Hyatt Launches Pilot Digital Music Program

With high-end resorts and hotels bringing in world-class chefs, upscale stores, hot-rock spa treatments, high-tech entertainment, ergonomic beds and plasma TVs, there aren't many niches in boutique hotels left to exploit.

Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, however, is hoping there's at least one more: the Chicago-based chain is launching a pilot program this week aimed at adding panache to a facet of the hotel experience that, Bobby Short at the Carlyle notwithstanding, till now has been a commodity.

The company will offer digital music in different flavors at its hotel venues by artists whose music reflects the ambiance, the time of day and the flavor of the region in which the Hyatt properties are located.

The program, via an association with digital music company Audiosuite, will be initially offered as a pilot at Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch, Ariz., and Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa on the Colorado River near Austin, Texas. But the company plans to take the program nationwide -- and throughout the Caribbean -- this year.

The Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa, for instance, will offer five music collections throughout the property evoking the desert and the nightlife with artists like Bebel Gilberto, Jazzanova, Sonic Adventure and Icelandic musician Fridrick Karlsson -- among a few dozen others -- depending on the venue and time. The Hyatt near Austin, a city known for new music and home to the music-themed SXSW event, will offer a palette of blues, swing, jazz and country.

The music is also available for purchase as MP3 downloads both on Hyatt Web sites for each property and at the hotels. Hotel visitors can also listen to their own music via a device Hyatt's rolling out called iHome, a clock/radio with hi-fi speakers and an iPod dock.

The play lists for Hyatt are being culled by Music Styling whose founder, Mark Barrott, is the chain's "music stylist." "While many hotels feature music in public spaces, Hyatt sought to design collections that truly bring out the indigenous personality of each property and, in conjunction with our partner Audiosuite, make these collections available for guests to enjoy even when their Hyatt stay is over," he says in a release.

Barrott has completed five albums, provided music for the MTV Video Music Awards, the VH1 Worldwide Fashion Awards, composed music for many films and leading brand advertisements, as well as remixed famous artists like Tom Jones, per the release.

Walter Brindell, assistant VP/rooms and operations, says the project evolved from a desire to find ways to add value. "We decided in 2005 and '06 that we were going to enhance the guest experience by incorporating music that could be identified with the area and be more contemporary and modern, a sensory experience, if you will." He says Hyatt developed the program with Music Styling and another service, Activeair.

He said that while the music play list will be different in each hotel, the style and overall theme of the music will be consistent from property to property, and that the chain will offer -- in hotels -- CDs and gift cards for 20 songs. And music can also be purchased via Web sites associated with each hotel. For instance, music is now available at scottsdale.hyatt.com and lostpines.hyatt.com. One can listen to the tracks at the Web sites for free and/or purchase them.

Hyatt will do marketing around the program, "And I think that will be a coordinated effort between Audiosuite Music Styling and ourselves," says Brindell, adding that the program's success, and thus the extent of its national roll-out, will be measured by music downloads. "We selected the two hotels for the pilot because both already feature music-centric themes and are located near cities with strong music cultures."

He says that it's likely the plan will also involve artist performance at hotel venues in regions where it makes sense. "At Lost Pines, for instance, some of artists featured on the hotel's play list are local, though they have national or international recognition." The Austin hotel has an amphitheatre associated with it that would be a venue for performances. "There will be concerts, but this program is a spin-off of a lot of what they are doing. We have already had tremendous success with music at these properties."

Bruce Wallin, executive editor of the Robb Report, an affluent-lifestyle magazine, says Hyatt's music offering reflects a trend among premium hotel properties to make the hotels seem local -- a kind of anti-franchise movement in design and amenities, often by focusing on sensations that aren't obvious.

"Many of the big chains are initiating programs like this, whether music or even a scent that wafts through the lobby; they are trying to brand these non-tangible aspects of the hotel experience," he says. "There's nothing worse than bad music, so it's probably a good thing by not being a bad thing.

"Also, when you are looking at different experiences from property to property, the ability to customize to locations is very important these days, to focus on things that will give you a sense of place, such as Ritz Carlton, which used to build the same hotel wherever they went, but are now building hotels that fit in with their locations a lot better."