Dave Corbin, 30 Collins

Dave Corbin, co-founder of 30 Collins, a Los Angeles based lifestyle design firm specializing in retail, residential, and hospitality design, started following his design path at an early age. An original Midwesterner, he grew up knowing he was going to pursue art and design. As sometimes happens with Midwesterners, Dave dreamed of living on the coast—so he packed up, threw caution to the wind, and headed to San Francisco.

While pursuing a career in graphic design, he found himself taking on side jobs to support himself financially. Little did he know, one of those jobs—sales assistant at Banana Republic—would set his career path in an entirely new direction.

Dave Corbin

Dave Corbin
Co-founder 30 Collins

With his natural talent for design, it wasn’t long before he was offering his input on visual merchandising at the Banana Republic flagship store in San Francisco.

Over the next 20 years, Dave developed and honed his skills and talent with some of the top brands in the United States as both a visual merchandiser and store designer. He’s held creative leadership positions at such brands as Banana Republic, Gap, Guess?, Seven For All Mankind, Splendid, and Vince—just to name a few. He has parlayed all of his experience and design passion into his new company, 30 Collins. With partner Nicole Heininger, the firm offers a full range of design services, as well as a design workshop dedicated to the development of custom furniture, fixtures, and lighting.

Having worked with Dave in our past lives—and somehow never realizing he was also from Kansas—I was thrilled to have the chance to catch up with him and learn more about the role music has played throughout his career and in his life.

Once we reconnected, we both talked at length about our underlying philosophy on design—his for space and mine for music—and how the pieces all come together to form the whole.

Orchid: At what point in store design do you consider music?
I’ve always realized the importance of music in the retail experience. It took me years, however, to learn the importance of considering music very early on in the process. Designing a branded store experience requires consideration of all of the senses, not just the visual sense. I think many designers allow things like sound, smell, and touch to be secondary to the visual sense. Music often becomes an afterthought. I now realize that music should be considered during the earliest conceptual development of a space, and should evolve alongside the other design elements as they take shape and become clearly defined.

Orchid: How important is music in a business environment?

7 For All Mankind Retail - Los Angeles

7 For All Mankind
Retail Design – Los Angeles

Dave: I think that depends on who you ask. For me, it’s very important. Whether working in a corporate environment or my own business, I always have music playing. For me, it energizes the work-space and gives it the sense of creativity and fun that I want for me and my team.

Orchid: From your experience, in what ways can music help brand the experience?
Branding is ultimately about imprinting or enhancing something with meaning and personality and then communicating that message. People innately project personality whether they know it or not. Products can have personality and meaning and that comes through from their designer. But branding serves to amplify and expand that through sensory messaging. Music is a powerful sensory tool that helps generate the emotion behind a brand. Films and television use music to amplify the emotion behind a story or imagery, and brands use it in the same way.

Music is also strongly linked to memory. It’s incredible that we can remember the words and melodies to thousands of songs, some of which we may have learned as a small child. Music not only injects a brand with emotion and feeling, but because it’s so linked to memory, it causes us to attach those feelings to the brand for a long time. Music is an extremely powerful branding tool.

Orchid: During your time as a visual merchandiser, in what ways did you learn that music can hurt the brand experience?
One of my mentors taught me that every move you make in an environment communicates something to the consumer. Even things you don’t do tell the consumer something. For example, if you drive by a business at night and the lighting in one of the letters of their sign is out, it tells you something. It may say to you that they don’t operate well. It may tell you they are in financial trouble. may tell you something else. It’s all about your perception of that unintended message. Music communicates a great deal to the consumer. It can change the way a consumer perceives a place and a brand. If the music is sending an emotional, lyrical, or sensory message that is contrary to what the brand is about, it can erode the brand message very quickly and in a way that is very memorable.

Orchid: How important has music been in shaping all of the pieces to form the whole within the visual elements in a store?

Retail Design - Ella Moss

Ella Moss
Retail Design – Newport Beach

Dave: Music is very important in shaping a total environment. I tend to use film as an analogy because film often uses music so effectively to enhance the emotion behind a story that’s being told. Every brand is telling a story and branded spaces tell stories. The music is the brand soundtrack. It dictates the emotion, the pace, and the energy of a space. Without it, it’s like watching a movie with no soundtrack. If that silence is intentional and part of the story, it’s fine. If it’s not, then the environment is incomplete.

