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Author Archives: Hazel Buckthorpe

Walkway with arching white trees and colourful flowers

Level Kids plays around with the concept of brand immersion…

Levels Kids is the multi-award winning children’s department store at City Walk Dubai. This is the second instalment of the Level brand in follow up to the now world-renowned Level Shoes based in Dubai Mall – the world’s largest store dedicated to footwear.

The Level Kids store is a truly unique sensorial retail journey that intertwines luxury fashion for kids together with enchanting experiences. Spanning over 10,000sqm of retail space with every floor designed for a specific age group, children from 0 to 12 are fully catered for, not just in terms of clothing, but also with interactive activities to create memorable experiences.

We helped to curate a signature sound for each floor of the store that intertwines the Level brand DNA with the target age group.

We also worked with the store’s creative team to design a bespoke selection of soundscapes that help bring the store journey to life. Whether that’s on the ground floor diving into an underwater world with a submarine; or creating a whimsical, dream-like journey with fairies, colour and blossom in the Enchanted Walk; or a changing selection of soundscapes to bring the store’s seasonal window concepts to life – the result is a ground-breaking fusion of immersive visual concepts, music and sound effects which makes the store experience all the more captivating.

City Country City record store and cafe vinyl on display and tables and chairs Tokyo

Music Consultant/DJ Damon Martin mixed hunting for vinyl, with 5 star clients and nightclubs on a recent trip to Japan. Here’s his tour diary…

Ask most vinyl enthusiasts the best place in the world to pick up second hand records and it won’t be long before Tokyo enters the conversation. When I was asked to DJ in Tokyo recently I was determined to make the most of it so spent two full days visiting as many stores as I could.

Day one was mostly spent in Shimokitazawa – a laid back part of Tokyo with an easygoing ‘neighbourhood’ feel. One highlight there was City Country City, which, along with having an expertly curated selection of second hand vinyl, doubles as a café.

PARK HYATT TOKYO VIEW

My other favourite in Shimokitazawa was Weekend Records. The shop’s owner used to live in NYC so disco, house, hip hop and other US styles are well represented. But dig deeper and you can also unearth some lovely world music, a killer Italo disco section, and a load of obscure Japanese oddities.

That evening it was time to switch from DJ/record nerd mode into Music Concierge mode as I’d promised the iconic Park Hyatt Tokyo that I would pay them a visit while I was in town.

It was great to be able to pay the hotel a visit as I would soon be designing their playlists. It’s always incredibly valuable as a music consultant to be able to experience a property, understanding the various spaces and the interior design and guest journey. I met with some of the team there and enjoyed the stunning views over Shinjuku before paying a visit to the hotel’s legendary New York Bar & Grill (as seen in the film ‘Lost In Translation’) for a Wagyu beef burger washed down with a cold beer.

DISK UNION

On day two I headed to Shibuya – a super busy retail area and home to perhaps the busiest pedestrian crossing on earth. Whenever I visit Tokyo I always make sure I visit the Disk Union shop there.

Part of a large national chain of second hand record stores (there are around 10 outlets in Tokyo alone), the Shibuya outlet has five floors, each dedicated to a different group of genres and each about the size of your average London record shop on its own.

JOHN FORD / HMV

I did some serious damage to my credit card there, with perhaps my favourite acquisition being this racy artwork featuring a slice of late 70s mid-tempo disco sleaze.

Perhaps surprisingly, another great spot to visit in Shibuya is HMV. From the outside it doesn’t look too dissimilar to the HMV stores in the UK but head up a couple of flights of stairs and you’re presented with a massive selection of vintage LPs, 12 inches and 45s.

BRIDGE SPEAKERS

That evening it was time for my DJ gig at London Calling at Bridge in Shibuya. Bridge – a fantastic little club with the biggest soundsystem size to room size ratio I’ve ever seen.

Also DJing were Mike, the promoter, and true Japanese club legend DJ Nori. It was a great party and huge fun to play to a really friendly and enthusiastic crowd.

LONDON CALLING: DAMON DJING AT BRIDGE

Following the party we moved on to an after hours party at a club called Tent where I DJed again. Unfortunately I was having so much fun I forgot to take any photos there. Maybe next time!

