Have you even been in a café or restaurant when the music suddenly stops? If you have, chances are you’ve noticed the atmosphere change, conversations stall, the amplified clink of cutlery and creak of kitchen appliances, the infrequent crescendo of the coffee machine’s steam wand…
A few weeks ago, we interviewed Ben Walsh, the owner of Miss Moneypenny’s, when he mentioned the importance he places on music, for his brand and to help keep his customers staying longer at his award-winning Noosa bar.
“I am fanatical about the music. The people that create my playlists for me will attest to that. I’m onto my fifth different music selector now. I really do like bespoke music lists to suit the venue and it’s something that I’m always on top of. I’m always deleting music, always playing music I like. It’s a huge part of the hospitality experience for me.”
His statement raised some interesting questions, such as how music affects us, the importance of it in any hospitality venue and what tactics hospitality owners can use to get the most of their music.
The psychology of music
Much has been written about the power of music. From campfires to concert halls, music has tapped into our emotions and our psyches for thousands of years.
Perhaps it’s because music involves more parts of the brain than any other function we perform. Or perhaps it’s because the tonality, rhythm and lyrics in music can improve learning, language skills, creativity and happiness, and decrease anxiety, pain and neurological disorders.
Whatever the reason, music is an integral part of life. It affects us, sometimes deeply, and it’s far more important than just hitting a button and hoping, especially in an industry that prides itself on ambience and atmosphere and serving others…
Any good hospitality owner should consider music as a vital part of their business, an essential ingredient. The great thing is it’s an element of hospitality you can control.
Think of it like a wine list. No matter what type of venue you are, you’ll want wines that pair well with the food on offer. Similarly, you should cater your music standards to your audience as well. There is no winning formula but the music you choose should fit the brand and show an appreciation for your audience.
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How hospitality owners can best tailor their music
But there are a few tricks you can use to get the most out of your music:
Dayparting refers to changing the music depending on the day or time of day. This could be as simple as having a relaxing Sunday afternoon playlist or having a separate lunch and dinner playlist – with the dinner one being a slightly higher tempo.
Take for example a restaurant/bar like Miss Moneypenny’s. The venue at 11pm compared to 6pm will have a totally different vibe. However, in those five hours you’ve been sat in the venue, you won’t notice much change.
According to Ben, Miss Moneypenny’s will change things every 20-30 minutes. “The volumes go up. The style of music may change a little bit. The lights may creep down. You’re not going to notice it but by the time you’re leaving it’s a completely different venue to what you walked into. And that’s how you hold people.”
Adjust the volume
Most likely you’ve been in venues that have dimmed the lighting at some point, or brought around tea light candles to set the mood. Well, the same should be done for music too.
The fact is, the volume levels of any hospitality venue will vary massively based on how many people are there. Should 20 people suddenly arrive, you should adjust the volume levels to match. If you don’t, the music will be inaudible and their raucous laughter will consume your venue. On the flipside, when they leave, the music is going to be loud.
Getting the volume levels right is a huge concern for many hospitality customers. It’s common to read or hear feedback about how customers loved your food but found the music too loud or found it hard to converse.
Have an original music strategy and get feedback
Too often, hospitality owners neglect music. They will have the most amazing, prescriptive strategies about décor, menus, inventories and promotions, yet bypass music altogether. This is a mistake. It’s a major component of the overall feel of your venue so don’t just leave it to chance.
When formulating a strategy, it’s easy to imitate what’s being done. Yet this is how ‘shopping mall music’ is created. Certain bands and artists can be mired by how ubiquitous they became.
One of the most effective ways to ensure your music strategy is on point is to gauge what customers and staff think of it. You might think you’re the Mozart of Spotify playlists but if your customers and staff don’t hold the same opinion, you might want to consider handing over the reins. Simply ask a few customers when they’re paying the bill or staff during quiet periods.