Barista Power: Through the Music

Working at an independent café, like any other job, comes with its upsides and downsides. And one of the greatest upsides is that you’re able to play whatever music you so choose.

Sure, your boss will occasionally veto a particular artist, or tell you to turn the volume down. But for the most part, being a hip, young “barista” means you’ll have free reign over the music selection. Empowering, no?

Being able to choose what’s playing in the background grants you a certain degree of control over the customers’ collective experience. You can put R. Kelly’s 12-Play on and watch all the singles in the room glance awkwardly at one another. Or you can jam Nine Inch Nails and see how everyone gets really pissed off while waiting in line for the bathroom. It’s your pick!

Vaguely ethereal, mostly inoffensive indie-rock tends to garner the most approval from the “Custies.” Baltimore-based Future Islands have gone over well in my experience, even though vocalist Sam Herring sings with a guttural, whiskey-drunk bark that rivals that of both Tom Waits and Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse.

Local group Thee Oh Sees have also been played to excess in the café, and their salt-of-the-earth desert jams seem to go over well during both lunch rushes and hungover, barren Sunday mornings.

I’ve played a lot of the Radio Dept., Real Estate, and Beach House in recent months, as well, although the latter band – who are so dreamy and majestic in their approach that a friend of mine reportedly fell asleep during one of their concerts – did manage to draw complaints from one especially testy customer, who said she “couldn’t focus” over it.

You can’t make everybody happy all of the time, can you?

Either way, it’s interesting to see how different music connects with a particular social set. If you too happen to work at a café, then you should give it a try – but if i may make a suggestion – leave the nü-metal at home. Nobody really wants to hear that in 2011. Oh, and one more thing. No harmonicas… just trust me.


1 thought on “Barista Power: Through the Music

  1. yoitslivia

    Love this! I was a barista throughout my entire college career and can totally relate! Had the “Sunday Brunch” playlists and the “Happy Hour” playlists…my favorite was the annoyingly loud, “We’re About to Close, Hurry Up and Finish Your Drink” playlists. 🙂


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