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Shelves filled with vinyl LPs

Madrid is a city full of music. We’ve recently set up a Music Concierge office there. Being always keen to support local independent record stores, we thought we’d ask our man on the ground Freddie Long to guide us around its best emporiums of vinyl….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vinyl has seen a resurgence in popularity in Spain with record sales increasing by 80% in the last three years. Thanks to this Madrid has seen an increase in the number of record stores. There is now a fairly healthy scene located mainly in the trendy ‘barrio’ of Malasaña which is supported by local DJs, collectors and artists. Here’s my tour of the best ones. Be sure to support them if you happen to visit Madrid!

1. Lost Things

Lost things is an incredible and lovely record shop on Calle del Barco no. 43, very near the famous Plaza del 2 de Mayo, it stocks both second hand books and records. One can find anything from Brazilian folk songs to heavy reggae and traditional Spanish music. It was set up by a friendly record collector in 2014 after he lost his job. The music they play in-store is great and you are very likely to discover some rare band or album you had never heard of. I was very tempted by a Caetano Veloso LP but I have to say it was a little pricey!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Rotor

Rotor is one of Spain’s oldest remaining record shops which opened its doors in 1986. It is located in a flat on the 6th floor of a building on Madrid’s main street, the Gran Vía. The store is well stocked with the latest in electronic music and the friendly owner Andrés knows his chops, he will happily help you navigate. I picked up a copy of Omar S’s latest album called ‘The Best’.

3. Is The Place

Right next to Rotor in the same building, one finds Is The Place which was opened a couple of years ago by label owner Alfonso Pomeda – a real guru when it comes to Madrid’s electronic music scene. Apart from running his own Downbeat label which showcases both local and international talents, he also runs several nights in Madrid’s finest clubs. The record store name is inspired by Sun Ra’s 1973 album ‘Space is the Place’ It is decorated with futuristic-style lamps and has the latest in electronic music as well as a decent selection of second hand funk and soul albums.

4. El Almacén de Discos

This is very possibly my favorite record store in Madrid. Located on Calle Minas no.13. It was opened just a year ago by friends Raúl and Roberto. It has already become the go-to place in Madrid for local DJs and enthusiasts. They sell all genres of music from disco, to world music, and all kinds of electronica. They also hold regular events at their spacious shop and even have a recording studio that they rent out to anyone willing to use it. I have bumped into Soichi Terada and Auntie Flo here, who visited the shop when they last played in Madrid. On this occasion I bumped into Raul, a local DJ who promotes events at Siroco one of Madrid’s most iconic clubs.

5. Recycled Music Centre

Just round the corner from El Almacén de Discos, there is Recycled Music Centre on Calle La Palma. This street used to be full of record shops but this it is the only one to have survived the the economic crisis of 2007. The clue is in the name, you will mostly find second hand music with a focus on electronica, they also however have a selection of soul, jazz and hip hop. They have a good stand full of R&S records and another one with records by the classic New York house duo Masters at Work. The shop attendant and label owner, Flavio is a very passionate, cheerful and knowledgeable chap.

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Woman exercising

All over the world, the culture of exercise has transformed. Fitness has become a statement of identity to the millennial audience – and music is the heartbeat of the revolution…

Travel back in time five or six years, go to the gym and close your eyes. It doesn’t matter if you’ve travelled back to a Fitness First or a Virgin Active, to a luxury members’ club studio or a low-rent independent above a garage – chances are it’ll sound the same. You’re probably hearing something mainstream with a high bpm – standard-issue workout music. With your eyes shut, you could be anywhere.

Things have changed. Gyms are no longer interchangeable spaces. They have varying demographics, distinct identities – not just different logos, but clear and differentiated brands. All over the world, the fitness scene has evolved dramatically as the millennial generation has come of age, swelling to a £4.7bn industry in the UK alone, and ambitious challenger brands have carved their way into this lucrative market.

What was once a generic service has become a branded lifestyle statement – for today’s consumers, fitness has become a core part of their identity. The Guardian recently reported that ‘millennials claim to enjoy working out as much as going out; gyms have become stylish, social spaces where people spend their Friday nights and Saturday mornings.’ Once people hung out in nightclubs; now they go to the gym.

Uninspired gyms that don’t tap the new community of social-media-smart, fitness-focused self-improvers are on the way out. The brands that have seized this opportunity – like Equinox in the US, VI LAB in Shanghai and Gymbox, KXU or Third Space in London – are thriving. They’ve rejected the mainstream and built an enthusiastic army of fans – and they couldn’t have done it if they didn’t put music first.

