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The Best Background Music for Hotels

The Best Background Music for Hotels

Written by
James Picken
Published

June 7, 2024

Category
Resources

Move your customers when they’re checking in and chilling out. Find out what type of music sets the right tone in your hotels, elevates mood, and matches your brand.

Music isn’t just an entertainment tool - it has the power to make us behave and feel a certain way. We’re lucky to work with some amazing hotel brands who care deeply about creating the perfect customer experience from start to end. Whether you’re looking to increase customer spend, influence dwell-time, or boost employee productivity, perfecting your music can drive your objectives and make your hotel environments sing. 

We’re here with the lowdown on why music in hotels is so important, and how to get it right. 

Contents:

  1. Why do most hotels have background music?
  2. How should I choose the music for my hotel?
  3. Do I need a music license for my hotel? How much is it?
  4. Can I play Spotify in my hotel?
  5. What kind of music is best for my hotel?
  6. How can technology help me with the music in my hotel?
  7. The Selwyn - Case Study

Why do most hotels have background music?

Have you ever checked into a stay in silence? Sat in a hotel bar with no soundtrack? It would be a bit weird wouldn’t it?

Music is a key strategic tool aimed at improving the hotel experience, influencing consumer behaviour and contributing to the overall branding and atmosphere of the venue.

  1. Enhances atmosphere and ambience: Background music helps establish the desired ambience in different areas of the hotel, such as the lobby, restaurants, bars and spas. For instance, soothing music in the lobby can create a calming atmosphere, while lively tunes in the bar can enhance a fun, social vibe. 
  2. Refinroces branding: Music that aligns with the hotel’s brand identity can strengthen the overall brand experience, making it more memorable for guests. 
  3. Influences guest behaviour: Pleasant background music can uplift guests’ spirits, making them feel more relaxed and happy during their stay. In areas like waiting lounges or restaurants, background music can make waiting times feel shorter and more pleasant. 
  4. Creates a sense of space: Hotels are unique venues, having numerous different zones and different types of spaces in one place. Background music can help differentiate areas within the hotel, creating distinct moods and encouraging certain activities. 
  5. Positive associations: Music can trigger positive memories and associations, encouraging guests to remember their stay fondly and consider returning in the future. And, the right music can evoke emotions that enhance the overall experience, making it more enjoyable. 
  6. Enhancing experience and encouraging spending: Studies have shown that the right type of music can influence consumer behaviour, potentially leading to increased spending in hotel restaurants, bars, and shops. A positive experience can lead to repeat visits and positive reviews. 

Background music is a strategic tool that hotels use to enhance the guest experience, create a specific atmosphere, and support their brand identity, ultimately contributing to guest satisfaction and business success.

How should I choose the music for my hotel?

This is obviously quite a subjective question, and one that our music team tackles every day with different customers. There’s a lot of elements to consider, for example:

  • What market is your hotel in? And where is it located?
  • What type of experience are you selling? Just rooms, or a full spa, restaurant, bar stay?
  • What type of brand are you trying to portray?
  • What type of ambience exists in the hotel?
  • Who is your target market?

It’s obviously vital that your hotel’s background music matches the brand. If you’re a sophisticated,up market hotel, you might not want to play heavy rock (although the unexpected does work sometimes in playlist curation). 

Another thing to consider when choosing the music to play in your hotel is your business objectives, and how you want your customers to behave. This might vary throughout the day or even the year, but it’s important to remember that music has the ability to make us feel and act in specific ways. 

