Taste In Music…

Otis Galloway
6 min readFeb 15, 2021
This one goes all the way to pomegranate…

COVID-19 has changed our world.

Understatement of the year, huh?

In a year, the way we travel (or not), the way we work, the way we learn, the way we shop, the way we interact with one another…and the way we eat out.

I could quote the statistics of how the food and drink industry had declined, of how beloved eateries in local neighbourhoods have shuttered after years of business, and how keeping a restaurant open these days is a juggling act between one eye on the financials and the other on the potential health risks.

Those issues have been addressed by far superior minds than your humble narrator.

I’m here to talk about what comes after.

Covid has been a disruptor the likes of which we have never experienced in our lifetime. Once we overcome it (and we will; humans are nothing if not resilient), we will be faced with a very new world post-pandemic.

Will we continue to wear masks while out and about? Will our ‘herd immunity’ provide us with adequate protection? Will there be another, greater pandemic?

No one can answer any of these questions with absolute certainty. They could certainly try. But those are at best educated guesses.

One thing is definitely for certain, and that is this: Once we are able to openly travel and socialize with some degree of safety, we will do so with a renewed vigor and passion. It will be an experience we will never again take for granted after having it snatched away.

As it is with any time of great crisis, innovation and creativity stretch their wings for yet another flight.

Alongside the food and drink industry, the music industry has been affected adversely. Touring musicians have literally been brought to a standstill. Unable to do what they do best, including the venues around the world they would usually perform in, from the small bars and clubs, to the vast arenas and stadiums.

Both industries are suffering greatly during this pandemic. Both are instrumental (pun intended) in bringing us pleasure.

Which is why it makes perfect sense for music, food and drink to join forces…but in an entirely new way of thinking.

Music, food and drink are not strangers. Far from it.

Ever since they came into being, the three have shared an intimate and close relationship.

They are integral in parties, gatherings, social outings, events…

And yet, sometimes for being so close together, they can also seem so far apart.

The reason for this?

The thought applied to what people plan on eating and drinking sometimes carries more weight than what they might be listening to.

The music can often be left to chance, either because they are at the whims of whoever is controlling the sound, or because it’s just not something that ranks as a high priority.

But what if it did?

What if the attention to detail were paid to what a person listens to as much as the decor, the menu, the location and the pricing?

But why does that matter?

A good question.

Why should it matter?

Because what you listen to affects the taste. And more than you might realize.

Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University, conducted a study on how sound can affect taste. His study discovered humans associate high-pitched sounds with sweet tastes, while lower pitched sounds were associated with sour tastes.

When you begin to explore frequencies (the sound range occupied by specific instruments) this is when things can get very interesting.

If a specific song is playing while you’re out with friends (remember that?), and you’re all having a good time. A song that is one of your favourites comes on, and things just seem…better.

The next time you hear that song, it will bring back pleasant memories.

But more importantly, your taste buds will remember.

Memory affects taste. If you hear a song you enjoy, then the taste of whatever you are eating or drinking will be affected by that.

Consequently, if your experience is a negative one, say you and a friend have a falling out, or a date doesn’t quite go as expected, then any particular piece of music heard at that time will remind you of that moment and will literally leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Crazy, ain’t it?

By now, I am sure you can see where I’m heading with this. If not, bear with me…I’m about to get to the fun part…

But first, a question…

Why should you care? Why is this important? What difference will it make in the great scheme of things?

(Alright…Questions.)

Let’s take them one by one.

Why should you care? You shouldn’t. You might be one of those people who prefer quiet when and where you eat and drink. (You weirdo…I kid! I kid!)

This isn’t about making you care about something. What it is about is choice.

When we find our way to the New Normal, we need to provide new options and forms of entertainment, along with new methods of delivery. People are going to be gun-shy about going out. Pandemics have a habit of doing that.

Offering people a new type of experience to enhance their dining and drinking might just turn out to be an attractor they hadn’t thought of.

Some people get Game Of Thrones. Some people don’t. And that is just fine. (Can we just let Sean Bean live longer than the first few moments of anything? Can we do that?)

What we need to acknowledge is that people are complex animals, and the pandemic has shown us that when it comes to preferences, they really like having multiple options.

So an environment where your music is selected as meticulously as the wine list might have a certain appeal.

Why is it important? Again, it isn’t. Lots of things have priority over this, and rightly so. Quality healthcare, housing, a living wage, civil rights…

People also own businesses. And a lot of those businesses are resting on a knife edge.

If they come through this pandemic, they’re going to need to get back up to speed as quickly as they can.

Music as a powerful marketing tool and a way to connect with old regulars as well as that all too vital newcomer’s market might just be what many food and drink venues could use.

And because tastes, cuisines and venues differ, the experience will also differ. There will be competition, but there will also be variety.

90% of food and drink venues are out of business within the first year of opening their doors. Anything that can keep those doors open and people coming through them would be most welcome.

What difference does it make in the great scheme of things? Actually, quite a bit.

Like I previously said, entertainment is evolving…fast.

The pandemic was like a Fast & Furious nitrous oxide boost to the leisure/entertainment world. It changed things permanently. When it comes to curated experiences, possibilities pop up here, there and everywhere.

Restaurants and bars could have in-house musical sommeliers who would know what tunes go best with a juicy rib eye or a poached salmon, or what playlist pairs well with an Australian Shiraz.

Boutique curation consultants could help with everything from an intimate dinner party to the opening of the latest tapas bar, giving restaurants a refined sophisticated playlist to stimulate conversation, and most importantly, keep customers coming back for more.

Musicians and chefs could collaborate and create concept performances that complement each dish served.

Food and drink expos would be served with a curator/DJ moving through the venue, taking the musical temperature and adjusting the playlist the same way a club DJ would ‘read the room.’

Mom & Pop local take out restaurants could use streaming playlists as a recommendation of what would go well with your Friday order.

Imagine the possibilities of a sensory experience heightened by the interaction of people sharing their favourite music with one another. A large world made a little bit smaller by getting to know each other.

Sounds and tastes pretty good to me.

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Otis Galloway

Composer/Musician. Scribbler of Random Thoughts. Amateur Chef. Professional Pain In The Ass. Proud And Confident Black Nerd/Geek/Dork