Have you ever been in a store where the clerk hijacked the stereo? I remember once being at Yellow Rat Bastard in New York when they tortured everyone with really loud Gabba Techno ...

Most chain stores prevent such things by keeping tight control of the music being played in their retail locations. Some retailers just resort to copyright infringement and burn mix CDs for all of their stores every week.

The bigger chains stay on the right side of the law by subscribing to Muzak or DMX radio - which is why the music in a GAP store always sounds like the music at McDonalds or Barnes & Noble. Pleasant, G-rated and incredibly boring.

LA-based American Apparel has a slightly different approach to in-store music. The T-Shirt maker runs a online radio station called Viva Radio that airs shows of actual DJs instead of scientifically optimized backround music playlists.

Viva Radio contributors include ormer Rolling Stone writers, unknown bedroom DJs and folks from the hipster newsletter Flavorpill.net. The radio is avalable online 24/7, and a continuosly updated best of mix can be heard at the American Apparel stores around the world.

Two things are interesting about Viva Radio: First of all, it actually does sound good. Visiting one of their stores makes you think that the music is selected by the store clerks, and not some computer - simply because you do get to hear the work of an actual DJ.

The second aspect is tha American Apparel might save lots of money with Viva Radio in the long run. Music licensing is expensive. Muzak reportedly charges around 65 US-dollars per month and location for their background music services. The costs of transmitting a stream of your own online radio station to a new retail location are considerably lower, even if you factor in licensing fees for ASCAP and BMI.

Of course, maintaining your own station is pretty oldschool - even if it's online only. One has to wonder when we"ll see the first retailer using Last.fm to stream music to his stores. That way customers might actually be able to influence the playlist directly ...

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