Musical taste is always subjective. But too often in a bar, it’s an after thought or the personal preference of the bar manager, and both of those calls can have an adverse affect.
Recently I had a guest shift in a fantastic gem of a bar in East London. The conditions were right, a local friendly crowd that recognised me as a new face, an extensive product list from which to draw on, great bar support and a very warm and bustling atmosphere.
There was however a drawback, music was neglected. For the most part it wasn’t bad so much as lazy. Several tunes repeated throughout the night. Including that one. Whose name I refuse to remember. That somehow gets away with being consciously overplayed. Everywhere.
I had to ask a staff member, “Is this that one. Again? The one being sued for ripping someone off?”
Often the opposite of neglect occurs. I often arrived at a previous venue I managed to hear the owner raiding Spotify for the EDM world’s latest and greatest. I’m not anti that music per se, but unless you are at Global Gathering or in the West End, I question the efficacy of their use.
That’s it. Uptown Funk. I am most definitely anti Uptown fucking funk. Efficacy is the key word here. Define your goal. Is it to…
- Not offend people.
- Increase and maintain sales.
- Associate your venue with relevant cultural symbols.
- Offer guests something unique.
That list in works A) from top to bottom in order of importance & B) from bottom to top in order of difficulty. You can achieve this without scraping the bottom of the barrel.
If maximising sales and customer satisfaction is key be aware that by playing the lazy drone of pap that people hear in most places, you associate your bar with a whole load of other establishments that don’t have the great drinks you do, don’t have the great staff you do and don’t have the (otherwise) great vibe that you do.
Most bars exist in a grey area where the music is neither the main event or irrelevant, and as such your background should reflect that. In other words, make your picture complete and actively choose a sound that compliments your venue. Do not leave it to chance.
Furthermore, if you can actually hit point 4, then the cultural nodes amongst your crowd will walk away and tell people about your venue, which puts you in a very nice place indeed.
So how? Music research is laborious and time consuming. Here is an awesome trick I use, which will help you populate your bar with original, good quality sounds.
- Download the app TUNEIN to your phone. That app gives you free access to nearly every online radio station and thousands of FM stations across the world. The spectrum of music is phenomenal, and sometimes awful. Well done, you have just expanded your exposure to new music by 5000%
- Download Shaazam.
- Download Spotify.
- Now in Shaazam’s settings link Shazaam to Spotify and allow it to create a playlist.
- Now spend time surfing radio stations on Tunein and Shazaam anything interesting. Everything you Shazaam will appear in a spotify playlist. I have embedded mine below as an example.
The point here is not to become a connoisseur of the weird and wonderful but rather to stop patronizing your audience and offer them something other than the can of Heinz tomato soup you have been. I also like the fact you can Shazaam what you are listening to even with headphones on.
Below is a selection of music I garnered from famous French radio station FIP (which broadcasts around Paris and Lyon) using this technique. It has had a cult following among music fans for a long time and is actually available on FM in Brighton via pirate broadcast. Yup. Cool.
I’m reserving bragging rights on this lovely selection, but to be honest, it is the french DJ’s that found most of it. Furthermore, the playlist is live and I will continue to add to it regularly.
Enjoy the tunes.