W Hotels Get Even More Serious About Music, Launch W Records
Stages are setup, wristbands are at the entrance, and big-name music acts are sound-checked and ready to go. Despite sounding like a run-of-the-mill music festival, Wake Up Call, held on October 4th and 5th in Bali, was far from it.
For starters, in the same fashion as Wake Up Calls held at the W Hollywood and W Barcelona, the festival grounds were at the hotel. And with W Bali’s landscaped lawns and undulating, rice paddies-inspired pool, it was nothing like the usual muddy surroundings you’d expect from a festival.
Mornings could be spent doing yoga or cardio in the swish hotel gym, complete with complimentary oxygen bar sessions. Before acts including Tove Lo, Angus & Julia Stone, Same Feldt and FJK hit the stage, afternoons could be used for pampering in the hotel’s Away spa (open 24/7), shaking cocktails at a mixology class or floating down the pool on one of the hotel’s signature hot pink bean bags.
Some luxury hotels focus on art, littering their lobbies with curated works. Others go for the pamper experience, and create the most exquisite environments they can. For W Hotels, it’s always been all about the music.
While its properties famously attracted international artists, including Prince who once performed unannounced at W Hollywood, the brand initially cemented its place in the music world with its W Sound Suites, in-hotel recording studios –a world-first. It was the W’s North American Music Director Paul Blair who first came up with the idea for them.
“[Blair’s] a DJ and producer who’s toured in bands as well,” says Damian Saint, W Bali’s music creator.
“One of the problems they’d have is that they’d arrive in a city and want to rehearse, write or produce music without disturbing hotel guests, and they’d find other studios were really costly for sessions.
“So he came to Anthony [Global Brand Leader Anthony Ingham] with the idea – why don’t we use some space in the W Hotels to make these Sound Suites so that when artists are touring, they have a writing or production suite where they can work no matter what time of day or night?”
The pilot project was at W Bali, and Saint, a DJ himself, was tasked with designing the studio and sourcing its equipment.
“It started down at Woo Bar [at W Bali] literally on a large napkin,” Saint says.
“I already knew the room’s dimensions so I drew the floor plan. What would I need in a studio? What would other artists want? Mostly here [in Bali] we have electronic music DJs, but you can’t just build a studio for DJs. If a band or singer comes to town, they need to be able to record vocals and process it professionally.”
The result, what Saint calls his “dream studio”, is a small, but high-end recording studio, which sees recordings of everything from podcasts and radio shows to tracks by top Grammy Award-winning artists. For the hotel guest new to recording, a Beat the Heat DJ class, which teaches the basics of turntables, can be booked. With the success of W Bali’s Sound Suite, studios have since opened at W Hollywood, W Barcelona and W Seattle.
The next step in the W’s music strategy launches in New York this week: a recording label called W Records. The first to sign is R&B artist, songwriter and producer Amber Mark.
“What will happen with W Records is that we’ll identify emerging artists who we believe have a lot of potential for the future,” says Ingham.
Mark along with three other artists will record an original and a cover track in a W Sound Suite. Five hundred copies of limited-edition vinyl will be released, along with a music video to support the tracks.
“We’re just experimenting with this,” says Ingham. “So these artists that we’ve signed, now we have recording studios they can record tracks in. We have music festivals they can perform in.
“So it’s a very interesting thing where W is a hotel company, not a record company, but there is an opportunity here – because of how deep-rooted W’s passion for music is and how important music is to our guests – for us to be able to take that to the next step and be able to uncover new artists to sign to W Records.”
Published 10 October, 2018