The need for music to act as an atmospheric energiser for a workout or fitness class hasn’t changed, but it’s no longer enough just to give people a beat to move to. Today’s consumers expect a fitness soundtrack that forges a clear emotional connection and gets them into the right mindset – fitness music needs a personality.

From boxing-club beginnings, Gymbox has successfully positioned itself as a rough and ready-to-rumble outsider and built a cult, cutting-edge reputation. Gymbox found the roots of its brand identity in the anything-goes London club scene, and needed to translate that into a raw, urban and authentic sound that kept its members coming back for more.

Third Space makes a different proposition – bespoke fitness classes to fit around the busy lives of city professionals – and dips into the characteristics of the luxury lifestyle sector to radiate boutique appeal. Where Gymbox is grit, sweat and exuberance; Third Space is goal-orientated effort, elegance and wellness. Different brands, different audiences – and completely different sounds.

This shift has implications for the wider hospitality sector. Today’s travellers come from cities where the new breed of fitness clubs is already entrenched. If they’re used to the fitness brands of 2018, then stepping into a hotel with a gym offering stuck in 2008 can only be a disappointment.

Spas are now well-developed components of hotels worldwide, and the sector is also evolving. Brands such as ESPA in the UK, Vana Retreats in India, and Mi Xun in Shanghai are expanding their scope in terms of design, treatment range and the depth of the sensory experience they offer – in which music plays a huge part. New-era spa brands have long advanced beyond panpipe CDs and whale song, and are now using music not only to create a relaxing atmosphere, but also to stand out from the competition.

In highly evolved, fiercely competitive hospitality markets such as London, Dubai or New York, fitness presents an opportunity to differentiate, and a number of hotel brands are making inroads into this exciting new territory – and reaping the benefits. Premium hotels such as the Ritz Carlton Gal Harbour in Miami, Gansevoort Hotels and The Berkeley in London have tapped into the trend for group-exercise (GroupEx) classes that has seen brands such as SoulCycle, Core Fusion and Exhale thrive in the last decade – by partnering with them to create a branded fitness offering. In Dubai, H Hotel is one of many hotels that have harnessed virtual technology to deliver immersive, on-demand GroupEx experiences, from a library of hundreds of classes that range from yoga and PiIates to spin and HIIT.

For innovative new gym brands like KXU music is a key part of the brand experience. Music sets the rhythm of the workout; it can motivate you to move faster, push harder, train longer and – crucially for brand longevity – come back for more. The ideal soundtrack is in tune with the intensity of the exercise, the design of the space and the ethos of the overarching brand – as well as being curated to connect with the target demographic. Get that balance right, and you’ll be well ahead of the pack; get it wrong, and you’ll be left panting on the sidelines.

To find out more about our work with gyms and spas contact us at HQ@musicconcierge.co.uk

Man with microphone singing to enthusiastic audience

A little over two years ago, 95A Rye Lane in south-east London was a disused multi-storey car park with an uncertain future. Today, the newly minted Peckham Levels is a hothouse for creative entrepreneurs, a neighbourhood focal point for food and drink and a thriving community hub, where artists and architects rub shoulders with jewellery designers and dance collectives. We speak to the founder to hear the vision…

Opened in December 2017, Peckham Levels is the brainchild of Make Shift, an initiative devoted to rescuing abandoned buildings, transforming them into vibrant, supportive and diverse creative spaces that make a positive impact on their surrounding communities. The first was Pop Brixton, which saw an empty plot become a shipping-container village of 50 creative businesses; Peckham Levels followed, and now Make Shift is eyeing up a site in Hackney Wick.

The man at the helm of Peckham Levels is site director Lodewijk ‘Luds’ Van Den Belt. Under his watch, seven storeys of empty bays have become 50 creative studios for local artists and entrepreneurs, a handful of larger workspaces, an events venue, a yoga studio, a street food courtyard and rooftop bar. By day, the site is abuzz with Peckham creatives; by night, it draws in crowds from all across London looking for a bite to eat, a few drinks and some fantastic music.

Such a dynamic project, with such a varied audience, needed music that captured the creative energy that animates the space, which paid tribute to its South London community focus and which matched the changing use throughout the day. Before opening, Music Concierge worked with Luds and his team to ensure that the public spaces on levels 6 and 7 had a sound that did justice to Peckham Level’s ambitions, social spirit and diverse community. Now that the playlists are in place and the Levels have come to life, we caught up with Luds for the lowdown on his hopes for the project, the importance of music and his secret love of 80s power ballads…

Peckham Levels is an unusual concept – how did it come about?