Orchid: What was your biggest challenge, when you were charged with the music, in implementing the right sound for your stores?
Everything. My talent lies in the visual realm. Although I recognize the importance of music to the total experience, I do not possess the skill to design a musical landscape for a brand. It’s a very complex process that needs to consider many things. Like all design, it’s not about the parts or the individual songs; it’s about the whole or the overall composition. I can pick some songs that I think are right, but I don’t know how to turn that into a perfectly balanced, carefully considered, cohesive, branded design. I had to rely heavily on music partners to do this. Many of the traditional music providers left a lot of the creative decisions in my hands. I really needed someone to take charge of the music design and be the expert, in the way you work at Orchid.

Orchid: Was there a methodology to what kind of music you would play in your stores?
Not really. I deferred to the music designer. I did provide input, but I don’t have the talent to design musical environments. I love music, I play music, and music is a big part of my life. That said, I don’t possess the skills to consider all the things that need to be considered to develop a carefully designed music environment. It’s a very complex process, similar to designing a three dimensional space. I know how to do that and all of the things to consider. I don’t know how to do that with music.

7 For All Mankind

7 For All Mankind
Retail Design – Los Angeles

Orchid: How did you or your management team quantify the success of the music playing in the stores?

Dave: That’s an interesting question. I don’t think there were good benchmarks for determining the success of many aspects of the retail environment, including music. I think the analysis of it tended to be very emotional and personal, which speaks to the way people process music—through feeling. The problem with that is that the music needs to be considered through the filter of the brand. I may not like a particular song or a whole music environment, but the real question that needs to be asked to determine its’ effectiveness is, is it right for the brand? Does it support and enhance the brand message? If the answer is yes to those questions, then it’s a success. It’s hard for most people to get to that answer because their personal tastes and emotions get in the way.

Orchid: Can you share with us the most memorable moment where music impacted you emotionally?
I can’t think of one particular moment. There have been many. I tend to be most impacted by music in situations that are already emotionally charged, like watching movies, being at meaningful family events, concerts, and things like that. If the music is right, it enhances the emotions that are already present and makes the moment that much more rich and memorable.

Orchid: Have you ever been in any business, such as a store, or a restaurant, where you’ve noticed the music and the emotional connection it creates between you and that space? Whether negative or positive, what reaction did you have, and how did it affect your behavior?
I notice it all the time, both positively and negatively. Occasionally, I’ll be in a boutique or hotel and really connect with the music. It will feel really right in the space and I’ll notice, appreciate, and remember it. I often notice overpowering music in restaurants when it commands all of my attention and becomes the focal point of the experience. In those cases, the music detracts from all the other senses. I get really frustrated when the music is so overpowering that I can’t enjoy the conversation and food—the reasons why I’m at a restaurant in the first place.

Orchid: And finally, congratulations on 30 Collins! What has been the best part of launching your own design firm?
The best part of launching my own firm has been the ability to shape my own culture and work with a world-class design partner, Nicole. After working in corporate retail for over twenty years, I have learned the incredible power that culture and management style have on people’s daily lives, their creativity, and their work. I want to work in an environment that is fun, positive, respectful of people, and conducive to creativity. Now I have the power to create that for me, and for the people who work with me and for me. And yes, music is a part of that cultural landscape, for sure!

Orchid: What role will music play in the new store concepts you create at 30 Collins, if any?
Music will always play an important role in the commercial spaces we design. I’m happy that 20 years in, I finally understand that and realize the importance of considering music early in the process. I also realize the importance of hiring someone with more talent than I have to design that important component of the space.

Orchid: As a designer, would you share with us 5 songs that inspire or motivate your work?
I have no idea how to answer this. I guess that speaks to my lack of ability in this area. I love so many different types of music and all of them inspire me in different ways at different times. What I listen to is largely dependent on my mood and what I’m doing at the time. I guess it’s a bit like asking most people, which five shades of white most inspire you? Most people wouldn’t know how to answer that, but I do.

