Sure, Starbucks' in-store music -- which has begat its own record label, Hear Music, and, since last August, "Media Bars" listening stations in selected coffee houses -- gets all the buzz. But what about all the other "third places" we go to between home and work, where we're treated to music? In case you haven't noticed, many other retailers are now following Starbucks' lead, piping in their own corporate-run radio feeds (Fry's Radio, anyone?), or, in the case of smaller shops, relying on the clerk or shift manager with the most eclectic tastes to program the CD player or the iPod patched into the store's overhead speakers.
This week, we venture into the north central Phoenix Ben & Jerry's, where, on the less-busy weeknights, the young ice cream scoopers are likely to punch in one of the wilder offerings on the 100-plus DMX satellite stations the store subscribes to and kick up the volume to spoon-rattling levels.
Ron Yunis, who co-owns three Valley B&J stores including the Moon Valley location, says he prefers the kids keep the system tuned to one of the more family-friendly channels, like the '80s station, but adds he allows a few "open mic" nights when the young cone slingers can play whatever they like.
"We give the kids pretty much free rein on the DMX stations, but we don't allow them to play the rap stations, as there are simply too many obscenities for a public store," Yunis says. He claims the stores even have plans for an open-air concert series out on their patios offering a showcase for "more radical local music."
For now, though, the rad tunes are largely left up to employees like Ty Curtis, 20, who says he cranks it up whenever a Cure song or one of the following favorites comes up on the system. Of his top pick, Curtis is unapologetic. "I like 'Puttin' On the Ritz'!" he insists. "Even if it's not all that cool."
1. Taco -- "Puttin' On the Ritz"
2. The Killers -- "Smile Like You Mean It"
3. Gorillaz -- "Feel Good Inc."
4. Gwen Stefani -- "Cool"
5. Depeche Mode -- "I Just Can't Get Enough"
6. Thompson Twins -- "Lies"
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7. Armor for Sleep -- "Car Underwater"
8. Rilo Kiley -- "Portions for Foxes"
9. The Used -- "Buried Myself Alive"
10. The Verve -- "Bittersweet Symphony"