  • Tempo impacts the way we move. Generally, studies have shown that a quicker tempo will encourage customers to move quickly and a slower tempo will encourage them to linger more. They both have their benefits, for example if you’re at check in time and have a long queue, you may want to subtly increase the tempo of your music to move customers along quicker. But, in places like the hotel restaurant, a slower tempo is more suitable, to try and encourage a relaxed environment which facilitates a longer visit.  
  • Volume also has an impact. Experiences like checking into a hotel often require quite a lot of communication - providing booking details, room numbers, giving advice and recommendations etc. Also, with one check in time per day, there can be a sudden surge of customers in the lobby at mid afternoon. In these cases, balancing out the busyness with relaxing music at lower decibels can maintain that inviting environment, and allow for staff and customers to hear the relevant information they need. 
  • Time of day is important. Hotels are, uniquely, 24/7 businesses, so it’s important for music to be changed throughout the day. For example, you may choose more soft and peaceful music in the morning. As the day goes on, more upbeat music can encourage energy and make the atmosphere more lively. As the evening approaches, you may want to switch back to relaxing music to help guests wind down. That’s why it’s handy to use a scheduling tool, so your staff don’t have to worry about changing the genres throughout the day, they can focus on what’s important - serving guests. 

It’s also important to keep your background music fresh, of course for your customers, but also for your staff. There’s nothing worse than hearing the same songs for months on end, so keep staff morale high by keeping the soundtrack exciting. 

We’ve got over 100 regularly updated Startle playlists spanning genres and eras for you to choose from, or we offer a bespoke music profiling service to perfectly match your brand. 

Do I need a music license for my hotel? How much is it?

You’ll usually need to get a Public Performance License if you:

  • Play recorded music in public or at your business (including background music on a CD, radio or music channel).
  • Stage live music events in public (for example, a concert or festival).
  • Play live music or recorded music in a theatre.
  • Use sound recordings in a theatrical production (including on-stage and off-stage effects).

This obviously covers basically every retail and hospitality business. Music is so important to creating the perfect atmosphere, so it’s only fair that we follow the rules and make sure money is going to the artists. You could also be sued for copyright infringement if you don’t.

If you’re in the UK, you can contact PPL PRS to check if you need a license, or check out their sector page for information more specific to hotels.

How much your license will cost depends on a few factors, like the size and type of venue you’re looking to play the music in, and how the music is used. Below are some examples of licensing costs, just to give you an idea of what you might be spending. 

Sector Type Annual Cost (+VAT) Starts From...
Office & Workplace
Play music in an office (4 or fewer staff) £121.77 33p per day
Shops & Stores
Play music (audible area of 50sqm or less) £199.25 54p per day
Fitness & Dance
A fitness instructor holding three classes every week for 50 weeks of the year £270 73p per day
Hair & Beauty
Play music via radio (10 or fewer seats) £327.38 89p per day
Restaurants & Cafe
Play music via a radio (up to 30 seats that is 400sqm or less) £347.84 95p per day
Pubs & Bars
Play music via radio (400 sqm or less) £371.09 £1.01 per day
Live Music
A pub or bar could perform live music their premise for up to 100 people at a one off event £11.94 12p per person

All cost examples are subject to change. Office and Workplace, Shops and Stores, Hair and Beauty updated February 2023. Fitness and Dance updated February 2023. Restaurants and Cafés updated January 2023. Pubs and Bars updated January 2023. Daily cost examples are based on music usage for 365 days a year.

View latest examples here.

For a guide on music licensing, head here.

Can I play Spotify in my hotel?

Unfortunately not. 

Streaming platforms like Spotify are great consumer music services that are designed for personal consumption. They’re affordable, easy to use, and often highly personalised. 

But unfortunately, they’re not intended for commercial use. They don’t cover the licenses for commercial use, or ensure that artists, songwriters, composers, recording labels, music publishers and rights holders are properly paid for music played in a business environment. In simple terms, you’d be guilty of copyright infringement, and denying an artist the payment they’re entitled to by using it without the necessary permissions. 

That’s why professional music services like us are here (and we can import your Spotify playlists, if you really love them). 

What kind of music is best for my hotel?

This is very subjective, and will vary between every hotel shop. But we’ll give you some examples for different zones in your hotel.