Thank you so much Dave for taking the time to share with us your insight and knowledge.

Dave Corbin


Dave Corbin
Co-founder, 30 Collins


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Q&A by Leanne Flask

Fabian Ojeda, Plum Goods Store

Amy & Fabian | Plum Goods Store

Amy & Fabian | Plum Goods Store

I was recently introduced to Amy and Fabian at Plum Goods. If you haven’t heard of it or haven’t been, Plum Goods is a must stop shop in Santa Barbara. I fell in love the moment I read this on their website: “A little shop with a big heart, Plum Goods encourages you to love where you live — your home, your town, your planet — and love what you give — of yourself, to yourself, and to others.”
Located at 909 State Street in Santa Barbara, California, Plum Goods is a specialty gift store and gallery featuring handcrafted, up-cycled, and fair trade items. Every detail of the experience—from the customer greeting, to the items in the store, to the owners and employees—exudes passion and heartfelt integrity. This is not a shop for the sake of a shop, but rather an experience that has been designed with heart.

Amy Cooper is the proud founder, owner, buyer, and as she says, “worker bee” of Plum Goods. I am so grateful to have met her, and through her, to have been introduced to Fabian Ojeda, who is Plum Goods’ Visual (and audio) Director.

As soon as Fabian and I connected with one another, it was a match made in heaven. From the moment we said hello, we both talked back and forth about music and its ability to design, decorate, and enhance a space—ultimately bringing an experience to “emotional life.” To be a fly on the wall, you would’ve heard us talking a mile a minute. Between the “right’s” and the “I know’s” and the “Oh My God I agree’s” it was like watching a verbal tennis match.

Fabian has been a visual merchandiser for twenty years and a jewelry designer for seven. He has been the Visual Director for Plum Goods since the concept opened in 2010. His responsibilities include creating a coherent visual experience within the 2000 square foot Plum Goods space, as well as creating two high profile window displays located on State Street. Fabian is also focused on the Plum Goods customers and the service they receive when they stop by the store.

I am so thrilled to have had the opportunity to interview Fabian and find out more about how music plays into the Plum Goods experience.

Orchid: How Would You Describe the Plum Goods Store Experience?
Fabian: Memorable! Customers often say it’s the most interesting or the best store they’ve ever been in. Our approach combines an original mix of product that is not generally available, innovative merchandising, personal customer service, a fun atmosphere, and a great soundtrack.

Orchid: At What point in the creation of the Plum Goods Store did you begin to think about what music you would use in the experience?
Fabian: Music is such an integral part of my life and my life experiences that there was never a time when it was being “considered.” I always knew that the musical environment here would be designed to reflect our desire to create an inspired, welcoming place to be.

Orchid: How important is music in creating the Plum Goods Store experience, and why?
Fabian: Extremely important. When you are in a space with music that is not thought out and doesn’t align with the setting, it doesn’t encourage you to stay in the space. Our music is designed to reflect who we are as a store and a brand, and that’s something I think a lot of people don’t pay attention to, but should.

Orchid: Are there key values in the Plum Goods Store brand that you identified early on that focused your song choices, styles of music, and design of the audio environment?
Fabian: Absolutely! I also consider music that represents the materials and design elements in the store and combine them all into one experience. We have such an organic, handmade, creative feel to our product, so I choose music that is often indie, acoustic, and unique—musical selections that are not well known—and sprinkle in some electronic and dance selections. Underneath, the whole music program is designed with the same idea that informs the product selection in the store: beautiful, created with integrity, and hard to find. Just as with the product, I try to choose songs that move people emotionally. I also choose songs that people may not be familiar with to create a sense of discovery.

Plum Goods

Orchid: Is there a methodology to deciding what music you will play?
Fabian: I know what tempo and intensity works within a retail environment, so I know what to avoid. I tailor the soundtrack by tempo and intensity in a way that accentuates different times of the day and different days of the week. Morning shoppers are very different than afternoon/evening shoppers. Saturday shoppers are very different than Tuesday shoppers.

