Background music is everywhere. From the grocery store to the gas station, you can use background music to energize, soothe, and create a welcoming atmosphere. But it’s not just played for ambiance. In fact, some reports show that upbeat music played in retail stores encourages spending.
In hotels, background music sets the mood for your hotel guests while also influencing branding. Read on to learn about background music, why it matters, and how to choose the best playlist for your hotel.
A quick history of hotel background music
In the hospitality industry, background music was first used as a tool in the 1920s, with the goal of filling the silence. But as the years progressed, so did the strategy. First came branded hotel CDs that played in the lobby and were also available for purchase. Then came branded hotel radio channels, available on an app that guests could download, including pre-selected, standard music that played from the lobby to the bar.
Why hotel background music matters
Background music has become a booming business, and hotels are benefitting. Hotel background music helps:
- Ease people into their mornings over a cup of coffee and pastries.
- Energize working lunches or breakout sessions.
- Help fitness center visitors stay motivated.
When you hear specific songs on the radio, they transport you back to a place, a time, or a feeling. Research shows that music affects our memories, but it also shows that music affects our moods. Listening to upbeat music can improve mood and increase overall happiness, which leads to better physical and mental health. The American Music Therapy Association reports that music helps people alleviate pain, manage stress, and enhance memory. The background music you choose for your hotel has the power to make people feel great, which goes a long way toward creating a dynamic guest experience.
Need-to-know tips before you select your hotel music playlist
Music plays a large role in events from conferences to weddings, and picking the best background music is essential to the right atmosphere. In your hotel, music sets the mood and shows your distinct personality. Keep the music consistent with your brand and follow these tried-and-true tips for musical success.
1. No background music is not an option
Silence is not an option in your hotel. When business is booming and the crowd is bustling in the reception area, the excessive chatter can create discomfort to the ears. Background music covers the distortion of voices and gives your guests something calming to listen to as they wait in line.
2. Connect the background music to your crowd
Before you begin choosing music for the various areas of your hotel, think about your clientele. If you cater to a younger crowd, choose modern, familiar music that resonates with the demographic. Is your Commonly host a group that skews a bit older? Skip the ‘pop’ and go with comfortable classics. If you’re a family-friendly hotel that runs the gamut from grandkids to grandparents, strike a balance that pleases everyone and use songs that are pleasant, but unfamiliar.
3. Sync your background music choices to the circadian rhythm
When selecting background music for your hotel, think about the way you feel in the morning versus the way you feel at night. Your guests will likely feel the same way. Adjust your playlists to meet the needs of guests throughout the day.
- Soft music for the breakfast hour
- Upbeat music for early-afternoon
- Energetic music in the mid-afternoon
- Soothing music in the evening
4. Switch the background music up regularly
Yes, you want your music to brand your hotel and keep associations alive long after guests have gone. But you also want to keep your music fresh and rotate the selection. Repetitive songs can become annoying to guests who are taking an extended vacation, and extra annoying to your staff who must listen day in and day out. Many luxury resorts update 30 percent of their songs each week so that playlists are completely renewed every three weeks on average.
5. Keep track of everything in one place
Organize your music selection, areas of play, and the times of day you play songs in your planning software. Create an event [i.e., The Hotel Hudson’s Master Playlist] and upload a file with your background music details. Include playlists for breakfast, midday, and evening in the lobby, times to turn up the music in the pool and fitness center, as well as ideal volume settings. You can even create a ‘do not play’ list for songs to avoid during specific times of day.
6. Take cues from background music at The Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton Montreal relies on the background music at their hotel to set a relaxed atmosphere. Everywhere you go in the hotel, from the hallways to the spa, music fills the air. They even teamed up with music experts to develop the perfect custom playlist that conveys their distinct brand while creating a dynamic experience for each customer. Their ‘Chill Lounge’ set, played in the morning over breakfast, is just one example of how they do background music right.
Remember that background music is not free
While it would be so much easier if you could just create a playlist on Spotify, Pandora, or Apple Music and let the music flow through your hotel, you can’t. Streaming services like these are built and licensed for consumers, not businesses. The same goes for your own personal CDs, MP3s, and digital files. Even though you’ve downloaded and paid for the music yourself, it’s not legal to play the music in a public setting.
To play music in a public setting, you need to obtain a Public Performance License (PPL). This can be done through one of the following agencies in the U.S.:
Your PPL must be in place before you begin playing copyrighted music. Otherwise, it’s considered copyright infringement, leaving you open to fines up to $150,000 per song played.