  • The lobby - jazz, lounge or classical music: Smooth jazz or lounge music can create a sophisticated and relaxing atmosphere, making guests feel welcomed and comfortable. Also, light classical music can provide an elegant and timeless ambiance. If you are an upmarket hotel, this might be particularly impactful. 
  • Restaurants - ambient music, bossa nova: Soft, unobtrusive ambient music can create a pleasant dining experience without overpowering conversation. Bossa nova in particular is light, melodic, and can add a touch of sophistication and relaxation.
  • Bars and lounges - chillout, smooth jazz, R&B: Genres like these can create a stylish, relaxed and classy atmosphere, perfect for your hotel bar. 
  • Spas and wellness areas - ambient music, nature sounds:  These types of music are ideal for relaxation and meditation, helping to create a serene and peaceful environment. Incorporating sounds like flowing water, birdsong, and gentle breezes can enhance the spa experience.
  • Hallways and common areas - light instrumental music:  Soft instrumental music can provide a calm and pleasant background without being distracting.
  • Conference rooms and business areas - soft classical, ambient music: This can help maintain a professional and focused environment.

We can’t prescribe you the best kind of music without knowing about your specific brand and needs. We’re here to help if you need guidance. 

How can technology help me with the music in my hotel?

The technology you’ll need to play music in your hotel will depend on the size of your sites and what capabilities you have. 

Firstly, you’ll need somewhere to schedule and manage your background music. Startle Studio is built to be easy - it can equip each site with a set of powerful tools to control the music and atmosphere from just a few clicks, or set up different permissions to leave the site managers doing what they do best. Remember how we said you might need different tempos, volumes, and playlists for different times of the day? This can be overwhelming (especially if you’ve had a sudden rush of customers and need to turn the volume up), but with Studio you can schedule playlists in advance, drag them across multiple days if needed, and you know you’re in safe hands. You can access Studio on your laptop, PC, or phone, so it’s available wherever you are.

It’s also good to note the benefits of using digital signage alongside your background music. Digital signage can also help reduce frustration in waiting times, showcase promotions, and sync with your music to create an even more synchronous brand experience.

Once the music is scheduled, there’s no doubt that the stereo equipment you choose plays an essential role. Your choice of set up might include speakers, amplifiers, and mixers. For example, the Startle player can integrate with Sonos and Chromecast speakers. Chat to an expert about the technology requirements for your hotels. 

The Perfect Background Music - The Selwyn Hotel

The Selwyn Hotel is a boutique hotel located in Richmond upon Thames. It’s intimate, warm and engaging, situated in a character-filled townhouse, near great locations like Richmond Park, the iconic Twickenham Stadium, Wimbledon and the gorgeous Kew Gardens - the hotel offers warm hospitality and great experiences.

The Sewlyn needed a full service solution for their music. Hotels are, obviously, open at all times, so they needed to ensure the correct music was delivered at the correct times.

They also wanted to take pressure off their staff, who are always incredibly busy providing amazing service to customers. The Selwyn is a high end hotel - they needed a premium solution, where human error isn’t at risk of impacting the guest experience.

Now, with Startle, The Selwyn can choose from 100-odd mood, genre and behaviour-based playlists, and, with our easy to use scheduler tool, the music is set in advance for all times of the week. This helps to keep the ambience just right, ensures there’s no gaps in the changing over of music, and staff can focus on creating an amazing experience for guests. The carefully curated Startle playlists are full of character, just like the hotel. 

Our unrivalled, industry-leading SLAs give The Selwyn proactive, around-the-clock monitoring and resolution to all of their wants and needs from our support team, with no time wasted waiting for call-outs.

Find out more about their sound here

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The Best Background Music for Hotels

James Picken

With an MA in Music, an MA in Music Psychology, and a Mini MBA in Brand Management… James is one of our Startle geniuses. As Creative Director, it’s his job to produce and execute our music output, making sure everything is sounding, feeling and performing just right for our customers. When he’s not on the clock, James loves to walk the dog, read, lift weights, even dabbling in some music production, and he’s known in the office for his love of Mariah Carey.

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