Orchid: As the music designer for the experience at the Plum Goods Store—without giving away your secrets—how are you able to discover new music that reflects your brand experience?
Fabian: I spend about two hours every morning reading about music. You learn to go to blogs that are consistent with the brand experience and how to seek out other music that complements your style. You don’t need to rely on applications that do it for you. I understand if you don’t have time to do it, but I’m too choosy to let a computerized algorithm do it for me. Not to mention, I love doing it.

Orchid: How does the business—and how do you—quantify the success of using the right music? How do you evaluate whether what you are doing with the music is creating the desired experience?
Fabian: By the connection it makes with the customers and seeing their reactions. I have the luxury of seeing the effect on the customer as they are experiencing what I’m playing. I can see it on their faces, sometimes they’re dancing, and every single day customers will ask about specific songs so they can look up the artists. I also spend time talking to customers about the music and connecting with people all over the world through our music. It’s one of my favorite parts of my job.

Orchid: From your professional experience, what is the No. 1 tip you would share with other visual/audio merchandisers about how to use music as a design discipline to extend the business experience rather than as a form of entertainment or “background’?
Fabian: Know the demographics of your customer and combine that with the knowledge and understanding of the philosophy behind the product selection and the visual environment, then choose music that complements and enhances those elements.

Orchid: Have you ever been in any business, such as a store, or a restaurant, where you’ve noticed the music and the emotional connection it creates between you and that space? Whether negative or positive, what reaction did you have, and how did it affect your behavior?
Fabian: Yes, music that is too aggressive, too loud, and doesn’t reflect the merchandise and visual environment. Same thing with music that is too mellow – if it doesn’t reflect the environment, I get bored and want to leave. When the music is congruent with the visual environment, merchandise, and overall experience it can make your day, make you want to stay longer, and make you happier to shop there. At Plum, people sometimes say they want to stay to hear what the next song will be. That means I’ve been successful at my job.

Orchid: Can you share with us your most memorable moment where music impacted you emotionally?
Fabian: Oh my, there are way too many to list. But, going to a concert where I really love the music like DeVotchka, Radiohead, or Kodaline with LP recently in LA, I was completely transported and right in the moment. When I’m there I feel like I’m 19 again, and the music brings those feelings right back to how I felt the first time.

Orchid: I must know, what are your personal top 5 favorite songs right now that you have on repeat?

  1. Sylvan Esso – “Coffee” (two months in and it’s still at the top of the list, so addictive)

  2. Johnnyswim – “Diamonds” (the multi-genre sound has so much depth)

  3. Rina Mushonga – “YDMLB” (Dutch Zimbabwean, Joan Armatrading meets Adele)

  4. Dawn Landes “Love Song” (the whole album Bluebird is magnificent)

  5. Ruth Moody “Far and Wide” (released a few weeks ago for record store day, it’s fantastic and a preview of what’s to come on her next album. She’s Australian)

A big thank you to Amy and Fabian for taking the time to speak with me about The Plum Goods Store. The next time you’re in Santa Barbara, make sure to pay them a visit to enjoy the extraordinary shopping experience yourself.

P.S. – This is kind of a secret… so let’s just keep this between us, okay? On July 1st, Plum Goods will launch a brand new website featuring their Plum Goods Soundtracks and a new online store, where you can buy their unique goods no matter where you are

The Plum Goods Store
909 State Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101


About Plum Goods

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Shon Bayer, milk + honey

Shon Bayer, spa music

Shon Bayer, owner | Spa Partisan

Shon Bayer does not take relaxation lightly. The owner and Spa Partisan of Austin’s milk + honey day spa and salon places everything—from the largest wooden architectural beam to the smallest accent stone—with a curator’s intention. Each detail is paramount in creating the sensory experience and rejuvenating atmosphere of milk + honey. Yet, of all the important choices Bayer makes to curate this atmosphere, the most important is not one that can be seen or physically felt—it’s one that’s heard. Music is essential to milk + honey, but it walks a tightrope, hovering just above the conscious awareness of the establishment’s clientele. Why spend so much time choosing something just to relegate it to the background? Because some of the best music, according to Bayer, is the kind that goes unnoticed.

