The Musical Trio Behind the Levi’s® Store Soundtrack

Levi Strauss & Co.
January 24, 2014

Step into almost any retail store and you’ll likely be greeted with music. Its effects can vary — from pulling you farther in to, well, driving you out. Clearly, it can make a big difference in your shopping experience.

To find out the role music plays in a Levi’s® store, we talked with the folks on the Levi’s® Global Brand Environment team who are charged with creating the in-store playlists.

“Historically, in-store music was simply background noise to fill the white space,” said Chad Hinson. “Today, music is an extension of the brand. We use it to complete the environment and create an emotional connection with the consumer.”

Chad says the music you’ll hear in a Levi’s® store is less about an age or genre and more about a state of mind, grounded in a timeless point of view.

Allan McNaughton agrees. “One of the aspects we consider when picking songs is that no matter the genre or style, the artist should be an original or pioneer in what he or she does — just as Levi’s® brand is. It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but we generally try to avoid ‘copycat’ artists.”

“We’re very inclusive when it comes to genres, time periods and bands,” said Rachel Hall, “but very exclusive when it comes down to the artist and song. It has to be something that really creates an emotional resonance that we think the consumer will love as much as we do.”


Levi’s® is a democratic brand that appeals to all kinds of people. So, how does that come into play when choosing music?

“As a brand, our fans run the gamut across all demographics, and we love that!” said Chad. “With music, our goal is to give the people something they can connect with. The playlist has tracks that transcend genre and decade — just like Levi’s®.”

“There is something for everyone,” said Rachel. “Our songs should challenge, titillate, be nostalgic and feel modern. If you don’t like one song, I guarantee you’ll probably like the next one since we strive to be eclectic yet approachable.”

In the “old days” — just a few years ago — a brand might compile music CDs that were then sent to its retail stores. It was a slow, inflexible process. Today’s technology allows new music to be downloaded instantly and added to a store playlist.

Chad said this provides the flexibility to capture moments: “The passing of Lou Reed was tragic, but we were able to get out a small tribute to one of our icons almost instantly, and we were honored to do so — not to sell clothes, but to celebrate a music legend.”

So, how does the brand work to ensure the in-store soundtrack is more than background music without interfering with the shopping experience?

“I hate to use the word ‘curate’ since it is so overused,” said Rachel, “but that’s really what we do with the playlist. Every song is vetted and listened to, sometimes several times, before we add it in.  We love to toe the line of new, original and thought-provoking music that’s also unpretentious and, yes, retail-friendly.”

For an idea of what you might hear when you step inside a Levi’s® store, check out this Spotify playlist, “curated” — if you will — by the Levi’s® trio.

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