With anything we do, we aim to deliver what local communities want; we don’t take a cookie cutter approach. So we do an enormous amount of public consultation, and we really reach out to understand what the local needs are. In this case, there was clearly a need for small creative spaces in Peckham. Lots of artists and creative entrepreneurs were faced with this space problem – how do you develop an idea beyond the kitchen table? How do you start to approach a business or creative idea seriously without the space to back that up? We’re hopefully providing a really interesting space for very local, very creative entrepreneurs to start projects.

Where do those entrepreneurs come from?

Of our tenants, 65% are Peckham locals and 85% from Southwark – which far exceeds our initial agreement with the council, which was 75% Southwark residents. That process of getting our tenants was so interesting. Once you put an opportunity out into a community, the applications and the ideas that come back are wild. The amount of creativity well exceeded our expectations. There was so much local talent; so much local creativity – the response was amazing. For our 50 studios, we had more than 400 applications.

Allocating spaces must be quite a challenging process – on what basis do you decide who gets in?

40 studios are internally scored on the basis of locality – where they’re from, what their relationship is with Peckham and Southwark; and they get scored on their idea, their commitment to the community-investment scheme (all our members pledge to give an hour a week to a community project), and their ethos – whether the overarching values of their businesses and project match ours; and then we have an element of financial due diligence – can they afford the rent? Next, everyone gets interviewed and then we try to vary the range of disciplines as much as possible. Ten of the 50 studios are let at 30% of market rate, so they cost around about £80–90 a month. They’re given to creative businesses on a one-year lease to really work on their plan, get started, and we work with them quite closely to establish what their goals are for that year, and then they get heavily supported with their rent. We have a steering group made up of local business owners and residents, stakeholders, council members, and youth representatives, and they decide on on those 10 between them, using a scoring system.

Looking at the list of members of the spaces, the diversity in there is quite astonishing, you’ve got sound engineers, violin makers, hair salons… It’s a really broad spread of creativity…

We really want to represent the local community as much as possible, so obviously –discipline, age, gender – everything gets looked at and gets balanced out. It’s a really interesting, but also quite a challenging, process and massively time-consuming. With the first tenants we have in, it definitely feels like we’ve managed to create a really diverse and interesting community. It’s really, really exciting.

What made you turn to Music Concierge to create the sound of the food and drink space on levels 6 and 7?

Our contact with Music Concierge came about because one of the directors is a local resident – locality is taken into consideration in all these things. Music programming obviously has a key role in ambience, in setting the tone and the vibe of that public floor. All of us internally in the team are very heavily into music, and although it’s all different genres, we all appreciate music in our lives. Music sets the tone for the atmosphere; it sets the tone for the time of day; it sets the tone for the user experience…

How would you describe that tone?

It’s very dependent on time of day. Daytime is very much about maintaining a relaxed, engaging atmosphere that keeps people on site and using the space, because lots of people come to work here so it needs to create an atmosphere but not be too invasive on people’s concentration levels. There are also lots of families, lots of young parents with children, so it needs to be very friendly. It needs to also take into consideration that a lot of people work on those floors every day, so it has to be consistently and constantly changing as well, because otherwise staff members would go crazy. So the aim is to be friendly, keep people coming back to the space and keep the atmosphere light. In the evenings, it’s different – you want something fun and exciting.

What was the most important consideration in terms of the sound of the space?

Peckham has a vibrant music scene and we’re looking to see that represented – local, progressive, creative music in the evenings that appeals and speaks to people from the area. The Music Concierge playlists are proving to be really popular. We also have an event space, Ghost Notes, and they do their own music programming – their whole vision is to support local music in south-east London. They have really interesting initiatives where all the door money goes to the artists, and they’re very tuned into the local music scene. What we’re really aiming for is for that space to be a real community asset, so we know people locally who use the space, who host events, who meet their families here, who work here, and who, even if they don’t have a tenancy, could potentially exhibit here as an artist or photographer. We want locals to take real ownership of the space and music is key to that, because if that music’s wrong then people will not be attracted to the space. If you’re playing 80s power ballads and people don’t want that then I guess it’s not that appealing to stay and have a meal…

I would love to sit in a reinvented car park listening to 80s power ballads.