Orchid: How does the audible environment impact a salon-goer’s experience at M+H?
Shon: Music is very important to the experience of our spa and salon clients. In essence, we have four zones of music that correspond to four different experiences that we create for our clients: front of the house, salon, locker rooms and lounges, and treatment rooms. The front of the house we sell retail products and check clients in and out. The music here is upbeat, warm, and welcoming—not loud or overbearing. This is the first impression that clients get when they enter the spa, as well as where they check out when they are done. The next experience is salon. Here the music is also upbeat, but more contemporary and energetic than in the front of the house. Our salon experience tends to be much higher energy than our spa, and the music is designed to set the tone for that high-energy experience.

Then there are the locker rooms and lounges. This is where the music sets the tone for relaxation. It should also convey to our clients that it’s time to put down the cell phone and only use quiet voices when communicating with friends.

In the treatment rooms, we have chosen music that is relaxing and sometimes trance-inducing. We try to choose music that blends into the background so that the client can focus on their experience, as well as music that masks ambient sounds such as steps in the hallway or other building noises.

milk + honey, spa music

milk + honey day spa and salon

Orchid: How important do you consider music in relation to the space?
Shon: Music is a part of every room of the spa and salon. It’s just as essential to the space as walls and ceilings.

Orchid: Spa music tends to get pigeonholed as being cliché and New Age woo-woo. How do you distinguish your soundtrack?
Shon: The first thing to think about is why spa music comes across as cliché. Is it because spas just use the same music over and over without care? Or does certain New Age “spa” music actually sound good while you’re getting a massage? It’s probably a bit of both. There’s definitely some New Age music that’s popular with the crystal crowd that is amazing when getting a massage. A lot of New Age musicians put a ton of thought into the experience that their music creates—some of it has even been scientifically proven to cause your brain waves to move to a deeper state of relaxation. So, at milk + honey, we embrace that. On the other hand, Tibetan flute music isn’t for everyone. The important thing for us is that we try to provide our clients with a choice of what they want to listen to. Do they want to listen to music with a beat? We can do that. Do they prefer something that is full of nature sounds? We can do that. By providing our clients with a choice, we can avoid the cliché if it bothers them.

spa music, milk + honey

Natural details in the design

Orchid: Are there any sounds you intentionally avoid in creating the M+H experience?
Shon: There are some nature sounds that are great, but we don’t really go overboard on trying to bring nature sounds into the treatment experience.

Orchid: Is there anything you intentionally avoid?
Shon: When you are undergoing a spa treatment, you’re often trying to get an hour or so of relaxation that you may never get when you are outside of a treatment room. So, we take relaxation very seriously. We pay very close attention when hiring and mentoring our therapists on the flow of their services and how they interact with clients. We try very hard to avoid distractions during a service—for instance, a massage therapist who is very loud when checking in with a client or a chatty esthetician. When you’re in a zone of relaxation, even music can be quite jarring. There are these amazing, trance inducing, ambient soundscapes that are 45 minutes long, but unfortunately, at about 35 minutes into the song, it might have the sound of a plane landing. The first 35 minutes are great, but hearing a plane land really upsets the moment. It can also be distracting when a song goes from very quiet to very loud in a short period of time. So, at milk + honey, we’re really careful that we listen to every moment of a song before using it.

Orchid: What about the use of lyrical songs in the landscape at M+H? How do you navigate that and is it ever okay to use lyrics?
Shon: Lyrics are generally a no-no during a massage or facial. It’s almost impossible not to hone in on the lyrics if they’re in a language that you understand. Obviously, in our salon environment, we love music with lyrics. In our treatment rooms we generally keep one playlist available that has lyrics, usually for clients who are receiving a waxing service rather than a massage or facial. That said, we play a lot of music in languages other than English. Brazilian Bossa Nova is great—as long as you don’t speak Portuguese. Sigur Ros is also great and very, very few people speak Icelandic.

Orchid: If you could use an image to describe the M+H sound, specifically in relation to its effect on the body, what would it be?
Shon: A warm embrace from someone who cares.

Orchid:There has been plenty of research that music has a significant impact on the brain and nervous system. Can you talk about what you’ve learned first-hand in the therapeutic arts that supports this theory?
Shon: Since I’m not a therapist I don’t have as much first-hand experience as many of our employees. But I read a ton of customer comments about the music portion of their experience. For many of them, having appropriate music is just as important as having a great therapist.

