Go Behind The Scenes of the W Hotels Sound Suites Launch

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Performer Magazine caught up with Paul Blair (DJ White Shadow – @DJWS), W Hotels Worldwide Music Director, North America, to get the inside scoop from the man behind the W Hotels Sound Suites launch. 

“Worldwide Music Director” – sounds like the coolest job in the country: Can you explain for the readers what your job entails?

I feel incredibly lucky be able to work with a brand like W. Music is part of its DNA and we are always on the lookout for what’s new and next on the scene. I work as a strategic advisor on music programming in North America, as well driving plans for W Sound Suites worldwide – which is exciting as I originally pitched the concept to W about a year ago. It’s been incredible seeing them come to life – from having the initial idea when I was trying to work while on the road, to brainstorming with the W team, and then launching the first one at W Bali.

Hopefully this and the future W Sound Suites will help traveling musicians, locals and guests record in style.

Do you pick music every day, week, or monthly?

I’m working on something every day, be it plans for W Music programming or curating playlists. Programming is a real focus for me.  At W, we want to give our guests insider access, so I help to suggest acts for performances across the country in W Living Rooms or on WET Decks. Currently I’m working on a new emerging artist partnership W has with Billboard called Next Up: New Artists, New Music. So far we’ve had Gallant perform at W Los Angeles – West Beverly Hills, and the incredible Bebe Rexha at W Seattle. Then, in terms of daily music, I help curate the music on W’s iPhone App. Guests can use it 24/7 and it features hundreds of hours of exclusive DJ mixes and playlists.

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I’ve programmed music in a casino before and there are normally distinct zones for types of music – is it the same for you? Such as, the lobby gets ambient, the hall to the pool gets EDM…

Absolutely.  All of the sounds you hear in the public spaces of the hotel vary by two factors – the hotel itself (it’s location and the vibe we’re creating there), and the area within that hotel. Beachside properties such as W Punta De Mita, W Maldives and W Vieques all have distinct playlists but still have that escape vibe.  This is a different sound from urban properties like W Barcelona or W London. Similarly, within the same hotel, the WET Deck (our pools) sounds very different than what may be playing in the Living Room (lobby/lounge). And from day to night these sounds change, too. Music is a part of the W experience; the soundtrack has to change.

How does W Music in Bali differ from Chicago or NY? Do you keep it genre specific or play around with turning new cultures on to new music?

We like to sonically reflect each destination, so the music changes by culture, what’s new in that city, what we know our guests like. The only thing we like to replicate is a commitment to upcoming music and finding artists we know our guests will love.

How do you seek out music? (Spotify, recommendations? YouTube?)

In any way I can! At W we’re really committed to finding out who is new and next, so I try to immerse myself in what’s up and coming from DJs and producers, to bands and solo artists. There are so many ways to discover music – it’s one of the best thing about the industry and it will never get stale. I love getting recommendations from friends in the industry too. I also use SoundCloud and Spotify, and like making finds on those platforms as I can save things on playlists for later. If you have any suggestions, let me know!

Do you choose the music curators for the hotels?

I get involved in how they’re picked by putting some names forward or working with the brand team at W to find the best talent. I am also happy to vet anyone who the local team puts forward.

What does the music curator job entail? Is it a technical position knowing the equipment, mixing, mastering, or is it more of a lounge host?

Our W Music Curators also assist with technical help for the pro-grade equipment. W Bali’s Music Curator Damian Saint for example, is a world-class DJ, so he’s very accomplished at getting the best out of the equipment – mixing, mastering, etc. Even without a W Sound Suite at a hotel, the Music Curators are responsible for some of the music at the hotels – be it DJ sets or other live performances. They have an inherent understanding of W and the local music scene, so they help determine the right mix and tone of music throughout the hotel.

Are you picking the gear for the Sound Suites – or who is?

I’ve selected everything! I picked equipment I love to use, basically the exact things I’d want ready and waiting for me so that I could jump straight to work while I’m traveling. It’s ideal for local and traveling musicians to record their tunes – there’s nothing more annoying than trying to work in a stuffy, uninspiring hotel room with just a laptop and no decent equipment. As we have a Music Curator on site too, guests that don’t have previous recording experience get a pretty unique chance to work with pro-grade kit – which is really cool.

What is the weirdest part of your job at W?

The weirdest thing is that I get to do some awesome stuff in some of the most beautiful places on Earth – and it counts as work! The first thing I did with W was to go to Thailand for a week to mentor young DJs and producers and work on new music with them, as part of W’s DJLab – and I’ve had equally fantastic opportunities since then. I still find it incredible that a brand really values and thinks about music as an inherent part of the business. When I first started touring, hotels were pretty dull; they definitely didn’t think about music in the way we do. And you definitely couldn’t work from them in the way W Sound Suites will allow you to. It’s refreshing and awesome to be a part of – just weird to call it work.

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