Hotels can save High Streets by creating lots of noise
Hotels can save High Streets by creating lots of noise
08 APRIL 2019 7:21 AM

Several brands have focused on their lobbies and other public spaces being centers of live music and other arts. What a wonderful idea when High Street bars and music clubs face growing pressure from online sources of entertainment and are folding in alarming numbers.

It used to be that hotels were hushed spaces where thick carpets absorbed all sound, and guests hardly dared breathe between the check-in desk and the elevator. Keys were placed in pockets so even their rattle would not disturb the silence.

A few hotels might still be like that, but the push now is for hotels to not be refined piles only for the well-to-do, but instead buzzing foci for the elsewhere moribund High Street. This has resulted in hotel lobbies being seen as where trends begin, not where their burnt-out progenitors end up throwing TVs out of 20th-story windows.

Ibis, the Accor economy brand, this week announced a partnership with a major music label, an online music source and a Hungarian festival. All at the same time.

To score such music-topping success in the same week has not happened since Frankie Goes to Hollywood reigned supreme, and being old, I can ignore any similar “success” in the Download Age.

Hotels have a unique opportunity to embrace the wonder that are live bands on the rise and at the same time help to slow a little the decline of the High Street.

Marriott International flag W has recently started a music label, W Records, deemed the first one from a hotel firm.

Accor brand Ibis has turned the amp up to 11. To understand that reference, younger readers should go to their online film provider and chose “Spinal Tap,” an experience you will not regret.

Ibis has announced a battle-of-the-bands-style contest in which 17 of its properties will stage heats, ending in a final at the Sziget Festival just north of Budapest.

Probably the winner will be democratically chosen via voting on an online app, rather than decided by who receives the most heckling and spit.

The winner will get music-career coaching, apparently.

The idea that lobbies should be both buzzing and a reflection of their neighborhoods is sound and much-needed. So much of what the High Street was has gone, so if hotels can bring back some spark, creativity and sharing, all the better.

So many once formidable, there-before-your-grandmother-was shopping emporiums and department stores have now gone or are struggling in an online world that despite being a haven of ingenuity never can replace the social connections that High Streets can provide.

The problem for any hotel is that lobbies, just like bedrooms, need to be revitalized every single night.

One silver lining of sorts is that demand from bands to play live is growing, while the number of places they can play in is shrinking.

Hotels can fill that demand.

Setting up a wall of Marshall amplifiers in the corner of a lobby will not work for every brand or independent, and of course such lobby initiatives do not have to always be noisy. Maybe a Battle of the Quilters?

The Financial Times recently reported that the U.K. charity Music Venue Trust, which battles to keep live venues alive, receives one request every day for what it called “emergency assistance.”

Hotels are perfect saviors as they generally, hopefully are bankrolled by guestroom bookings—something, for instance, London music venue The Social does not get.

I mention that club as it received a lot of publicity when its owners instigated a crowdfunding appeal to avoid closing down.

The Social has hosted such luminaries as multi-platinum selling Adele, who I assume was little known when she played there.

Adele is not my cup of tea, but a soul of a High Street comes from talented people performing their own material in little clubs like this to people who want to hear original songs, however rough they might be initially, rather than canned muzak emanating out of Saturday-night TV reality variety shows with celebrity judges.

Ibis’ campaign was kick-started by Tom Grennan, Boulevard des Airs and Lucas Lucco, none of whom, I can happily report, I have ever heard of, which is as it should be.

I also have never heard of anyone so far signed to W Records.

I would have chosen Hüsker Dü, Einstürzende Neubauten and Motörhead, indubitably an era many a long year ago when the umlaut ruled and where I no doubt feel most comfortable.

Anyway, more hoteliers should copy Ibis and W, and other hotel flags such as Hoxton, Ace and the like.

Music is the food of ROI. It’s time that a music revolution, or at least a social revolution, is fully embraced and scheduled on a regular calendar, to help fill dormant spaces much in the same way that F&B triumphantly took over other unused hotel square footage.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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