Orchid: Research has also shown that music can shape your experiences—leaving lasting impressions and the ability to instantly conjure a memory. Can you share with us your most memorable moment where music impacted you emotionally?
Shon: In the trailer for the movie “Where the Wild Things Are,” there is a moment where they play the song “Wake Up” by Arcade Fire. The images of a favorite children’s book juxtaposed with one of my favorite songs brought tears to my eyes.

Orchid: Finally, what do you listen to when you want to relax?
Shon: Miles Davis.


Stop by and escape into the masterful details
at milk + honey day spa and salon.

Shon Bayer
owner | Spa Partisan
milk + honey spa | milkandhoneyspa.com
SALON by milk + honey | milkandhoneysalon.com
milk + honey

For appointments at milk + honey or other inquiries: call 512.236.1115
2nd Street District (spa + salon) | concierge@milkandhoneyspa.com
Hill Country Galleria (spa + salon) | galleria@milkandhoneyspa.com
Arboretum Market (salon) | arboretum@milkandhoneysalon.com

New Flagship spa + salon open in the 2nd Street District: learn more

follow milk + honey on twitter | find milk + honey on facebook

Q&A by Hanly Banks

Stacey Howlett, Hotel Ignacio

The idea of a Gesamtkunstwerk or “total work of art” refers to an orchestrated experience in which different areas of the senses mingle together and heighten the joys of everyday life.  From the mid-nineteenth century to the present day, this idea has informed everything from Opera to the layout of grocery stores. It’s all “In The Details.”

Stacey Howlett, Hotel Ignacio

Stacey Howlett, General Manager
Hotel Ignacio

We recently sat down with Stacey Howlett, general manager of Hotel Ignacio, in order to find out the ways that she integrates music into the overall guest experience.

She believes that “hotels are interesting, because they can quickly impact each one of our senses. The physical design speaks to our sense of sight and touch, the music to our hearing, and the restaurant component to our sense of smell and taste.” Howlett’s goal is to link these sensory stimuli in a harmonious fashion to contribute to the Ignacio’s projection of a unified and unique experience.  Since it opened in April 2011, the Ignacio has become a premier destination for both its quality lodgings and its approach to integrating art, music, and architecture.

Enhancing client usage without being invasive is a sign of successful music design integration.  Howlett’s convern with this matter places her work at the forefront of this emerging industry.  Moreover, her attention to the details and demands of different spaces on the hotel property inform her choices of music.

As she makes clear, music always exists in a space and the two properties of experience can play off each other in a manner that enhances guests’ experiences.  For instance, for a restful spa experience you would not have overbearing, jarring music.  Yet, as Howlett is quick to point out, not all spaces are immediately associable to certain kinds of music.  At this stage, it is crucial for a skilled designer to learn the uses of space and compose a compatible music experience that can meet those unique demands.

Successful design remains focused on the big picture and doesn’t fall victim to granular thinking.  The optimum technique to creating a brand experience lies in successful orchestration that presents harmony to guests.  Howlett explains that within this framework, the best implementation of music design lies more in composing an experience into which individuals enter, rather than attempting to meet the needs of every single individual, and thus losing sight of the big picture.  She makes the crucial point in our interview that music design is not simply a gloss that one can overlay after a project in finished – but instead a key component of the design itself.

Orchid: Music is very human in the emotion and feeling it can bring to a space.  At what point in your projects do you begin to think about the music you will play? 
Stacey: Music is such an integral piece of the overall feel that my preference would be to incorporate music design at the same time, or soon after the concept is conceived. In the case of Hotel Ignacio, I became involved a year into the project. I knew I wanted to change the music the first time I stepped into the lobby.


Hotel Ignacio Lobby

Orchid:  How do you decide where in your hotel music will be played?
Stacey: Walking the property, both inside and out, gives me a good feel of where we need to consider music. We also consider how our guests are going to use different spaces in the hotel. We want to enhance their experience without invading their space.

Howlett’s concern with this matter places her work at the forefront of this emerging industry. Moreover, her attention to the details and demands of different spaces on the hotel property inform her choices of music.

