There are 140 distinct “musical identities” across the Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants portfolio—specific spaces for which Lauren Bucherie, Kimpton’s director of music and brand activation, customizes unique soundtracks. And while creating music to dine or relax by may seem simple, Bucherie knows how hard it is to get a sound just right.
From a young age, Bucherie’s interest in music was different from other people’s. While many people hear a song as a song, Bucherie was fascinated by how music affects the mood in movies and TV shows. “You watch movies and you [hear] music in the scenes and it evokes emotion,” she said. “That’s a really cool thing that can happen in person, too.”
After graduating from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas with a bachelor's degree in business administration and management, she started a small production company in Austin, Texas, working as a talent buyer and supervising music for several independent films (a job she has continued to this day). One of the clients of Bucherie’s production company was a new hotel that needed someone to organize an intimate music series. Bucherie was up to the job—and caught the eye of a bigger business.
At the time, Kimpton was getting ready to open the Hotel Van Zandt in Austin, a unique property that would have a live music venue called Geraldine’s. “It was the first time Kimpton really invested in the live music experience in that way,” Bucherie recalled. The company reached out to her, and Bucherie starting programing events for the venue, and Geraldine’s was “an immediate hit.” While Austin has no shortage of live music venues, the hotel’s restaurant took off. “It was a packed house,” Bucherie said. “People were really drawn to the experience there.”
At the same time, she began curating music for the property’s public spaces and restaurants. “We were constantly getting guests asking the front desk, ‘what song is that? How can I get this playlist?’” said Bucherie. The brass at Kimpton realized that the idea could be replicated across its portfolio, and worked with Bucherie and each hotel’s team to build a game plan for creating distinct sounds for each hotel. In 2016, Bucherie began programming the music across the full brand. “Kimpton—between the lobby spaces, restaurants and bars—has 140 unique identities,” she said. "We programmed each of them individually with music. It’s a pretty cool thing.”
Music Like Design
Hoteliers, Bucherie believes, should approach music curation in the same way they approach design, with each property’s sound tailored to the city and the neighborhood as well as other factors. “There are brands that do it well, but I think from property to property, they’re not paying attention to nuances,” she said. The design of the space and the time of day helps guide the music selection, she said, so that the music playing during breakfast in the lobby is different from what a guest hears over wine that afternoon.
To create a hotel’s sound, Bucherie works alongside Ave Bradley, the company’s creative director and senior VP of design. “When we get a new project, she will walk me through her design inspiration for the building. We talk about materials that she used, things that inspired her, the way the building works as a flow. Is the reception different from the living room? Is there a cafe downstairs? What type of outlet are we dealing with?” She also communicates with Danny Bortnick, the VP of Kimpton’s restaurant concepts. “He and I will talk about the energy and the type of bar crowd we see entering the space,” she said. “From there, I put together my initial thoughts and come up with a template of two to three dozen songs that are representative of each space in the hotel, and we decide internally on the direction we want to go with.” From there, Bucherie works with her two streaming music providers (which she refers to as her “secret sauce” and will not name), who take the template and build it into a proper playlist. Bucherie also worked with Spotify to build a Kimpton profile with featured playlists for public use. “If they’re not staying with us but they want a cocktail hour playlist or are heading to Miami and want Miami beats, we have a playlist on Spotify so we can have engagement with guests even when they’re not on property,” she said.
After two years in her role, Bucherie still travels across the Kimpton portfolio to get feedback and learn more about how her music choices affect the guest experience. And the success of her initiatives has driven further investment from Kimpton into its sound. “We have a new series called Off The Record where we have up-and-coming artists play in different properties,” she said. “The feedback has been phenomenal because [guests] get an up close experience with the artists.” And that, she said, is the best part of her job. “Music brings people together. It makes guests feel more connected to the location and their experience.”
Lauren Bucherie's Sounds
House Bar: At the DeWitt Hotel in Amsterdam, the music inside House Bar is heavy on “soul, suave hip-hop and elevated funk.”
Double Take: This Los Angeles restaurant and bar plays tracks from artists on the rise.
Juniper Table: At the Rowan in Palm Springs, Calif., the sound is inspired by the local mountains.