23 August 2014

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Music Concierge: Food Soundtrackers


Have you ever found yourself in a restaurant wondering who picked out the music? Meet Music Concierge founder, Rob Wood.

A record collector since the age of 9, Rob Wood was always the go-to classmate for a solid party mix tape, before becoming a DJ and music journalist for Mixmag and editor of Jockey Slut magazine in the late 90s. One enormous music database later, he is now the music curator for top restaurants across the world. 

Can you describe how a restaurant playlist comes together?

We normally start a project two or three years before a venue opens, although with this venue we began the process three months before it launched. Des (McDonald, the man behind Holborn Dining Room) wanted it to have a British rock and soul feel. So we basically had to devise a genre and quite an unusual one, as most high-end restaurants aim for a combination ofMusic Concierge - Music_Concierge_WEB.jpg soft jazz and world music. We built different playlists for the entire Rosewood Hotel, so the dining room, the lobby, the spa and Scarfe's bar, which means considering the purpose of each space and factors like the time of day.

You worked with Dishoom too, how was that experience?

Indian music was obviously the starting point: they had a clear vision for the brand and were adamant that it wouldn’t sound like an English curry house. Instead, we recreated the café culture of 1930s Bombay, with a quirky, fun edge that reflects Dishoom’s brand. The brief we ended up with was ‘Austin Powers goes to Bollywood’: vintage 1970s Bollywood fused with 1960s jazz and cocktail music. The outcome was flamboyant, fun and very successful.

Did you end up in India?

I have a good knowledge of Indian music and I know where to find it, so I spent a lot of time in Brick Lane market and then in Mumbai. We have some contacts there and spent a lot of time in backstreet record shops! Musical detective work is the fun part of the job.

How do you gauge success? 

Customer feedback is a good barometer: a hotel manager in Abu Dhabi recently said to me, 'I’ve worked in hotels my whole life and people have only ever complained about what we’re playing. Since you, it’s the first time anyone has ever asked what we are playing because they like it.' That’s the best compliment you can get.

Do you think Music Concierge can have an impact on trade too?

In a bar, the aim is always to get people to stay for a bit longer by creating a buzzing mood. After The Coburg Bar at The Connaught was refurbished, there wasn’t much of an atmosphere inside. I spent a couple of days in the space, just getting used to the surroundings, then came up with a playlist. Now that bar is always full: that’s when you know it’s working.

Do you take inspiration from the food?

Absolutely. We worked on the Noma pop-up at Claridge’s during the Olympics and their menu featured live ants. So we had to find music to match up with the part when they were served. The food in that situation was the star and the music just a compliment.

Sushisamba - day2.jpgIs there a particular restaurant you’d like to work with?

Sushisamba. It’s a wonderful restaurant and I love Brazilian music. It’s one of the most flamboyant styles on earth. We also love working with skyscrapers; one of our clients is the world’s highest restaurant in Dubai. A dramatic setting like that just gives you an even greater creative license.

Finally, what’s your favourite song about food?

Food For My Soul by The Dragons. It’s over 40 years old –a rare tasty gem! Didn’t Blondie have an album called Eat To The Beat too…?

For more information about Music Concierge visit the website.

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