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Author Archives: Music Concierge

November brings us the final events of the Sleeper Magazine’s AHEAD awards – the mammoth two-year international programme to celebrate the brightest lights in global hospitality.

Since early 2017, AHEAD (or to give them their proper title, the Awards for Hospitality, Experience and Design) have been honouring the most exceptional, spectacular and forward-thinking hotels and resorts in Asia, Europe, MEA and the America over four awards events each year – all of which Music Concierge has had the pleasure of soundtracking.

We’re currently polishing off the playlists for the MEA awards evening at Dubai’s Meydan Hotel on 14 November and the Europe event at Park Plaza  in London on the 19th. Each pitting around 40 shortlisted hotels head to head across 12 categories, these are the final two legs of the awards before the grand global showdown in 2019, when the best of the best will be decided. Our fingers will of course be crossed for Music Concierge clients The Silo in Cape Town, Nobu Shoreditch, Adare Manor in Ireland and the Birnam Brasserie at Gleneagles, all of which are contenders…

First impressions aren’t made by sight alone. Every one of our senses contributes to the sum total of our experience. If one sense is out of sync, the whole experience can be diminished.

For a business like a hotel, which depends upon its customers feeling a certain way and picking up a certain vibe, taking a holistic view of the atmosphere you create and understanding the individual sensory components that create it can have a tremendous impact on your success.

One of the most successful and widely beloved luxury brands in the global hotel sector is Mandarin Oriental. It owes its reputation not simply to the fantastic locations of its properties, perfectly judged service across the board, or its invariably exceptional standards of design, but to the way all these diverse elements cohere to shape the overall guest experience. For every Mandarin Oriental hotel team, that experience is all.

With a hugely covetable location on the fashion-forward, city-central Passeig de Gràcia, Mandarin Oriental Barcelona is a flagship property for the group. Arguably the most luxurious hotel in a city full of fierce competition, it attracts an affluent, well-travelled and culturally attuned international clientele, who are drawn to its peerless service standards and perfect design balance of contemporary chic and period prestige.

To stay ahead of the game, the guest experience has to be pitch perfect. Which is why, when the Mandarin Oriental team identified that the hotel’s music had become the weak link in the experience, they were quick to address the issue.

The soundtrack from the hotel’s existing provider had become out of step with the design calibre of the hotel and the clientele it sort to cultivate, so we were invited to develop new sounds for each of the Mandarin Oriental’s key areas.

These included the dramatic open lobby space extending into all-day dining restaurant Blanc and the Mimosa garden; the two-Michelin-star restaurant Mimosa; the rooftop poolside Peruvian bar Terrat; the spectacular cocktail spot Banker’s Bar; and the spa. Each required a distinct soundscape that complemented the design of the space and the changing pace of the day, striking a balance between the Spanish location and international clientele, matching the fashionable vibe of the hotel’s setting, and expressing the upmarket, new-luxe identity of the Mandarin Oriental brand.

To address the needs of complex, multifaceted property such as this requires an in-depth understanding of how the space is lived day-to-day, taking into account the diverse and changing needs of users (for example, the lobby playlist needs to communicate a sense of theatre to guest arrivals, accommodate business guests conducting meetings, and create a buzz for diners lunching in Blanc – all at the same time). By spending time on site, engaging each of the restaurant managers and on-the-ground stakeholders, and experiencing the hotel as a guest would, we were able to develop a family of soundscapes that enriched the drama of the hotel’s design while meeting the needs and enhancing the moods of every type of guest.

Music Concierge’s collaborative approach to sound design has helped restore the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona guest experience to what it should be: an elevated, immersive expression of contemporary luxury in which every one of the senses plays a part.

For brand marketeers, a well-rounded, immersive customer experience is pretty much the holy grail. In the hospitality trade, it’s what gets your customers through the door, keeps them at the table, and brings them back the following week – ideally with friends in tow.

Get every sensory touchpoint right, and you have a memorable brand and a successful business. Neglect or misjudge a single element, and you risk alienating your customer even before the first plate is served.

