As a regular pub-goer for many years I find it infuriating that all too often, my experience in a pub is ruined by music that is gradually increased in volume to a level that makes conversation all but impossible. Attempts to find a quieter spot are generally futile; loudspeakers are positioned to ensure that no place in the pub can escape the ghastly conversation-defeating THUD THUD THUD of the music, which itself is generally rubbish, utterly devoid of merit. I will generally be forced to move on and find somewhere quieter. In addition, there are many occasions where I enter a promising looking pub, only to turn round and walk straight out because of ridiculously loud music.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I have nothing against music in pubs, but its purpose should be background. I totally fail to understand how anybody can enjoy volume levels appropriate to a nightclub or trendy bar. The pubs I visit do not have a particularly young demographic and drinkers are of a wide age range, with many in their 40s to 60s. I would imagine that few, if any, feel that the music adds anything to their drinking/eating experience. Furthermore, in the past, when I have gone drinking with work colleagues, there were times when even the younger people in the gruup found the music to be objectionably loud. Finally, I would call upon the support of Sir Patrick Moore, who on the TV program “Room 101” a few years ago listed pubs that play loud music even before he got on to his well-known dislike of fox hunting.
I have heard two theories, neither of which shows publicans in a very favourable light. The first is that the bar staff do it for their own benefit, totally forgetting that it is people like me who ultimately pay their wages. The other is that it is a cynical and wholly-irresponsible ploy to boost sales on the basis that people respond to the stress the music causes by drinking more.
I can in fact refute the latter theory. At one now-embargoed pub in Highgate, I have seen the pub empty almost visibly as the volume is increased. So it is clear that in that case at least, the music is purely for the benefit of the bar staff.
We are often hearing about the decline of the British pub. In such circumstances, surely it is a massive own goal to alienate your customer base by foisting something on them that at best adds nothing and at worst unacceptably detracts from the pub experience. If all drinkers would follow my example of boycotting pubs where loud music is played, by forcing a change of policy it would in the long do the industry a huge favour.
Unfortunately the industry don't seem care very much - I have emailed the British Beer and Pub Association about the issue, but nobody could be bothered to reply.
© Christopher Seddon 2011