A Guide to Background Music Services

When is background music more than just background? Studies have shown that a unique, custom music programming provides countless benefits for both retail and hospitality brands, including increased sales and a boost in brand recognition and loyalty. With the right approach, great music curation can elevate spaces and moods, generate feelings of community and atmosphere, and create a more enriching guest and brand experience.

There are a number of options for hospitality businesses looking to develop their background music strategy. In this article we will explore the many services available, from small DIY providers all the way to custom music creators, so you can find the type of service you’d like to partner with to help your hospitality space create a dynamic sonic identity.

Spotify for business

In reality, many businesses use Spotify, Pandora, YouTube or other B2C streaming services to meet their background music needs. We understand– it’s easy, the platforms are familiar, and all your playlists are already there. Unfortunately, this is illegal and businesses have been fined thousands of dollars for going this route.

The reality is that even if rights organizations’ fees are paid, businesses cannot legally use these streaming services in a commercial setting. This type of service licenses music for individual end-users, not for hotels, bars, cafes, restaurants, and other hospitality businesses.

Plus, if you care about musicians, songwriters, producers, and others in the music industry – and we hope you do – it’s important to pay the right licensing fees to use streaming playlists. It’s also just good karma!

Large-scale providers

Some music providers are able to offer low-cost options because they operate on a massive scale. The low cost is great for users, but this comes with a trade-off: you lose the high-touch, considered, and custom approach that can really elevate your space’s sound strategy.

Companies like Mood Media, Play Network, and Imagesound are known for creating this sort of streamlined, no-fuss music strategy. You’ll likely hear them at large franchises as well as supermarket chains and other national or international brands. This cookie-cutter approach can lead to generic or uninspired background music. Ultimately, chances are that what works for their global brand strategy won’t work for your unique hospitality needs.

Software-centric providers

Another low-cost option is to hire a company that automates music programming using AI. These providers include Soundtrack Your Brand, Pandora for Business, Soundsuit, and others.

AI can do some cool things in terms of personalizing music, but it lacks the human touch– there’s a reason Apple Music has thousands of curators on staff to this day. To streamline the results generated by AI, users often have a low degree of control over the music.

You’ll hear this kind of service at work in tech-savvy, trend-hopping businesses like Joe & The Juice or Filippa K. That said, if you’re not picky about the exact music you are looking for, these companies can be a user-friendly option.

In-house music direction

Certain hospitality businesses keep background music curation entirely in-house (Bravo!). The results are completely custom and the music often becomes a pillar of the brand. The downside is that a dedicated, in-house music curator requires a full-time salary.

Some industry leaders in the in-house music curator space include Hotel Costes, W Hotels, and Michelberger, all of whom are undeniably tastemakers. While it might be doable for larger hospitality brands with the necessary resources, this option is often beyond the grasp of smaller hospitality businesses. These organizations should look to the next category to achieve in-house results at lower costs.


Boutique music agency

With a boutique agency, you get the best of both worlds - A fully custom-curated musical offering at a reasonable cost. This is the best option if you are looking for a hands-on and collaborative approach to music programming for your hospitality space. Bespoke Sound,  is a leader in this new category of music curation.

Several components differentiate Bespoke Sound from the other boutique music providers out there. First, we have a constantly growing roster of some of the world’s best DJs, musicians, and curators based in cities around the world. This means our musical expertise can always meet your needs.

Second, we actually design playlists by hand, song-by-song. Many in the boutique category claim to create custom music programming, but most actually recycle internal libraries of music among multiple clients.

But enough about us! What else is out there?


Hospitality brands often hire DJs to play one-off sets to create a vibe in their lounges, bars, rooftops, or lobbies. Hotels like NoMad and Ace are well known for these sets, using them in tandem with curated background music for daytime hours, perhaps curated by the DJ themselves.

In this arrangement, the business handles all technical and legal aspects, while also managing DJ relationships and overseeing the music programming. This arrangement often becomes far too unwieldy for the business and limits their flexibility and ability to grow their music strategy.

If you currently work with or would like to work with a specific DJ, we can also facilitate that so the operations are above board and streamlined.

Original composition

A step further is original composition. In this field of music curation, some hospitality companies hire musicians or multimedia artists to produce original music or sound art, respectively.

Most composers who work with hospitality businesses do so on an independent basis and costs can run high, but with an original composition, the background music will be your own unique soundtrack.

Bespoke Sound also offers this service, so you’re welcome to get in touch!

Making the right call

Remember, music is complex and powerful and can be much more than sonic wallpaper. A well-designed music strategy provides a unique atmosphere, enhances design, and connects people and culture in meaningful ways.

Before settling on a music curation service, carefully consider the state of your current system, as well as how any changes will be received by stakeholders and customers. Remember as well to think about things like budget and how you want the music to evolve over time.

If you are interested in a free 30-minute consultation about your sound strategy and music identity, please get in touch. We’re happy to talk!

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