Orchid:  Is there a methodology to deciding what music you will play?
Stacey: This is where hiring a professional is so important. Some spaces already have a “feel.” A spa would be a good example of a space where you know the music should be serene and relaxed. Most people visiting a spa are looking for that calming atmosphere and in this case the music can be implemented fairly quickly. In a hotel, different guests use the space differently. Some want a place to work, while others want a place to gather. Figuring out what works for the space and the guests can be a bit more challenging. A music designer can really help in identifying what works for both.

Orchid:  What is the importance of music in your projects?
Stacey: I like to constantly be surrounded by sound. When spaces are silent, I get the feeling that something is wrong. And if I hear a song that is completely not right in a situation, it drives me crazy. Needless to say, I think music is as important as the physical design of a property.

Orchid: Can you share with us your most memorable moment where music impacted you emotionally?
Stacey: I actually had a really tough time convincing the employees that changing the music in the hotel to fit the space was a good idea and even possible. It took a bit of trial and error to get the music to where it sounded and felt right. Not too long ago, several of the staff were at the front desk and a song started to play. One person started to snap, the next started to hum, one started to sing and the next thing you know they were dancing and singing. That’s when I knew that the music goal was achieved.

Hotel Ignacio

Stacey Howlett
General Manager, Hotel Ignacio
3411 Olive Street
Saint Louis, MO 63103
Make a reservation online
About Hotel Ignacio
Check ’em out on Facebook
(314) 977-4411

Scott Walker, Congress Austin

Throw a pebble down Congress Avenue and you’re sure to hit a restaurant run by Scott Walker – Partner and Vice President of Operations at Congress, Bar Congress, and Second Bar + Kitchen. Though all three venues may not be created equal, they each offer a unique approach to food and drink in the city of Austin.

Scott Walker, VP of Operations Congress Austin

Scott Walker, VP of Operations Congress Austin

His attention to detail in the structure and design of each bar or restaurant is as acute as his choice of sound coming out of the speakers. “I try and find things that fit the individual spaces,” says Walker, to whom we spoke with recently about his choice of sounds –  “music is a great way to divide space.” Admitting to the ever-changing, ever-growing climate of Austin, he explored with us both conscious and intuitive decisions in the cherry-picking of music to suit the fine nuances of each of his lovely restaurants.

Orchid: I read an article where you talked about being locally focused. How do you go about creating your spaces with a local connection? Are there key elements in the menu, design, or amenities that you offer to create that local experience?
Scott: There are many touches in the physical design that are of local relevance (although not overtly obvious), and of course we keep an eye on local ingredients. Eventually though, it’s about what’s best and makes the most sense.

Orchid: At what point in your projects do you begin to think about the music you will play?
Scott: It’s actually a very formative thought, but it evolves. Honestly, it’s hard to commit to a specific musical feel until the space begins to take its final shape.

Orchid: How do you decide where in the restaurants music will be played?
Scott: I think it’s all relative to the feel you are after. I definitely wanted elements of “random” involved. Analog tones and sounds were always very important to me – mainly because making peace with the local area was an objective. When I left in early 2007, high-rise condos were not fondly looked upon.

Second Bar + Kitchen, Austin, TX

Second Bar + Kitchen, Austin, TX

Orchid: Is there a methodology to deciding what type of music you will play?
Scott: Not really – it’s varied, and I watch and listen to what people respond to. We adapt, and I welcome suggestions from the staff – most of whom are pretty musically obsessed.

Orchid: What is the importance of music in Congress?
Scott: In Congress, it’s crucial to setting the tone. I had a completely different soundtrack in the beginning – more of an ethereal, ambient type set – that didn’t go over so well. It came off as extremely subtle and cold. Live and learn.

Orchid: Can you share with us your most memorable moment where music impacted you emotionally?
Scott: I go to a lot of shows – or did in years past – so yes, there have been some impactful moments over the years. Music is extremely important in film, and I love to see the two mediums tied together when it’s well done. It’s hard to label one particular moment in time as “most memorable,” but there was a Bowie show in the early nineties that was pretty special. The man’s a genre in himself.

Congress Austin
200 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701
(512) 827-2750
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