Background music is essential to good branding, but striking the perfect note isn't easy. Musicstyling's Kent Harris and Axel Jennewein explain how it can amplify a hotel's identity.
Over the past ten years, Musicstyling has established itself as the premier provider of bespoke music to the luxury hospitality sector worldwide. Since its inception, the firm has worked with many leading names in the business, counting Park Hyatt, Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton as clients. This exposure has enabled it to understand what the market requires and how to adapt its operations to suit.
"Luxury is all about doing things your way," says Kent Harris, senior music consultant at Musicstyling. "It's not necessarily the most expensive, the most difficult to find, the most anything - it's about being able to do things the way you want to. This is how we approach the very personal subject of music."
This personality, Harris says, is based around the fact that each brand, city, region and country has its own style. Just as a hotel will adapt menus, uniform, decor and table settings for each outlet, Musicstyling will create a fitting musical backdrop.
"In different outlets, whether that's a lobby, lounge, brasserie or cocktail bar, the hotelier expects guests to interact with the hotel in a different way," says Harris. "We appreciate this and design a soundtrack that is unique not only to each outlet but also for each event within those operations.
"Let's imagine a bar and consider how I'm going to interact with that space," he continues. "At 11am, I'm catching up on emails while enjoying a coffee, and some peace and quiet. If I'm back in the bar before dinner at 6pm, I may be enjoying a gin and tonic with a business colleague, and thinking about all the things I have to do before I start work again in the morning.
"However, if I'm there on Saturday night at 10pm with some friends, I'm drinking a beer, and enjoying the moment and the promise of what that evening holds. I'm the same person and the bar is the same space, yet these separate events demand different atmospheres. That is what Musicstyling helps create."
More than just the demands of an individual hotel, Axel Jennewein, Musicstyling's creative director, outlines how this approach had taken Musicstyling to more than 130 countries worldwide: "In each primary city, there is now a wide choice of luxury hotels. What makes a visitor to that city choose one hotel over any other? A multitude of different factors combine to create the character and attitude of each, so we work with the hotels and the brand teams to understand what makes them different, and then create music programmes to reflect and amplify this unique character."
He goes on to explain how this tailor-made content is delivered to each hotel. "We developed a piece of software that converts any internet-enabled Windows PC into a music player that can control any number of music zones," he says. "The PC knows the local time and day of the week, and the programme ensures that only the approved music plays in each zone throughout the day.
"For each zone, we create a timetable that automatically changes the music profile when appropriate. The player, once set up, operates completely hands-free; all updates, music or timetable changes are performed remotely."
When asked if this means that operators have lost control of their music, Jennewein shakes his head. "No, Musicstyling is all about creating the right music for venues and their planned operations. However, we realise that we need to provide the ability to react when things don't go to plan; that's why we've created the new app."
This app, he explains, is compatible with all mobile platforms and allows outlet managers - and even customers, should the hotel so choose - to influence the music played.
"The Generation Y customer wants so much more than hotels have traditionally delivered, and we are proud to have created this market-leading technology," says Jennewein.
So how does Musicstyling get to understand what makes each hotel tick? "A key part of our service is the site visit," says Jennewein. "This is where one of our regional consultants will visit a potential customer to learn about the hotel and understand what the management team wants the music to convey. "
With offices in the UK, the US and Hong Kong, and regional consultants based in another eight cities worldwide, Musicstyling concentrates on making itself easily available to customers. This geographical spread of offices means there is always someone at the firm to respond to customers, no matter what time of day an operator might want to talk or wherever they may be.
"We've been playing great music to our hotels and their guests for a decade now, from our first hotel in Milan to more than 2,500 properties worldwide now," Jennewein reflects. "Here's to the next ten years and bringing our passion to the ears of customers in the next wave of fantastic hotels that our customers, old and new, are building around the world."