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The 5 Most Played Songs in Bars and Restaurants in 2018

If you're frequenting bars across America in 2018, you're bound to hear a lot of hits. You may think the more chart-topping songs your bar plays, the better. But the truth is far more complicated.

In the worst case, playing a random selection of popular music can hurt your business.

Let's begin by examining the top five songs playing in bars across the U.S. right now*:


“Watch Me” by Louis Rustum.

Sleek pop production with an R&B feel.

“Side Effects” by Ty Dolla $ign.

Straightforward R&B with auto-tuned vocals


“Love Like Ours” by Estelle.

Reggae sensibility with a strong R&B influence.

“Purple” by SAUCITO.

Straightforward pop with a retro R&B feel.


“About U” by StereoCool.

Infectious R&B with a reverence for nostalgia.


*These tracks are the five most played in bars in 2018 in our catalogue of 30+ million songs. To ensure objectivity, we removed the data from Soundtracks curated by our in-house music supervisors.

In 2018, highly-produced R&B dominates the bar scene. And if you play these five songs, chances are your bar will sound like a lot of other bars.

By only playing hits without thinking about what type of bar you're running and who you're guests are, you're missing out on a great way to position yourself and offer your guests a unique experience.

But let's say your guests simply want to go to a bar. They're not looking for a unique experience, they just want a drink. Is playing a collection of chart-toppers still a problem?

Let's see what science says.

Research from HUI research study, the biggest study on music in restaurants to date, showed an overall sales gain of 9.1% when guests heard music that matched the restaurant’s brand compared with random popular music selections.

Shockingly, playing no music at all was better than playing random popular songs.

This mind-boggling research comes with a caveat. The HUI research results don't apply to all restaurants and bars in the world. As a bar owner, you have to use common sense and look at the specific guest behavior in your unique establishment. But the data is strong and should serve as food for thought.

The Benefits of Lesser-Known Music

Guests pay a lot more attention to music they recognize than to music they've never heard.

Why wouldn't you want guests to pay attention to the music? That depends on the type of bar you're running.

Let's say you have a more exclusive bar, like a wine bar, where you want guests to focus on the beverages. Or maybe you have a discreet lounge or a hotel bar where people don't come for the music.

If so, fresh music made by unknown artists is an excellent choice. The music will act as a sonic clean slate, uncolored by your guests' preconceived emotions and opinions.

”Guests pay a lot more attention to music they recognize than to music they've never heard.”

The Benefits of Popular Music

Anecdotal evidence from bar DJs says hit songs are an effective way to get guests to stay longer and spend more, especially later in the evening, after a few drinks. The same anecdotal evidence suggests that the later it is, the more hits one should play. The more drinks your guests have had, the more they'll focus on the music.

Another type of bar that should play hits are family-themed establishments where guests bring their kids. In these types of venues, popular music should definitely be a part of your soundtrack. But make sure to mix those hits up with unknown songs to create a dynamic sound.

To sum it up, whether you decide to play hits or not, the music should match the bar's theme and brand. The HUI research unequivocally shows that dissonance between the music and the brand image hurts sales and
the customer experience.

But most bar owners don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to spend a lot of effort on their music selections.

That’s where companies like Soundtrack Your Brand come in. We work hard to make it easy for you to decorate your bar with the right music. Because you can’t afford to get it wrong.

In a nutshell:

  • Play music that matches your brand. It’s good for sales.
  • Play hits, if they fit the type of bar you're running. But think carefully about what hits you're playing and how they fit the impression you want your bar to give.
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