In August, food and drink marketing specialist Mark McCulloch invited Music Concierge founder Rob Wood to be interviewed for The Spectacular Marketing Podcast  – an essential listen for anyone in the bar and restaurant business. They explored how music can make or break a customer’s experience – not just in terms of content, but also the quality of the delivery system. They discussed the brands who are getting it right; and pinpointed the pitfalls that the ones getting it wrong often stumble into.

Listen now at Mark’s podcast website or stream from iTunes or Spotify.

Shanghai has rapidly emerged as one of the most exciting destinations in China – but it’s taken a while for many of its hotels to cotton on. Until very recently, the hotel landscape was dominated by big-chain behemoths, delivering travellers the same high-end but homogenous experience with little innovation. Now, that’s starting to change, with imaginative, experience-led hospitality concepts making inroads into the culturally rich city.

At the vanguard of this evolution is The Middle House – the fourth opening for Swire Hotels’ ‘House Collective’, which has made such an impact in Beijing, Hong Kong and Chengdu with The Opposite House, The Upper House and The Temple House respectively. The hotel taps into China’s growing audience of affluent, entrepreneurial, cultured and creative millennials, as well as international travellers accustomed to the new breed of personalised luxury – sophistication without the starch.

Design is of course a big part of its impact – from the sleek gunmetal chic of its Café Gray Deluxe restaurant and bar and the lighter, laid-back ambience of its Italian outlet Frasca, to the contemporary Chinese Restaurant Sui Tang Li – but it’s the creative use of music that sets the mood of each space. We’ve worked with The Middle House to develop signature sounds for every area of the hotel, enhancing the see-and-be-seen vibrance of Café Gray, striking a contrasting retro note in the lobby, and matching the forward-thinking design of spa and 24-hour gym with a highly distinctive, future-focused sound.

Shifting in mood and tempo with the ebb and flow of the day, The Middle House’s audio landscape has been crafted alongside its physical design and audience mindset, ensuring that the customer experience was clearly defined from the moment it first opened its doors in April 2018. With the hotel already having had a significant impact on the Shanghai hospitality scene in just six months of launch, the argument for innovation is sounding even stronger.

We sent our intrepid music consultant Sam Donnison to check in on our music design work at Seoul’s hippest new opening RYSE…

When I found out I was going to be working with RYSE in Seoul, I was immediately excited at the prospect. Having lived in Tokyo many years back, a planned trip to the city had to unfortunately be cancelled at the last minute after a sudden work engagement and so visiting Korea had been a long time coming.

On arriving into the city, I was immediately struck at how vast it was.

With over 25 million people living in the urban area, my transport weaved through different districts of the city before eventually I found myself outside RYSE in the Hongdae area. Hongdae is a vibrant place known for its street arts, cafés and nightlife and is populated by many students (the name Hongdae is an abbreviation of Hongik Daehakgyo, Hongik University).

OUTSIDE RYSE

Once I had checked in to the hotel, I wanted to understand more about the local area, particularly the sounds of the district, so I headed to the few local record shops before they closed. A five minute walk away from the hotel, seterecords was filled full of soul, funk, disco and jazz records, perfect sampling material for the hip hop that had over the years become a popular musical style in Hongdae.

SETERECORDS

ANOTHER FANTASTIC RECORD SHOP

Here I found a rare Mike Kirkland James LP, but sadly they knew its value too and it was far out of my budget. Shortly afterwards, after passing another shop by chance, I found two mix CDs by local artist and record shop owner DJ Soulscape, featuring an amazing selection of tracks made only by Korean artists.

MARK KIRKLAND JAMES LP

The next day was spent listening to the music in the hotel in the different areas throughout the day and night. As I had originally consulted with the team from abroad before I designed the playlists, it was great to hear the music working so well in the different hotel zones. RYSE is seen to be a cutting-edge hotel in Seoul, and therefore creating a sound that matched this aesthetic was imperative.

