Are you curious to know how casinos influence gamblers’ moods through music? Read on and discover the science behind creating a casino playlist and which genres are most popular in casinos today!
The science of background music
Casino administrators are up to date with the science of background music. They understand its impact on the gambler’s behaviour. In plain words, they know background sounds affect players in subtle ways, creating emotions and reactions that may encourage longer play sessions.
Studies bring solid proof that pleasant music activates regions in the brain responsible for emotion and reward, including the limbic system. Shifts in tempo and intensity can induce emotional responses, changing your mood on the spot.
When music activates the gambler’s limbic system, the resulting emotional responses modify their behaviour in less than a blink of an eye. Thus, if the casino plays the right music genres, it can manipulate your emotional reactions and perception. Consequently, you may assume greater risks and spend more.
Blending the familiar and the unknown
The brain seems to be impacted differently by familiar and unfamiliar music, with known tunes eliciting stronger emotional responses. That’s why most casinos don’t venture very far from the mainstream sound in their playlists.
Still, the science here is not entirely settled. Novelty can have a similar effect, but it’s trickier to activate the right emotions with unknown tracks. That’s because our ‘reptile brain’—the amygdala—associates the unknown with danger. You’re not going to spend so lavishly if you feel impending doom, aren’t you?
In theory, pop music is the perfect blend of familiar sounds and novelty. It uses familiar rhythms and patterns while also bringing an element of freshness every time. But truth be told, casinos would go out of business if they played the same radio songs you hear in your car all day over and over again.
So, the idea of mingling the familiar and unfamiliar should be applied to the selection itself. A recent study suggests that an effective casino playlist must strike a balance between predictability and complexity.
Top 5 most popular casino music genres
Based on the science presented above, we discern 5 genres used most frequently as background music in casinos. We’ll mention some examples underneath each type, but if you want to go straight to the highlights, these songs have a broad enough appeal that you can’t go wrong with them. If you’re a player yourself, you’ll most likely resonate with their gambling-related lyrics, themes, or metaphors.
Lounge music took off in the 1950s and was shortly adopted as background music in land-based casinos for its soothing effect. Indeed, its tranquil rhythms and uncomplicated structures make it a paramount example of easy listening music.
Most frequently, it doesn’t involve any vocals or lyrics. At most, you may hear tribal chants or some other exotic type of vocals. Music commonly included in this broad genre uses cultural elements but in a way that doesn’t intrude on the listener’s mood.
Stereolab’s music is a perfect example of lounge music that would fit well as background in a casino. You can notice the exotic influences don’t stand out for themselves. Downtempo influences are also evident.
If you’re a passionate casino goer, you’ve surely played in venues that use jazz tunes to create a classy atmosphere. Jazz music is often thought of as an abstract genre, sometimes too ‘cultural’ to even be approached by the casual listener. But smooth jazz is a subgenre that combines easy listening music and cool jazz elements to go beyond the classic perception of the genre.
A proper selection of smooth jazz tracks can imprint a mellow mood on the listener. Nobody would argue that a relaxed attitude combines just right with the elegance of a grand casino. Still, it shouldn’t be ‘too smooth’ because it would turn predictable.
Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue album is an excellent example of soothing jazz music that you could hear on repeat.
Pop music is a broad umbrella term that can accommodate many different music types. It can include the Top 40-type tracks you hear on the radio and classic tunes that appeal to the larger public, like Sting’s Shape of My Heart or Michael Jackson’s albums. It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact margins of pop music since it always borrows from other genres.
Casinos that don’t put a great price on etiquette
Casinos that don’t put a high price on etiquette or elegance may lean towards commercial pop. At the same time, high-profile gambling houses may ditch the genre altogether.
If you ever take the Las Vegas Strip for a walk, you’ll be amazed by the sheer number of rock-themed bars and venues. In our experience, this extends to land-based casinos as well.
Even though rock music doesn’t quite deliver a soothing effect, it’s a great addition to a casino playlist because of variation. Rock and up-tempo tunes are often played at night, alternating with the day’s slower-paced rhythms to create a pleasant, energetic and intense atmosphere.
Gambling-themed lyrics abound in rock music. For example, AC/DC’s ‘the Jack’ or Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’. A casino may try to make players feel at home by playing well-known rock tracks. Should a gambler identify with the tracks’ lyrics, that may lead to them spending more. It all depends on the casino’s target audience. Rock music might be the go-to option if they intend to market their services to the younger public.
Indeed, electronic music is not yet the most frequent occurrence in casinos. Still, we’ve included the genre here because it holds the potential to become so. Some venues pair the universal attraction of a live act with today’s trends, inviting high-profile DJs to perform on their premises.
Like pop music, the electronic genre is an umbrella term that includes numerous sub-styles. For instance, EDM music could fit with the variegated customer base of casinos in large urban areas. But you couldn’t say the same thing about hard-hitting techno. Even though it may pump up a young gambler’s adrenaline levels, an older player could be put off by the novelty.
Casinos that employ electronic music as background need an expert selector who can match dreamy soundscapes and high-energy sounds effectively. While today it’s a rare feat, casinos in the future will probably incorporate full-time professional DJs, creating the best possible mood for gambling.
Going beyond music to set the right mood for gambling
You’ve got the point. Background music is fundamental in any casino. Depending on their target audience, casinos may use various styles and genres. Still, science tells us that any casino should aim at striking a balance between predictability and complexity in their playlists.
Music is one of the most direct ways to get in the gambler’s head, but not the only one. Next time you visit the casino, notice your senses being flooded with pleasure-inducing stimuli: opulent architecture, captivating music, alluring scents and tasty treats.