ITB 2019 Special Reporting
Music is Playing a Much Bigger Role in Branding These Days
By Beachwood Custom
Tuesday, 12th February 2019

Leading upscale hotel brands are finding few things work as well as music when it comes to connecting with today’s traveler.

You know the saying – you only get one chance to make a first impression. The moment guests step through the hotel door for the first time, the judging starts.

Is the lobby as warm and inviting as the images I saw online suggested? Is the décor attractive? What about the lighting? Are the folks behind the front desk smiling as advertised? And what about the lobby music. Is it too slow, too loud, or just what I expected? Judging from hotel reviews on the travel sites, these are not unusual complaints.

Marriott tunes up

In case you have not noticed, music is playing a much bigger role in branding these days and high-end hotels have been leading the charge.

Music has played a central role in Marriott International’s brand rejuvenation strategy going back to at least 2009. That when its Renaissance Hotels brand kicked off its Signature Global Music Experience as part of a comprehensive campaign to help “the next generation of business travelers discover unexpected cultural experiences.”

The company has since steadily upped its commitment to promoting emerging musicians. In 2014 it signed on as lead sponsor of “Navigator Live,” a live event series and television show that aired on AXS TV for two season. The show “invited guests and viewers to explore different cities through the eyes of touring musicians – the ultimate modern business traveler.”

In 2015, Renaissance launched its Play to Stay contest, which offered touring emerging artists a chance to stay at its hotels for free in exchange for recording a video of an impromptu song or jam session on location. You can still find some of those performances on Renaissance Hotel’s YouTube channel.

Helping guests live like locals

Navigator Live was part of a brilliant campaign to promote Renaissance Hotels concierges as unrivaled “Navigators” of the local cultural scene who could show guest how to “live like a local.”

“You’ll often see them out of the hotel in the local area, searching for the most intriguing, new, and imaginative experiences the neighborhood has to offer,” explains the Renaissance Navigator webpage. “Whether you want to find the best bar for craft beer, mix with locals in an evening street food market, or simply kick back and see some live local music, just ask a Navigator and you’ll quickly find yourself plugged-in to the what the locals are talking about.”

W Hotels decision to start installing recording studios in its hotels in 2016 and its announcement last fall that it was launching its own recording studio - W Records signals that Marriott International is getting serious traction with its investment in music. In fact, it seems to be just getting started.

Respect the music

Of course you don’t need to spend so lavishly, or have in-house music curators like Starbucks, to incorporate music into your brand. You may, however, need to think more about acoustics when doing your next renovation, because a lot of businesses don’t, according to Brian d’Souza, founder and managing director of Open Ear. The U.K. based music curation firm’s clients include Mondrian Hotel in London.

“Spaces are rarely set up for sound; we see terrible acoustics throughout the design world, compounded with cheap loudspeakers and retrofit speaker positioning leading to poor coverage and terrible fidelity,” d’Souza wrote in an October 2018 blog post. “Even when the acoustics of a space are treated adequately, we often hear a shockingly bad quality of music, played either too loud or too quietly via not-fit-for-purpose and unlicensed digital players. And then we have the song selection: too often left to the whim of staff members, musically-out-of-touch owners or ‘background music’ companies who fail to curate properly in favour of a quicker and more cost-effective ‘solution’.”


This may help explain why the Four Seasons, Luxe Rodeo Drive Hotel, SLS Hotels, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, The Ritz Carlton and other boutique hotel brands have turned to RX Music and other curation services.

By the way, research published by the Journal of Vacation Marketing in 2009 concluded that ambient music can “amend guests' perceptions of brand personality and décor.” It also found music can cause guests to spend more time and money in an establishment, improve guest attitudes during a wait, and enhance employee productivity.

Rock on!

Here at Beachwood Custom, we think a lot about how to help boutique hotels set the mood and create comfortable and memorable experiences that build powerful brands. If you’re looking for help with creating the perfect hotel atmosphere, why not contact Beachwood Custom today?

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