I was given a tour of the hotel which included a visit to the hotel’s bar The Side Note Club on the 15th Floor which featured a 1000 strong collection of vinyl and a rooftop with impressive views across the city. I was informed by the manager that the bar will feature guest DJs, and due to its location and sound system potential, I am sure it will be popular with both those staying at the hotel and people that want to come for a great drinking experience. After a late meal and cocktail at the hotel’s buzzing Long Chim Thai restaurant it was an early night as my flight sadly left the next morning.

THE SIDE NOTE CLUB BY DAY

Spending time in the lobby the next morning before checking out I was really struck by the genre pushing sound that we had created for the client. Sonically, it was as if the best producers from Berlin, Bristol and the West Coast of America were battling to showcase their most intriguing music, creating an arty sound that remained on the tasteful side of challenging. The soundtrack really complements the hotel’s design and was an evocative start to the day ahead.

Seoul, it was short and sweet, but hopefully it won’t be the last time we meet.

 

Our Music Consultant, Simon Eltringham hit Switzerland’s biggest city for a 24-hour trip of David Byrne gigs, record digging and boutique hotels…

Think of Zurich and most will imagine a city full of global banking hubs and insurance firms. Now as uninspiring a city getaway as that might sound, that side of life is of course, only part of the bigger picture here.

Classic Swiss efficiency has me deposited in the city from the airport in just a few minutes, putting the cultural and historical landmarks of this central European beauty at my feet. It’s a surprisingly hip destination, mixing the old world with an arty and bohemian modernism, that’s transformed former industrial spaces into an international foodie hub that’s not all simply made up of chocolate and cheese.

But food isn’t the reason for my trip (this time). I’m here to pay a visit to one of Music Concierge’s European clients - Widder Hotel.

Springing up and out from Switzerland’s best and most famous jazz bar, this 5-star boutique hotel took a decade of painstaking work, lovingly remodelling the interiors of the surrounding 15th century townhouses to create a dazzling yet understated urban escape that mixes super modern with medieval.

WIDDER BAR & KITCHEN

An enlivening hour or two, scribbling down fresh ideas and music inspiration, as I soak up our playlists in the Widder Bar & Kitchen, provides the perfect prelude to the evening ahead.

A happy coincidence has put me in town on the same night as the triumphant return of former Talking Heads frontman, David Byrne, performing in the intimate confines of the ‘Theater 11’ venue, uptown. The staging is ambitious, the acoustics in the space are phenomenal, and the show itself is a blur of rapturously received classics spliced with robust new album cuts. The crowd emerge from the show into the warm summer evening air looking elated and dazzled. It’s the perfect end to a great day as I hop onto a tram back to the hotel for some much needed shut eye.

TALKING HEADS FRONTMAN, DAVID BYRNE

Up with the sun for a sumptuous breakfast followed by a tour of Widder’s extensive wonders and secret spaces, I’ve got a couple of spare hours before my flight, to see what musical gems the city’s record shops have to offer.

It quickly becomes apparent that Zurich has a bank balance troubling network of very good new and second hand stores all within close proximity of each other. My first stop, Hum Records, is a blur of stunning new music and obscure reissues, filled with sunshine and soul. Everything is really well priced too, there’s just so much that I want! I select the essentials then leave before I get a worried phone call from my credit card provider.

HUM RECORDS

16 TONS

A few blocks over is OOR, as good for cutting edge new sounds as it is for imaginative musical categorisation. The likes of ‘Feminist Killjoys’, ‘Wordy Rappinghood’ and ‘Inside The Outside’ may not make sense on paper, but once you’re flicking through the racks, their curious navigation system makes perfect sense. Directly opposite OOR is 16 Tons, a veritable emporium of classic furniture and masses of second hand vinyl. The A-Z’s span jazz in all of its forms, soundtracks, Japanese pop, Mexican folk music and so much more. I find pretty much every record from my most recent wish list, and all in perfect condition. A further string of second hand stores and I’m contemplating a very frugal summer ahead!

Time for a beer and a pretzel at the airport I think…

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