|Meet Bradley Newberger: The Guy Who Turns Music into Money for Hotels.|
By Josiah Mackenzie
Wednesday, 31st August 2011
As a die-hard music aficionado, wannabe DJ, and devoted fan of chillout music, probably the hardest part opening my hotel will be creating the playlist.
That’s why when I heard about Ambiance Radio – a company co-founded by Bradley Newberger that turns background music into a science – I knew I had to learn more. His claim?
“It doesn’t matter whether you personally like the music or not”
“We’re building a 21-st century solution for background music. The fundamental way the industry thinks about music is wrong – it’s too often based on personal tastes. Personal tastes are so subjective. When you play to what the manager thinks guests should hear, the result is rarely what it could be.”
Bradley’s story begins when he was a senior student at Cornell University, working as a new manager for Taverna Banfi – the restaurant attached to the Statler Hotel (Cornell’s teaching laboratory for the hotel school). A few years ago, they completely renovated the restaurant to feel like a Tuscan-style bistro, and it looked fantastic. But the music was left untouched: a 5-disc CD changer played random tracks from Italian opera CDs.
Consistently, the comment cards showed earned lower scores than any other element of the customer experience. So when Bradley became a manager, one of the first tasks was to fix the music.
He looked at the options that were available. Everyone’s first reaction is to program an iPod themselves, but this takes a really long time to do. Plus, it gets repetitive if this list never changes.
A few high-end boutique firms specialize in creating playlists that reflect the personality of the hotel, but their approach is still based on personal tastes and preferences. They ask “What do you want the room to sound like or feel like,” and then a DJ will create a playlist based on these preferences.
This started Bradley on a quest to find more a more objective way to program music, which a couple of years later became Ambiance Radio.
Music can achieve business objectives
“In developing our company, we applied the findings of decades of academic and scientific research into how music affects the way people feel and behave. Time after time, researchers found that music has a profound business effect on the environment. The right music could increase F&B revenues from 5 to 20%, depending on the time of day and music tested. In a lobby, music can make waiting in line feel shorter than it actual is – or reduce the time is seems it takes to retrieve your car at the valet. Music triggers a chemical reaction in the brain that changes perceptions.
Perhaps as importantly, music plays a big role in employee performance. The brain gets most engaged when it hears different types of music back to back. Productivity can be increased with the right mix.
The missing element until now: Technology
Technology is a key part of the Ambiance Radio platform. “We looked at what types of music achieved desired effects in the hospitality environment. We developed an algorithm that factors in who is in the room, what are the psychographics – and what the business objectives are there and created a series of proprietary processes that can deliver the Right Music for each venue, varying it day by day, hour by hour as needed. We capture data for each property in an interview and then the technology take over from there. Our system creates and delivers customized feeds for each site and updates them hourly.”
Surprising opportunity: Limited service hotels
I love talking about experience design and experience marketing on this blog, but sometimes get pushback from the owners of limited service hotels. “We can’t afford to spend money on things like that!” But as I wrote in Why Hotel Design Directly Affects The Prices You Can Charge, design and experience elements are what separates a $49 hotel room from an $800 room. Music is another key element in experience design.What’s interesting is that Bradley has seen a lot of initial traction with limited service hotels already.
“Music is something you can instantly put in and change the feel of the room. People walk in and when you see their expressions, you know they had a different experience.” Many limited service hotels play TVs in the lobby – but TVs are a poor way to introduce your guests to the hotel. “Guests come from all walks of life, and when you think about the political environment of today (for example), so-called centrist news organizations can lean one way or the other, and this can cause people to be emotionally involved. Changing the soundscape to music can affect a profound change on the environment.”
“There’s a profound difference between the music you play in the foreground in your home or office and the music that is best to play in the background of a hotel. In the foreground, you’re thinking about whether you like the song. But for background music, it’s not about what you personally like. It’s about what experience is best for the demographics and business objective you want to achieve in the space.”
“Music is for the guests in the room, and not your personal enjoyment.”
Thanks, Bradley! For more information, visit www.AmbianceRadio.com
About the author
Josiah Mackenzie, enjoys exploring the relationship between emerging technology and the hospitality industry.