And I very much stand by my comments in the final paragraph of my post on the subject from a couple of weeks ago.


  1. I am partially deaf and have problems following conversations if there is any background noise.There are several pubs here that I am reluctant to go into as I know I will be unable to hear anything but the music. In my long lifetime ( I am 82) I have seen pubs transform from the sort of place you went for a drink and chat with friends,to somewhere it is necessary to shout in order to be heard.I am certain that if some pubs were subject to the Factory Inspectorate,they would be prosecuted for failing to give staff hearing protection.

  2. The Stafford Mudgie1 April 2020 at 13:16

    Multi roomed pubs are needed so that customers might have a choice between quiet and noisy - except that the 'musician' in the back room of the White Star last autumn was so loud that the front room wasn't at all quiet.

  3. My brother and I plus a close friend would often go to our local pubs for the evening pre COID-19 lockdown. In one we often had to ask if a particular speaker could be turned down as the angle made its sound particularly loud and annoying. One of the village pubs is quiet with no music except for a bad on Fridays so I do not go there on Fridays. I go out for a few beers and conversation not to find out anyone else's terrible taste in music. It nearly is always too loud. Indeed we have often either not gone in to a pub or just had one drink because of what is really noise. Too loud to be actual music if it hurts!

  4. This is a bugbear of mine. I have no problem with LIVE music, in fact, I welcome it. But I regularly go to the pub for a pint and a quiet read. Conversation around me I can tune out. But not loud music. And unfortunately, there isn't usually separate volume control for different rooms - I know, I've asked. I really do think this is the height of stupidity. They're pubs, not discos.


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