“I’ve made up my mind whether I like a bar within 5 seconds of opening the door.”
The opening slide of the seminar “Sound advice: Better bar music” featured a quote from the late Sasha Petraske, the founder of Milk & Honey who passed away in August 2015. It summarizes the fact that people will decide if they like a place or not in a split second or, pun unintended, at the speed of sound.
Jacob Briars, Bacardi Advocacy Director and self proclaimed failed music promoter, led the panel of discussion comprising Nick Van Tiel (DJ, producer and consultant), Vishal Vasan (W1 Event Producer, music consultant, semi-retired DJ -his words), and Chris Leacock (restaurateur, musician, DJ Major Lazer). Together, with good banter between them, they covered the key points bars should pay attention to to provide quality music entertainment. Here are the major intakes I got out of their seminar.
Jacob opened the discussion observing bars have started to invest in music – many in live music even – to hook people in. He followed by saying “Bars are disorganized sound (people, furniture, glasses, …) but music is organized sound and provides harmony. You will focus on the music and won’t pay attention to the background noise and share the same experience.”
Apparently as we grow older, the range of sounds we perceive lessens. We stop hearing certain frequencies which means we stop enjoying certain types of music because we can’t hear all the sounds that make them. That is a notion to should be taken into account when deciding on the kind of audience you’re aiming at. Jacob suggested future bar owners should ask themselves the following questions: “What’s the experience you want to give? What’s your demographic? Music will tell people what sort of venue you are, what kind of people is welcome, what sort of behavior is expected.”
What you should be focusing on is tempo. “The tempo is the most important part of the music. It will determine how your guests will be feeling. Disco music gets your heart rate high which raises people’s mood. Different music genres have different music tempos.”
While BPM (beats per minute) counts, Nick reminded that one should also consider the type of music, its keys and the key in transitioning music. As a simple reveler I agree with him on that point. There’s nothing that annoys us more, one of my friends and me, than abrupt track transitions while we’re dancing. Chris then regretted that often the music comes last when people open a bar but it all comes down to what mood you want to convey. For some places it’s a bit of a no brainer. Others should really think about their customer profile: “Am I running a fancy bar with jazz music or a dive bar with The Eagles on repeat?”
Pros and cons of music sources
Nick had several advice regarding music sources : “Having a DJ shows customers you care enough about music. He can change gears at the drop of the hat and choose music specific to what is happening in the room right now. However DJs are expensive. They need costly equipment that you will have to supply and maintain. Also, they drink a lot and usually come with a crew. My suggestion would be: Do a retainer, like one night per week or per month, to organize your program with the rest of your DJs. If you want to buy curated playlists, be precise about how each night goes (Monday nights are different than Saturday nights) and about how you want the night to evolve. Have weekday and weekend playlists. You can also go for on demand streaming. There are a lot of free options. You can also use Internet or smartphone radio. However the volume and quality is not always good, nor is the Internet connection”.
While Jacob agreed – “DJs keep the room at a boil. They’re an extremely powerful asset.”- , Chris tempered: “There are a lot of bad DJs. It takes a lot of trial and error.”
When it comes to sound systems, Nick recommended: “You should consider it early on when conceiving your bar: at the stage of bar conception. Many bars leave it last and that’s really what you shouldn’t do. Think of it when you build your space. Regarding speakers, they should be minimum 2 waves models to reproduce sound fully (i.e. all frequencies). It’s really important in a room full of people.”
Jacob continued saying: “When it comes to materials, think about how they will reflect the room temperature, the atmosphere. Music is the same. Put the budget in your music system.”
Any comments or personal experience to share regarding music entertainment for bars?