Guide to Background Music for Museums and Exhibitions
Museums and exhibitions are places of learning and discovery. That’s why organizers and visitors often promote a quiet environment. But in some cases, learning and discovery should involve all the senses. Music, in particular, can turn an exhibition into an immersive experience for visitors. In this article, we discuss the why, what, and how of background music in museums and exhibitions.
Should You Use Music in a Museum or Exhibition?
In a successful exhibition, every aspect should serve the topic and the visitor experience. Keeping your topic and the type of visitor it will attract front and center will help you determine if you should use music at all.
Music can enhance your visitor experience in many ways. Especially with many visitors in the same room, the silence can sometimes get a bit uncomfortable. Background music will take that edge off. At the same time, it will drown out the whispering and comments of other visitors, making the experience more personal for everyone.
Music has also been shown to make visitors stay longer in the exhibition. It can also add to the learning experience when there’s an actual or historic link between the exhibition and the music. That way, it would make sense to play baroque music in a room displaying and celebrating Caravaggio’s work, for instance.
According to research (Brenner, 2016, p. 47), music in a museum or exhibition may influence visitors’ learning. Music creates a mood that affects the visitors’ perception of the exhibition. It will help them focus on the displays and remember what they’ve seen and learned.
What Kind of Music Works Best in a Museum Setting?
As said before, the choice of music you will use in your exhibition should be led by your topic and the type of visitor you will attract. It wouldn’t make sense to play hip hop in an impressionist art display visited by families and the elderly.
Unless it is an actual and integral part of the display, you will want your music to be non-intrusive. This means instrumental music (no lyrics), at a slow pace, and preferably without a rhythm section (no drums or beats). In terms of genres, this will limit you to classical music, chamber music, film scores, meditation music, lounge, jazz, and easy listening.
You should create a playlist that would span the length of an average visit to your museum. That way, the music won’t get repetitive for the visitors or your staff (imagine listening to the same three songs on loop). If it takes an hour to walk through all the displays, then plan at least an hour’s worth of music.
Where to Find Music for Museums and Exhibitions?
Of course, you can’t just run your iTunes playlist. Music is protected by copyright, so you’ll need to purchase a license to play music in your museum or exhibition.
Finding and purchasing copyright-free music has never been easier. Online marketplaces such as Artlist.io have huge databases of music where you can find the music you need in a matter of minutes. Thanks to powerful search tools and filters you can browse music according to mood, genre, instrument, tempo, duration, or even popularity. Artlist.io is subscription-based, meaning you can purchase music at any time, and you’ll be fully licensed to play the songs in your exhibit.