Chris Golub sits in a Chipotle on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, staring at strangers as they chew. “I see two head bobbers, that’s pretty good,” he says, pointing to a guy eating a taco salad and another waiting in line to order. He scribbles the observations in a notebook next to a list of artists whose music he’s considering for the in-store playlist. So far, hip-hop producer Apollo Brown and Riot Grrrl pioneer Kathleen Hanna’s band, the Julie Ruin, are getting the most head bobs and toe taps. He notes which tracks need their volume levels tweaked and which might be better suited to a different time of day and decides to eliminate one dreamy electronica tune that drones on forever.
As the founder and sole employee of Studio Orca, Golub creates customized playlists for restaurants tired of putting their dining atmosphere in the hands of Pandora or Sirius XM Radio. His job consists of researching music, discovering bands, and asking questions such as, “Would you rather hear folky banjo music or classic Motown as you eat your steak burrito bowl?”