Discover 7 top strategies for outstanding background music throughout your hotel
Gone are the same-old tunes wafting through the lobby, sauna, and breakfast area. Here to stay are songs hand-picked to set the mood throughout your hotel as guests move from place to place. Hotel managers take shifting guest experiences into consideration and design playlists with these variables in mind.
1. Start with your lobby
First impressions mean a lot. When your guests arrive, they’re tired. They’ve taken a long flight, driven a long way, and are ready to relax in their room. The last thing they want to hear is a loud, pounding rock track blasting through their temples. Don’t make the first impression a negative one; choose relaxing music that de-stresses. Turn your hotel lobby into a calming, welcoming sanctuary with the sounds of soothing jazz or classical music. Keep the music slow and easy, especially if check-in wait times are a tad on the long side.
2. Display your style in common areas
Stick with your core branding when playing music in common areas such as hallways and outside seating areas. Keep it low and light to avoid causing distractions as these areas are perfect examples where background music is simply there to eliminate silence.
3. Slow it down in the bar and restaurant
Slow music encourages people to eat slower. This makes people stick around longer, take extra time for meals and conversation, and (ultimately) spend more money on drinks. However, if your goal is a quick turnover so you can serve many dinners per night, select music that’s faster and play it louder. This encourages people to eat and go.
4. Pump up the gym
Anyone who’s heading into your fitness center is there to move. Help them get into the groove with music that’s lively and energetic. Think EDM (electronic dance music), hip-hop, or classic rock. The best workout songs are a mixture of everything, but they all help your guests find the beat and enjoy their workout.
5. Keep it relaxing by the pool
Although some people use the pool for a workout, most are there to chill out and wind down. Your music should be subtle, with a relaxed vibe. Consider a toned-down version of your brand sound, light tropical-style tunes, or low-key jazz.
6. Offer choices in guest rooms
It’s not your place to take over the music selection in each guest room. Give guests full control of how to set their own mood by providing Bluetooth speakers in each room. This allows them to hook up their own smartphones and play whatever they like. Another option is to create a branded music channel on the TVs in your rooms. It’s the little things that guests will always remember.
7. Make sure it’s never intrusive
Pay attention to customers who complain about the music. If guests continually ask your staff to change the music or turn it down, it indicates a problem with your playlist. Head back to the drawing board and rethink your music strategy.
Hotel background music types and genres to consider
You can certainly create playlists with a mixture of everything from pop to rock, but these reliable music genres work well for most areas of your hotel.
1. Jazz music
A classic style found in hotels everywhere, it creates the ultimate atmosphere of relaxation. Use it in the lobby during the morning or in the restaurant anytime.
2. Lounge hotel music
This easy-listening genre became popular in the 1950s and 60s. It has a tranquil sound featuring lightly danceable rhythms. Perfect for your hotel bar or lounge.
3. Reggae music
Softer styles are well-suited for use as hotel background music, but even the more upbeat tunes have a place. Use this gene in your pool, spa, or lobby in the evening.
4. Bossa Nova music
A little bit jazz, a little bit samba, this genre came about in the 1950s. It has a warm, welcoming feel, making it ideal for hallways, outdoor locations, and the lobby in the afternoon.
5. Environmental music
If your hotel promotes green practices and a spirit of nature, this genre is for you. The style typically lacks a distinct melody and adds sounds of nature, such as rainfall or birdsong. It creates a dynamic atmosphere in the spa or pool.
It has no vocals, and highlights instruments like the piano or acoustic guitar. A lovely genre to use in your lobby, breakfast area, and outdoor locations any time of day.
Services for sourcing your hotel’s background music
Select your background music provider with the same care you give choosing lobby furniture, designing the perfect layout for breakfast events, or sourcing your farm-to-table menu. The best sources will work closely with you to match the music your brand and your clientele. Some popular services for hotel music include:
- Soundtrack. Comes complete with the licenses you need to play music at your hotel and tools to manage your music across multiple zones.
- Bandtrack. Works with professional DJs who market your music to meet your brand, requires no internet connection to function.
- Soundjack. Includes copyright licenses and fully compliant, choose from a wide range of playlists suited for hotel usage.
- Jamendo. Offers unique tracks from independent artists (all rights included), access to over 25 custom radio stations.
- Rightsify. Contains the licenses you need to play music in your hotel, and the music is designed for your brand and space.
Now that you know how hotel background music makes a difference in your guest experience, learn about other services you can provide to make your hotel stand out from the rest. Or, how to create workspaces in your hotel to boost revenue.