4 tips for hosting live music in hotels

Experiential travel is big in hotels, and getting bigger. The property itself needs to be just as big a draw as the destination itself, and in many cases hotels are turning to on-property programing in order to bring their hotel to life and include it into the local neighborhood. One of the best ways to do this, for properties positioned to take advantage of the opportunity, is through live music. Guests love it, but your hotel should be prepared to handle the performance, the crowd and the musicians themselves. HOTEL MANAGEMENT spoke with some experienced event planners, who dug into what it takes to rock out in hospitality.

1. Know Your Location

It’s easy to come up with an ideal selection of artists when you are located in major metropolitan cities like Los Angeles, New York or Nashville, but for others it sometimes requires a more targeted mindset. Aloft Hotels is a brand that specializes in live performances, with particular attention paid to local artists. According to Paige Francis, VP, global brand management, North America and field marketing, Aloft, Element Four Points at Starwood Hotels, Aloft is designed exclusively for acoustic performances, but even when working with bigger names such as Safety Suit, Eric Hutchinson and Blue October they enforce an acoustic set.

“All of our hotels are responsible for finding the great local artists to perform,” Francis said. “It’s different artists, but they have to fit with the Aloft vibe.”

Aloft minds its space and ambiance and encourages acoustic sets, even for big name acts like The Veronicas.

On top of this, a hotel looking to showcase a live performance should have all of its logistics in place before anyone arrives. It sounds like an obvious point, but to Lauren Bucherie, director of music at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, setting a good protocol for other departments that are strictly outside of the events team (such as food & beverage) and preparing the front desk and other operations for a rush of arrivals can seem like a herculean task.

“You want a seamless sound check, make it as smooth a process as you can,” Bucherie said. “Take out the logistical hassle.”

2. No Performance is Free

Matthew Watts, director of music & marketing at Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos, said he is frequently surprised at how often event coordinators don’t provide fair compensation to their performers. In fact, when asked what he believes to be among the greatest challenges hotels may face in booking acts, he said the cost of the music is always a surprise for newcomers.

“Unless you have booked live talent before, it’s sometimes alarming how much artists get paid at first glance,” Watts said. “It’s their craft, full or part time, and booking a band for $100 isn’t the market value.”

Holding events with consistent regularity can help create a local scene, as well as drum up expectations.

3. Have a Consistent Schedule

“Anything you can do in repetition, or make it a regular thing, is good and will make people want to come back,” Bucherie said. While Kimpton hosts nightly music performances at many of its properties, Bucherie said that hotels willing to host live music should do so with some degree of regularity, even if it is weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.

“I’m a big believer in scheduling things and making events happen consistently,” Bucherie said. “It helps drive traffic, and it makes people want to come back regularly. If you are more sporadic in your scheduling your property may not get as big of a draw.”

4. Remember Your Performers

Hotel operators can often get lost in the hustle of setting up for events and minding the needs of their guests that they can sometimes forget that the performers count as guests as well, even if they are getting paid. Watts said this is a crucial aspect of event planning, and that it is the hotel’s job to ensure an artist is treated well so they are excited to return.

“As a hospitality brand it should be your number one concern,” he said. “We hosted Imagine Dragons at our Riviera Maya property. That’s a touring Grammy Award-winning artist, and we had to be prepared to give them the tools they needed to stage a great show. The production, all of that was our responsibility, and we needed to be passionate about that craft and they need to want to work with us to ensure it all happens seamlessly.”

Don't forget to take care of the artists or everything falls apart.

That’s all well and good for Hard Rock, a brand named after a genre of music and built from the ground up to facilitate high-profile acts, but fortunately there are things smaller hotels can do to keep a strong relationship with their performers as well. For Bucherie, it comes down to treating them like a guest.

“Being live there are things that will happen outside your control,” she said. “Artists and musicians aren’t always the easiest to navigate, but I worked in music for eight years and establishing relationships with talent is key. Treat them well, make them feel important and they will feel excited to be there, driving a better performance.”

For hotels on a more modest budget, Bucherie recommends offering free appetizers from the kitchen to performers, and to set aside an area near the event space as a lounge for them to relax in for the times the hotel will hit capacity. If your hotel can nail the little details, Bucherie said your hotel can make everyone happy and have fun with it.

“I’ve handled awful rooms where performers can barely even get water, so sending them so tacos or giving out guitar pics as drink tokens are small gestures that make them feel valued and taken care of,” she said.