Funny you say that, I’d love to as well.

Finally, what are you listening to these days?

I’m a massive vinyl-head, so I’m very much into seventies soul and funk – that’s my thing. And also vintage reggae. My first real passion was late-eighties and nineties hiphop. The last album I bought was Trouble Man by Marvin Gaye, and before that There’s No Place Like America Today by Curtis Mayfield – not one I’ve ever heard before, but it’s very good, with an amazing track called Billy Jack. That’s what I’m listening to the most at the moment.

Quinary cocktail bar Hong Kong industrial design

In a highly evolved, fiercely competitive entertainment arena like Hong Kong, only the strongest food and drink concepts survive. That, of course, means they need a clear, compelling and coherent identity; every facet of the space – design, menu, sound, view, ethos – has to come together and make a targeted statement to a distinct audience group. That’s hard enough to do for one venue to worry about, but when you have five to consider, it’s a much more daunting challenge…

Creating a distinctive sound for an established hotel group with a well-rooted brand identity is a challenge in itself, but using music to build a new brand from scratch is a different story altogether. As anyone who works in the creative sector will know, constraints and ground rules can make the job easier. But working to an open brief, with no established route to follow, can be like climbing a mountain without a rope: a little intimidating and a bit risky, but hugely exciting and more than worth it when you reach the top.

Given such a dynamic market and audience, the triumph of Tastings Group, a family of five independent bar and restaurant venues in Hong Kong, is all the more impressive. Over the last eight years, the group has launched a steady stream of hits – each of them entirely distinct from their siblings. As a restaurant group, Tastings has more identities than Bowie.

About 18 months ago, the group contacted the Music Concierge team in Hong Kong to request our help in streamlining the soundscapes in four of their venues, beginning with one of the World’s 50 Best Bars – the HK icon that is Quinary – and later extending the project to include the lounge element of Michelin-starred VEA Restaurant, the colonially inspired bar The Envoy, and the hugely popular gin joint Origin.

Despite their family connection, each of these is founded on a clear concept and had the design credentials to back it up. Quinary is the sophisticated industrial-style cocktail bar where those in the know go for experimental cocktails and sensory spectacle. The Envoy takes its guests back the bygone era of British colonialism in Asia, fusing both culinary and decorative traditions with playful contemporary quirk. VEA’s skyline bar is the cocktails and small plates counterpart to the destination restaurant next door. Origin is the gin-loving speakeasy on Hong Kong’s hottest nightlife strip Lan Kwai Fong. Our challenge was to underline and enhance those identities through sound. In the cases of the first three, it made most sense for our approach to be led by the concept – to create playlists that harmonised perfectly with the visual design and food-and-drink philosophy.

For Quinary, this meant supporting the elegant contemporary-industrial aesthetic and future-focused mixology with fresh, unexpected and compelling new music that heightens the sheer sensory immersion that its cocktails provide. At The Envoy, we sidestepped the potential pitfalls of the colonial theme – it would have been all to easy to resort to retro clichés – and blended together contemporary tracks with samples of period jazz and a playful touch of 1950s American exotica. The result, like The Envoy in general, was sophisticated and historically inspired, but without taking itself too seriously.

When we got to Tasting Group’s newest enterprise, VEA Lounge, the existing deep house soundtrack matched the mood of the space – where guests would gather for pre-dinner cocktails before taking their tables in the restaurant, or while away the whole evening – but the playlist leaned towards the linear. Being solely genre-led, it lacked contrast and storytelling, and was difficult to engage with as a result. We took a more thoughtful approach, building on a contemporary jazz base and introducing intriguing juxtapositions – keeping it interesting without losing VEA’s atmosphere of refinement.

Origin required a different approach. Given the bar’s location amid a high density of bars and dining venues in one of the most vibrant nightlife strips in Central, a solely concept-led approach to the music would risk losing footfall to the neighbours. In this instance, the Music Concierge team had to carefully balance the commercial demands of the site with the integrity of the Origin brand, using music to create a fun, energetic and youthful atmosphere that was accessible to the Lan Kwai Fong crowd, but tempered with a sophisticated leftfield note – a case of fitting in but standing out.

