Why do so many retail stores, bars and restaurants play Brazilian music?
June 24, 2014 10:27 AM   Subscribe

Aside from the fact that the music is quite enjoyable, why the over-representation? Can anyone shed light on this perception / observation? I notice that many retail stores, bars, restaurants/coffee shops, etc. play Brazilian music to a disproportionate level as compared to music from other places.

I can't recall going into a Starbucks, for example, and hearing anything but Brazilian music when I'm there.

I speak Portuguese, and know Brazilian music fairly well, so I notice it right away (I may bring some bias to this, surely, but some other friends have noticed the same).

Related to this, how are music tracks developed for some of the bigger stores (Starbucks, Macy's, etc.)? What's the science behind some of the selections?
posted by LittleFuzzy to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My guess is that Brazilian music is upbeat, uptempo, etc., and so it is thought that it produces in consumers a feeling of energy, happiness, etc. Better that than a funeral dirge. That said, I don't think I've ever heard Brazilian music in Starbucks before.

Where do you live? Perhaps there is a large Brazilian population there?
posted by dfriedman at 10:28 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

At this point, using "The Girl From Ipanema" as either hold music or elevator music has reached the point of cliche, so I wonder if this goes pretty far back.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:36 AM on June 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Brazilian music is disproportionately better than music from other places.

But seriously, bossa nova is especially regarded as sophisticated yet non-intrusive.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:43 AM on June 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

It used to be Peruvian Flute Music for awhile, then Salsa. You have to admit, Sambas and Bossa Novas are pretty nice working music.

I worked in Miami though, so we had that vibe.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:45 AM on June 24, 2014

If it's something you only noticed recently, it could also be because of the World Cup going on now.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:47 AM on June 24, 2014 [7 favorites]

Or does it make you feel like the coffee you're drinking came off the boat from South America only minutes before it was brewed?
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:58 AM on June 24, 2014

There's a long history of Brazilian music, especially bossa nova, being popular in the US. It's hard to undo over 50 years of an established trend.
posted by quince at 11:16 AM on June 24, 2014

The kind of Brazilian music that cafes and restaurants play is a step more mellow than Manu Chao, while fitting into that same niche of "pleasant and inoffensive world music." (Obviously Brazilian music is far broader, but it's a small subset that fits this profile and gets used this way here.) Some years back you heard the Buena Vista Social Club played in those settings; a bit further back there was a time when you heard more African music, like Ladysmith Black Mambazo. All of these are tonally fairly similar, neither too shrill nor bass heavy, more or less mid-tempo, with great production values, and are guaranteed to offend no one.

The American equivalents are probably the soundtrack to Oh Brother Where Art Thou and Lana Del Rey.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:30 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can't recall going into a Starbucks, for example, and hearing anything but Brazilian music when I'm there.

Could this be something local to your area, or confirmation bias? Because I go to Starbuck's every work day and they always play indie/folkie type of music, often the music from the CDs they're trying to sell near the register. I can't say I remember hearing anything Brazilian.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:46 AM on June 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Somewhere ("Why we buy"?) I read that many stores play Beatles because it's cross-generational and cross-cultural. Maybe the same goes with bossa nova: happy thoughts for all.
posted by batter_my_heart at 12:02 PM on June 24, 2014

Amusingly, the lyrics to bossa nova songs are often not that happy.

Where are you, LittleFuzzy?
posted by hydrophonic at 12:45 PM on June 24, 2014

Response by poster: Great inputs, everyone! I'm in Washington, DC. Though I've traveled to many US cities, and I've noticed this (broadly generalized) trend across the country.
posted by LittleFuzzy at 12:54 PM on June 24, 2014

Is this a recent phenomenon? If so, it is likely related to the World Cup occurring in Brazil. I have definitely noticed an uptick in Brazilian themed music, pub nights, apparel, flags on cars, etc in the past few weeks.
posted by hepta at 7:20 PM on June 24, 2014

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