Archived Story

Jukebox etiquette — go broad or go home

Published 11:16am Wednesday, July 10, 2013

It’s important to remember jukeboxes in public places like pizza parlors, restaurants and bars are 100 percent public.

A few weeks ago, I went out for drinks with few people. When another group’s monopoly on the jukebox was coming to an end — or so we thought — two of us jumped in to select a few tunes. I was eager to push back against the music that had been playing up until that point.

But, the machine proceeded to eat my money. When I got back to our table, someone I’d only met a few times asked me, “Did you play some of that good country music?”

“I tried to, but the machine ate my money,” I said.

This was a total lie. While the machine had indeed gobbled up my bills, I’d had absolutely no intention of playing any country music. But this did make me realize that my failure at the jukebox probably preempted a more glaring failure had I actually picked any songs.

At the time, only a small crowd was at the establishment, and everyone else had dominated the jukebox, playing popular country tunes — not my thing. I was prepared for a 180 change to something I would like for a while.

In retrospect, the change would not have been met warmly. The scene wouldn’t have come to blows or anything, but I would have subjected myself to dirty looks and — at the worst — jeers from my own table.

It reminded me that jukeboxes in bars, restaurants, coffee shops and other such venues are not your own personal stereo. It’s not your car or your mp3 player where you can listen to whatever music you like. Public jukeboxes require a level of consideration for anyone else stuck listening. In such instances, we’re all in it together.

A few weeks before this, I met a friend at a pool hall in the Twin Cities where all ages are welcome. A few teenagers played screaming, head-banging metal for a while that was followed up by someone playing a slow song by Low — about as different as you can get. When my friend suggested we pick the next songs, I eyed the middle aged worker and noticed he looked like a gentlemen who wouldn’t hesitate to pull the plug if we didn’t pick correctly.

I went immediately for a few of my safety picks: a few tracks by The Doors, Credence Clearwater Revival, Johnny Cash and “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes (even if you hate them, that guitar part is addicting). When we left, the worker complimented us on picking The Doors.

Mission accomplished. The goal isn’t to be the only one enjoying the music, while everyone else is miserable. You want something everyone can enjoy. In short, just be courteous and mindful of the others in the room.


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