Is music making my hotel stays better with time?
Is music making my hotel stays better with time?
28 NOVEMBER 2016 9:20 AM

Hotels must grapple with whether they should set themselves up as arbiters of taste. Go for it, hoteliers, just please scrap that awful trippy-hop rubbish that seems to follow guests everywhere they go.

Hotels and music do not mix.

There probably are few subjects that divide opinion as much as what constitutes good music. Probably an impossible conversation to have, but hotels have tried, and what we get is the weaker end of the musical spectrum—that’s, of course, my opinion.

But I do not necessarily want to hear my favorites—The Clash, The Cure, The Fall and The Smiths—when I enter a hotel, either. I’ll keep that for home.

Generally, we accept in conversation that, for instance, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a better musician than is Weird Al Yankovic, much as we accept that Fyodor Dostoyevsky produced better literature than does Dan Brown.

So hotels sort of know where to start, but what hotels end up with that is that slightly trippy, awfully dippy, almost hippy trippy-hop rubbish that sounds as though four notes were put in the Cuisinart and left for 40 minutes on medium-whip phase.

It meets you at your weakness point, when you are checking in after a 14-hour flight; it follows you up the escalator, and on occasion, it is even offered as a souvenir in your room.

According to a Wall Street Journal article from July 2015, hotels are becoming increasingly sophisticated in how music is used. Perhaps the beat-per-minute speed picks up throughout the day, or they put on Maroon 5 at 11 a.m. to speed up everyone suddenly wanting to check out.

Surreal was the first time I experienced trippy-hop, or whatever it is called, at the W New Orleans, probably back in 2002. W Hotels has much to be proud of in its moving the industry forwards, but the trippy-hop and the cream-on-white design motif the property sported at the time made for an interesting stay, especially across the chess board.

Another argument is that, conscious of its presence or not, music supposedly calms and creates moods, but what mood if the music is terrible (opinion again!). How is it possible to have “good music” if there cannot be a collective opinion agreed upon?

If the argument holds true that no one, really, ever hears it, then why bother at all? Some say you are not aware you hear it, but that it does improve your hotel stay—that’s a harder argument to shout down, but then the worrying notion pops up that we’re all being manipulated.

As a hotelier, I might argue that guests are being manipulated into having a more valuable stay.

And the idea of a brand, however cool, choosing music to fit its own image is another strange phenomenon.

Here is one music-in-hotels news item passing my desk in the last few weeks that raised my eyebrows. Now, I thoroughly and continually enjoy witnessing episodes of ingenuity coming out of AccorHotels, and I have had excellent stays in its properties, but, so I read in a press release from one of the Paris-based company’s flags:

“Sofitel Hotels & Resorts (has created a) new brand song. ‘Rêverie’ was written specifically for Sofitel, inspired by the brand’s ability to blend local culture with French art de vivre. A mix between French heritage and U.S. culture defines the duo HAUTE who created this original track with bespoke lyrics.”

Here it is.

Not my cup of tea … and what are “bespoke lyrics” as opposed to lyrics?

But a comment on AccorHotels’ YouTube page suggests someone, with evidently far better taste in music than me, has not done anything else since last staying at a Sofitel but search for the song.

Maybe they had such a great time, the music came to be synonymous with that epic stay?

Now, how about the wrench thrown in the works by being a hotel in a city famed for music?

Ah, that’s another hurdle, as you know you will get zydeco in New Orleans, country in Nashville, Frank Sinatra in Hoboken and reggae in Montego Bay. It must be an art to get the right balance between celebrating a culture and not overdoing it and alienating a percentage of guests.

Or how about guests all choosing from a menu of 1,000 different playlists? But then:

  • Guests will be wandering around the hotel in a trance-like mode oblivious to the hotel itself, which is presumably why they are there;
  • Chances are they’ll chose music they’re familiar with and which they have at home, and the whole idea of many a hotel stay is to be in something that does not resemble your own house; and
  • All the music could still be terrible (opinion, again!).

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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