Hotel pool area with palm trees

One of the most unusual boutique hotels in Dubai needed to stand out from its skyscraper neighbours with its design and ambience…

Creating a distinctive sound for an established hotel group with a well-rooted brand identity is a challenge in itself, but using music to build a new brand from scratch is a different story altogether. As anyone who works in the creative sector will know, constraints and ground rules can make the job easier. But working to an open brief, with no established route to follow, can be like climbing a mountain without a rope: a little intimidating and a bit risky, but hugely exciting and more than worth it when you reach the top.

This was the opportunity we had with Desert Palm. One of the most unusual boutique hotels in Dubai (and not solely unusual because it is a boutique hotel in Dubai), it’s a 38-bedroom pocket of understated luxe that flies in the face of the city’s customary high-rise flamboyance. Set on 160-acre polo estate, it has been the host venue for some of the world’s biggest tournaments over the years, and acquired a stellar reputation for its subtle Arabic glamour, exceptional service and rare-for-Dubai peaceful green surroundings. Although it is set just 20 minutes from the hyperactivity of downtown, it really is an oasis in the desert.

Until recently, Desert Palm was part of an international hotel group, but in 2017, it made the move to go it alone as an entirely independent brand. This demanded the development of a new and distinct identity – one that held equal appeal to its wide-ranging clientele of international luxury travellers, Dubai denizens looking for an escape from the city, and near neighbours who come here to watch games, eat in the two restaurants, hang out in the bars, and generally treat the hotel as a social hub.

The Desert Palm team had embarked on a steady programme of brand reinvention that set out to retain this audience, but which would also broaden its appeal to a new tranche of discerning international guests. They asked us to create an engaging, cosmopolitan soundscape that would add vibrancy and uplift to the atmosphere, with mood-adjusted channels for the hotel’s spa, lobby and three F&B outlets – each one taking into account the ambience, design and daily rhythms of the space.

With no existing brand guidelines to start from, effective identity creation has to begin on the ground. So, late last summer, Music Concierge’s Dubai consultants checked into Desert Palm to soak up the atmosphere, explore everything the hotel had to offer, talk in detail with the team, and mentally map the guest experience hour by hour and step by step. Living the Desert Palm lifestyle through the guest’s perspective gave us the first spark of inspiration, and soon the tracks began to flow together.

By September – just in time for the kick-off of Desert Palm’s high season in November – the soundtrack was finished, Music Concierge had reached the mountaintop, and Desert Palm not only looked different to every other hotel in and around Dubai, it sounded it, too.

Restaurant and bar opulent styling cream and gold curves

After a double whammy of events back in November, Sleeper magazine’s AHEAD awards hit Singapore in mid-March, with a shortlist of 48 hotels and noteworthy hotels in China, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Bangladesh, India, Thailand, Vietnam and the Maldives, all in the running to take home something shiny.

This is the first AHEAD event of four in 2018, and its second-ever Asia-focused awards ceremony. Delegations of hopefuls on the shortlist will join the great and good of the Asian hospitality scene at the recently opened Andaz Singapore on Thursday 15 March. The hotel is a futuristic honeycomb-fronted vision at the heart of DUO Singapore – the curvy, garden-roofed skyscraper complex designed by architect Ole Scheeren – and a fitting location to celebrate the cutting-edge of the Asian hotel scene.

Having taken charge of the music for every event in AHEAD’s two-year history, the Music Concierge team are only too eager to be back on soundtrack duty, and we’re currently fine-tuning the evening’s playlists to set the mood and ratchet up the tension. We’ve had a blast at every one of the previous events, but we have to say that the Dubai edition last November was a particular highlight for our MEA team, as Music Concierge client Rove Hotels took home a trio of gongs, including ‘New Concept of the Year’ – an accolade we’re delighted to say we played a small part in securing (through our work on Rove’s signature sound.

The 12 category winners of the Asia leg will join AHEAD’s honour roll of triumphant hotels from last year’s events in Singapore, Miami, Dubai and London, and secure their place in the 2019 global showdown – the culmination of AHEAD’s two-year programme to establish the best of the best in worldwide hospitality. We can’t wait.

Industrial style office work space with trees and workers

Shaping the sound of the creative workspace…

The way London works has changed. In recent years, a new workforce has emerged – itinerant freelancers, ready to unfold the laptop and work anywhere; small creative businesses of dispersed remote-workers; and energetic start-ups who need office space can’t spare the overheads for conventional tenancy contracts. To accommodate this paradigm shift, branded co-working spaces aimed at creative companies and individuals are springing up around the city.

