What Is Cafe Music?

What exactly is meant by ‘cafe music' and how does it help create the right coffeehouse vibe? We explain more while offering a few cafe music playlist options.

What Is Cafe Music - A band playing a music
The gentle music at a local cafe sets the perfect atmosphere for drinking coffee

Some coffee drinkers notice it as soon as they enter the cafe; others don't really notice it at all, even though it may have a relaxing effect on them. That gentle music that's playing in the background at your local cafe has likely been carefully selected in order to create the perfect atmosphere for sipping on your favorite hot and cold drinks.

Cafe music can include many different musical styles. It's has become a genre in and of itself in recent years. It's typically pleasant, unobtrusive, gently lulling patrons into a chilling, lingering a little longer, and maybe ordering another mocha latte and chocolate croissant. 

Not every musical genre is appropriate for the coffeehouse crowd. You're unlikely to find any heavy metal, punk rock, or anything too discordant or grating. That would, of course, defeat the purpose.

Instrumental music can work well, particularly the piano or acoustic guitar tracks. Classical music also works well in some settings. Music without lyrics can be a good choice so as not to distract the punters. And a good sound system is crucial to effectively showcase whatever music is playing.

If you like what you hear, sometimes you can purchase CDs or find digital download cards right there in the cafe. You can always ask the barista what tracks are playing and search for them on Apple Music, Spotify, or other music sites.

Types of Cafe Music

A man and a woman performing live in a Cafe.
Live performances usually accompany you with your favorite drinks

Cafe music may be seasonal, featuring upbeat summer-inspired tunes to accompany your iced tea, or beloved winter classics to sip your hot chocolate too. Some cafes make a point of featuring local singer-songwriters, even hosting live performances or an open mic now and again. Cafe gigs can be tough, though, as the performer wants to both be heard and also fade into the background. 

Some coffee joints like to play a selection of world music, sometimes featuring music from countries or regions associated with the origins of the coffee being served. Some playlists are based on specific decades, such as the 80s or 90s, sometimes depending on the existing or potential clientele.

You'll often find smooth jazz or a bossa nova on cafe playlists, and folk, folk-rock, and Americana are popular genres for setting the right mood for chilling and imbibing. And it's not just what is often referred to as ‘easy listening music that works well in cafe settings. 

Songs by well-known artists such as Coldplay, Rose Cousins, Alison Krauss, Norah Jones, or Enya, while well worth listening to attentively, can also make for excellent cafe music.

You might also enjoy our Russian tea guide.

Cafe Music Playlists

A man happily listening to his music playlist while drinking a cup of coffee.
You can find lots of greater coffee shop playlists on Spotify

Firstly, check our list of coffee shop music.

Next, Starbucks offers several solid playlists you can easily find on Spotify. They'll help you create a coffee shop ambiance at home quite easily!

For a cool selection of songs to celebrate Questlove's documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, check out their Summer of Soul playlist.

Cozy Coffeehouse is an Indie/Folk/Acoustic playlist compiled by alexrainbirdMusic on YouTube. This eclectic selection features relaxing acoustic songs, which work really well in the coffeehouse setting.

If you want to create more of a chill hip-hop vibe, you can't go wrong with some hip hop from iHeart radio. Then there is the Cafe Music BMG channel on Spotify, where you'll find ideal tracks for idling your time away as you enjoy your cup of joe.

French cafe music is a popular choice in some settings, as it has a romantic feel and features accordion music, lending a European ambiance. Check out this French Cafe playlist on Cafe Music BGM channel.

Perhaps your customers could even participate in creating a unique cafe music playlist. Asking them to play music based on their tastes might be a fun way to encourage customers to return for more great coffee and music!

Finally, if you prefer something more soulful, check out our list of coffee shop jazz music.

The Final Word on Cafe Music

Whether socializing, studying, surfing the web, or sipping solo, cafe patrons will always appreciate some well-chosen mellow background music for their java-fueled listening. They may even become loyal customers, based in no small part on the relaxing vibe and comforting ambiance in their neighborhood cafe.

If you're a barista, remember to put on a good playlist to put customers at ease. And if you're brewing coffee at home, use our selection above to relax.


  • Mel Farrimond loves all kinds of writing: creative, academic, freelancing, and blogging. She has her own blog, The MONDAY Blog at www.themondayblog.com, covering music, oeuvres, news, dining, art and yoga.