How cool would it be to swim in a pool where video mapping gives the impression that you’re swimming in the ocean with fish while oceanic sounds play through underwater loudspeakers? Welcome to the future of guest engagement. Let me back up a little. We’ve established why hotels and resorts need to have the right music for different spaces, along with the cultural evolution that has made music such an integral part of the guest experience. Now, if only it were all that easy. I’ve seen many challenges and hiccups that resorts run into along the way – from equipment failures to sub-par acoustics to static content that doesn’t adapt to diverse clientele or times of day. Let’s explore how some of these scenarios play out to learn more about how we can ensure the most successful music architecture experience for today and the future. Notice that I’m not just talking about music. When I refer to music architecture, I’m referring to a custom sound experience designed specifically to engage guests and help build loyalty. It’s much more than what type of music is playing in the background or what an algorithm will queue up. Music architecture involves planning for the many different places that music is played, as well as controlling volume depending on time of day and capacity. For hotel executive management, it also includes the right service and support to operate seamlessly.
Now, let’s take the case of a new property in the Bahamas where the music system was subject to overwhelming technical failures. The system would crash on a daily basis. The impact was particularly taxing on the in-house IT staff, which was subject to round-the-clock support calls for areas that were open 24/7. The music system provider was based in Europe, so any outside support was impacted by a 7-hour time difference. The resort management was exasperated when my phone rang. I proposed bringing one of our servers down to test for a month in the area where they were having the most failures. After two weeks of continuous, uninterrupted service, we concluded the test was successful. We’ve been supporting this resort ever since. This example demonstrates a few points. First, it speaks to the value of reliable, high-quality technology, and the peace of mind it affords. Secondly, it underlies the extent that proper research must be conducted to compare both solutions and service providers. Quite often, research does not compare apples to apples, like with the European-based service provider. For a resort located anywhere in the Americas, the benefits of having regional service support are significant. Many resorts have daily service requests that don’t leave much time to resolve. For example, a restaurant needs to open an hour earlier for a special event. When researching music content vendors, hotel management should also be aware of music licensing fees, which are determined by each individual country. I’ve seen firms offer suspiciously low pricing, which I know for a fact makes it impossible for them to be paying the required licensing fees. What ends up happening there? Either the resort gets stuck with licensing fees, or the vendor will be out of business soon.
Keep it Under Control
Another fairly common sticking point I’ve seen with music involves staff left with control of volume settings. There are a number of reasons why this contributes to a less than optimal guest experience. The obvious is when music is too loud. For some reason, there’s a common misconception that louder music is better and more fun. This really couldn’t be further from the truth. It also completely disregards different times of day, crowds and mood – all of which must be reflected in the music. On the flip side, I’ve seen staff turn music down extremely low, thinking that people can’t complain if it’s too quiet to hear. But even if a guest doesn’t complain about what they’re missing, they’re still not having the best possible experience. Music is designed to engage and foster an enjoyable environment. None of those goals occur if music is barely audible. If this doesn’t illustrate my point, ask yourself, would you allow your staff to select the colors of your wall or the artwork? Would you allow staff to create your logo? The music experience today is just as important as those elements, especially if you’re trying to differentiate yourself as a brand. I find it unfortunate that music tends to be such an afterthought unless there’s silence or noise. That’s why I’m extremely passionate about challenging this status quo and educating the hospitality community by telling more of these stories. Beyond shifting public opinion, when it comes to staff meddling with music controls, you want to implement lock codes and volume controls, so most staff have limited access to these features. To extend peace of mind even further, you want the music start and stop time to be fully managed, and you want the music volume to be set according to each and every specific area. The goal is for you to think about music as little as possible, and you can rest assured that your guests will have the best experience.
Premium Doesn’t Mean Most Expensive
The last challenge I want to underscore stems from bringing music content experts into the conversation late in the game. That’s how you end up stuck with a less than premium audio system. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve seen a resort need to add or replace equipment because it just wasn’t what they needed. A misguided conversation about budget constraints will often lead here. I am a firm believer that choosing a premium audio system does not need to be the most expensive. Much more importantly, the decision requires a strategic outlook. The wrong equipment choice could lock you into a single audio zone where you could opt for less expensive loudspeakers to accommodate for more zone controls. I often see the same high-end loudspeakers sold throughout a property, which really doesn’t make sense when you consider the functional differences in the areas that music is played. Keeping a finger on the pulse of rapidly changing technology requires pushing the envelope to explore options beyond what’s been the accepted norm. We need to move forward with the innovative technology that is coming out today, which is often more efficient and less expensive. I recommend selecting the audio system more strategically, so you get the best fitting solution within your budget.
Peering into the Crystal Ball
Now that we’ve dug into many of the complexities of creating successful music architecture, how do we push the dial into the future of this experience for your guests? The key to delivering music content that hits all the right notes involves a holistic approach with various partners working together. There are very strategic benefits to bringing in the AV and music content right alongside the architectural drawings on a new construction project. This allows us to work directly with the architects to identify zones, design acoustics and influence material selection for walls and ceilings, which has a huge impact on acoustics. There are affordable loudspeakers today that can be placed completely inside of a wall and produce incredibly even sound. We can really choose the right audio equipment for the space according to budget. Being involved at this early stage also helps keep costs down when changes come up. Say for example a restaurant was designed with just a patio as an additional zone, but then a few months into the design, a private room is added. Knowing that another volume subzone needs to be added ASAP, helps us all save on design time and costs. I’m currently working with a resort in the early stages of designing several themed restaurants. This early involvement has allowed us to create custom sound as part of this themed experience – a major enhancement. The sound will truly become part of the themed restaurant, opposed to just being there in the background.
Creative Thinking Leads to the Next-Gen Experience
I think when all is said and done, if you want to stay in step and move with the times, we need to change mainstream mentality when it comes to audiovisual. These are no longer just sound systems that play background music or a digital sign to post activities. We need to think outside of the box to really capture guest engagement and experience at the next level. Once you start thinking in those terms, you’ll start thinking about it sooner. Then you can think more creatively about the endless possibilities of how sound and video can add to the guest experience. Maybe it’s in the lobby, where you could consider audiovisual alongside the artwork and commission digital canvases that react to motion when guests walk by. Now that’s a next-gen level of engagement.
Republished from the Hotel Business Review with permission from www.HotelExecutive.com