One of the most trailblazing of these is Uncommon. With outposts in Highbury & Islington and Borough, it has barely been on the scene for a year, but is already leading the field. The Highbury branch came first. It began as a temporary co-working space set up in a converted warehouse to fill the time while it was waiting to be converted into apartments, but soon built up such a determined following of neighbourhood creative workers that it became a permanent fixture – and the foundation of London’s hottest co-working office brand. Today, it provides flexible membership options for individual creatives in search of inspiring space to work, as well as fixed office spaces for companies sized anywhere between two and 250 people.

Uncommon’s recipe for success is an inspired mix of contemporary-cool design and near-obsessive attention to sensory detail. The team behind the brand are passionately devoted to the art of space-making, and they have cultivated a meticulously researched understanding of the psychology of engagement, focus and motivation. That research is made manifest everywhere in the building: in the abundance of natural light and plant life (proven to improve mood and productivity); in the mind-centring, botanically inclined interior palette; in the scented air; and even in the seating (Uncommon’s research identified eight distinct types of chair were needed to suit every body type or working style and ensured it provided every one of them).

Sound is of course an integral part of this sensory landscape. Get the music wrong in a workspace and you can easily throw someone off their flow; get it wrong in a membership-based co-working collective, and you not only risk damaging productivity, but losing brand capital, members and money too. With what comes out of the speakers putting so much at stake, Uncommon asked us for help.

This was Music Concierge’s first project that demanded concentrated workspace music, and posed a fascinating and enjoyable challenge. As anyone who listens to music while they work will know, some tracks push themselves into the foreground, hijacking your brain and taking you away from the task in hand; others take a back seat, setting a mood and steering you towards a state of flow without demanding the attention of the conscious mind. When it came to creating the sound for Uncommon’s fixed-desk co-working spaces, our challenge was to deliver an unceasing stream of the latter – taking into consideration the fact that, with many Uncommon members working there day after day, the tolerance for repetition would be even lower than usual. That meant creating a set of extensive playlists that could be frequently refreshed, and which contributed to a fun-but-focused atmosphere that energised and inspired those who worked within it.

Uncommon also needed music for its coffee lounges, where at any given time its members might be working individually, having meetings or taking time out; and for its rooftop terrace in Borough, often used for after-work wind-downs and events. Each of these required a slightly different soundscape – from fresh and energising in the café to buzzy and upbeat on the roof – that had to be tailored as the mood evolved from the head-down-and-get-on-with-it ambience of Monday morning to the relax-and-kick-back vibe of Friday evening, but there was a common thread.

In every area, the music has several jobs to do: to help members work better; to match the bright, modern and positive design of the space; to capture and express the unique and original identity of the Uncommon brand; to inspire loyalty in existing members and to sell the space to potential new ones. That’s a lot of boxes to tick, but we’re very proud to have ticked them. Across all areas, in both its current sites, Uncommon now has a sound every bit as suited to the needs of its diverse members as its chairs.

If we ever need to move out of Music Concierge HQ, we know who we’d call first.

Relaxed and bright seating area

Following the Miami showdown back in June, when the great and good of American hospitality duked it out for one of Sleeper magazine’s coveted Awards for Hospitality, Experience and Design, the hoteliers of Europe and the Middle East & Africa are under the spotlight this November, as the next two stages in AHEAD’s two-year quest to unveil the world’s best hotels get underway in London and Dubai.

The awards ceremony at W Al Habtoor City on 15th November, the MEA edition came conveniently smack in the middle of Dubai Design Week, when all discerning designer eyes were on the city. A shortlist of 47 hotels was whittled down to 12 winners, each representing the regional best-in-class across categories from best bar, club or lounge to best safari lodge or tented camp. Big congratulations to our clients Rove Hotels in particular who won New Concept and Event Space categories. www.aheadawards.com/mea/winners

Five days later, the London leg, pitting 60 shortlisted hotels from Iceland to Italy for 12 awards takes place at the Park Plaza, bringing a bang-on-trend ‘future-retro’ theme to proceedings.

Music Concierge is shaping the distinctive sounds of both events and, although we don’t want to give too much away about the playlists before the party, let’s just say, with the London event in mind, we’ve spent much of the last month or two studying the sci-fi sonic stylings of the new Bladerunner…

And, for any Asian hoteliers out there, entries are open for the next round of AHEAD Asia in March 2018, so if your property has the design chops to stand head and shoulders above the rest, get your submission in before 30 November.