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Hotel soundscape designer, Music Concierge founder, and Mr & Mrs Smith’s very own TuneSmith Rob Wood explains why music is a key part  of the boutique hotel experience, and wonders why so many get it wrong…

As a hotel music consultant, I can be something of a difficult customer when I check in for a weekend away with my Mrs Smith. It never ceases to amaze us how many wonderful hotels which have invested so much time, creativity and money into their interiors seem content to play Café del Mar, Buddha Bar, or worse on repeat, or to fill their guests’ music library with Classic FM compilations. Such CDs have their uses and their success can’t be denied, but, isn’t a visit to a boutique hotel all about escaping the mundane and the familiar? We want to be wowed with a unique hotel experience. That’s what Mr & Mrs Smith is about after all.

Why is music so important in a hotel?

It’s absolutely crucial to get the music right. As savvy guests, we all know that hoteliers have to make sure the interior design is stunning, the menu and wine list are mouth-watering, and the bed and its linen are perfect. All of those factors delight us through the senses of sight, taste, smell and touch. Sound is the missing part of this sensory jigsaw. It is often ignored, yet hearing is our second most important sense after sight. When a property gets the music right, it has an emotional impact on us as soon we cross the threshold. It’s thus an essential part of a hotel’s sensory branding. That’s why hotels that want to stand out need to sound different as much as look it.

We recently visited a new hotel in Greece. It was an incredible place with really innovative design and attention to detail in every respect – apart from the music. They played Phil Collins.  All. Night. Long. Literally. My ears wanted to get the next flight back to Blighty. There’s no excuse – the iPod revolution has reawakened most people’s interest in music; when they go away for a weekend they should hear something new and wonderful, not ‘In the Air Tonight’ on a loop.

So how do so many hotels get it wrong?

Hotels usually get the music wrong when it is added as an after-thought. On an equipment level, they might install low-cost speakers, which means the subtleties of the music are lost, or, worse still, volume levels become annoying. Then there’s the ubiquitous chill-out CD, often used to guarantee the hotel sounds just like every other. The biggest crime, however, is allowing the staff to put their own favourite music on, thus inflicting loud, inappropriate, usually up-tempo, club-style music on the poor guests. Instead, hoteliers should explore the world of music out there and incorporate it into the hotel design. Like a good menu, the music in a hotel should be comforting, tempting, and slightly adventurous. Guests will always remember a place if that can be achieved.

What does Music Concierge do?

Having been a music journalist and DJ, I set up Music Concierge to offer boutique hotels consultancy from real music experts. We have an ever-growing music library which now covers over 100 genres spread across nine decades, including the latest finger-on-the-pulse releases. This incredible library, alongside our music-programming experience, allows us to offer a hotel a unique signature sound that reflects its character, location and ethos. We spend a great deal of time sourcing music that fits our clients’ needs and then painstakingly piecing together separate sophisticated playlists for each time of the day and for each different area within the property.

For instance, for the desert island chic of Huvafen Fushi in the Maldives, we created a rich and colourful  listening experience that becomes a subtle part of the experience of eating at their amazing Raw restaurant. While at Chewton Glen we went to great lengths to find piano-led music that felt just right for this wonderful country house hotel. We’re also about to start work on a new music concept for the Ritz Club, which will be really interesting as it is the iconic hotel’s Edwardian gaming club. I’m looking forward to working with them to create a real sense of refined drama as a backdrop to the high stakes.

Once we’ve designed the playlists, our music is delivered, timetabled and updated regularly via broadband. It’s a great service and our clients regularly get good press and guest feedback that mentions the quality of the music. Condé Nast Traveller recently reported that the high standard of the music at our client, the Forbury hotel, was ‘a world first for hotels’, which was nice to hear!

I’d love to hear people’s suggestions on which albums or songs they’d think would work really well in a hotel environment. Please feel free to comment below or email me your suggestions at

If you want to know what I’m listening to, you can read the TuneSmith column on the Smith site . Also fans of the Smith CD compilations will be pleased to know we have an exciting new project to announce soon, but more on that later!

I’m now off to work out what ‘Sussudio’ was actually about. Also a fact for you pop pickers: the video features a cameo appearance by a very young Quentin Tarantino. I kid you not.

I’m not really obsessed by Phil. Honest.

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