What Does Your Brand Sound Like? Exploring the Sound of Moxie’s Grill & Bar

By | Music, Music Branding, retail

Moxie’s Grill & Bar prides itself on being Canada’s absolute best casual dining restaurant. Following the mantra of being passionate about their food as well as their guests, they’ve created a premium casual dining experience across their 60 locations from coast to coast. Focusing on exceptional food and drink quality does not mean that Moxie’s also does not pride itself in the overall experience of their guests. While maintaining excellent dollar-value, Moxie’s is meticulously designed to provide their guests with a variety of delicious and inspired food selections.

As Moxie’s looked to further hone in on what their brand sounds like, they were assigned to RXMusic’s Director of Music Programming, Ben Birchard, who has been working with the experienced team at Moxie’s Head Office to reflect this premium casual atmosphere into their sonic space.


Tell me how you ended up working in music in this capacity?

My background in mainly in performance. I spent almost 12 years working in theater and performing as a musician – on top of a lifetime of studying music and pop culture as a hobby. About 5 years ago, when it became time to find a job I was simply amazed that the position of Music Consultant even existed. As Director, I have a great opportunity to learn from everyone on our Programming team, and the varied clients we all work with.

When you go about compiling the music program for a place like Moxie’s, this sort of ‘Premium Casual Dining’ restaurant – what kind of sound would you say you’re looking for and what steps did you take to find this ‘sound’?

The interesting thing about Moxie’s – and there are actually three brands that they cover: Moxie’s, Chop and Shark Club – is that they’ve got someone in their executive team, their National Beverage Director, Kim Spence, who is really into music and is a really good partner to work with. Kim is very hands-on and has a lot of input into what makes it into a Moxie’s program but he’s also understanding of the expertise that we offer his brand and is willing to take risks and say, “Hey, maybe this is something we should try out.”

The music is very, very important to him, this is not something that simply gets shoved to the side. Kim and Moxie’s understand the intrinsic value in what were doing, and it shows in the amount of measured thought that goes into selecting the music, the understanding that sometimes risks need to be taken in order to truly push forward, and I feel shows in the overall result which is a great musical program that represents their brand.

Can you describe what this music program is?

In every Moxie’s there are usually two zones: Dining Room and Lounge. The Dining Room tends to be closer to a traditional restaurant fare – rock, pop, R&B, but very much reliant on an Adult Contemporary vibe, something that remains family-friendly. The lounge however is pretty open to taking risks – this is where Kim and I really try to spread our wings and try something different. Where other restaurants would shy away from a certain sound or vibe, in this zone, we’re not worried about getting complaints. One of the edicts that we operate on, when it comes to the lounges, is that, “if we’re afraid of making mistakes, we’re not getting it right.” This really opens the door to other types of music that you may not hear anywhere else. As long as the music is good, and creates the right vibe, we and they are happy. I think this attitude reflects positively on Moxie’s as a whole.

What would you say defines a family-friendly sound and how does this apply to Moxie’s?

A family-friendly sound, to me at least, is something that is never exclusive, as opposed to a sound that tries to include everybody – and I think there’s a bit of a fundamental difference there. Ultimately, you’re looking for the vibe where Mom and Dad aren’t going to be turned off by it, and kids are going to be familiar it. Although Mom and Dad maybe hadn’t heard it before, it’s not going to be too foreign to their ears that they’d be turned off to what they’re hearing. It’s about finding the common thread that made music popular in the past and still resonates today.

Alternatively, when you say you’re “taking risks” what sort of barriers are you pushing back against? How does the sound at Moxie’s stand out?

Day-parting is a very popular strategy where clients will schedule lists to play at a certain time of day with a certain type of content – the difference with Moxie’s, in their lounge, is that they’re more open to the concept that if it works during one time, let’s try it in another. Whereas another similar restaurant would keep a rigidity with feel and genre throughout the day, Moxie’s is more open to trying something from, for instance, their Happy Hour program in the Morning or at Night, because they know the success it already has in their space.

Another example is hip hop – a lot of places will have a lot of rules when it comes to when hip hop can and can not play, but Moxie’s comes from a place where “as long as it sounds right and people like it, we don’t care.”

You mentioned hip hop – that’s not a very popular genre when it comes to restaurant programming?

Not at all. And as a matter of fact, hip hop used to play almost exclusively from 4pm – 6pm to try and control what has this reputation as a controversial musical genre. Coincidentally this is exactly when the music was getting the most positive feedback. So we ended up sprinkling hip hop into the rest of their program and there was some really great feedback from that as well. The energy has really picked up, the staff has certainly enjoyed it a lot more – kinda proving that, well, hip hop has a place in the mainstream and isn’t as much of a red-letter-genre when it comes to sonic branding.

Anybody under the age of 40-45 has now accepted hip hop as a mainstream art-form and has essentially grown up with it.

Totally – especially when you’re talking about hitting the target audience of the 20 – 40 crowd, hip hop is not “new”.

That’s not to say that even Moxie’s was gung-ho with this. It took a lot of experimentation to find this out. We started just having pop tunes with a rap verse in it, and now even that’s a little bit too cliche. So it’s funny how that all works out.

Ultimately, this program is much more cutting edge than most other casual dining restaurants I know of. They certainly keep me on my toes when it comes to programming – and I feel that really reflects positively on them and results in a greater customer experience.


What Does Your Brand Sound Like? Exploring the Sound of Samsung Electronics

By | Music, Music Branding, retail

Samsung Electronics Canada, the Canadian subsidiary of the world’s number one smartphone manufacturer, expanded their retail footprint significantly in 2013. Opening 2 new Samsung Experience Stores in partnership, the new stores center on retail innovation for customers to explore, purchase, activate and service Samsung products.

Influenced by the brand’s broader consumer-focused approach, RXMusic’s Chad Courneya was tapped to create a musical soundscape that reflects the unique brand strategy of these stores. In conversation we talked about how he deals with the delicate balance of creating an inviting atmosphere, and keeping it interesting for those who work in that environment.

How’d you first get involved in working in music?

Well, I went to a recording school in Southwestern Ontario called OIART which gave me the background I needed in order to find a job out in Hawaii working as a studio hand. From there I ended up working with a music supervisor in Toronto – submitting songs for publication. That paid the bills for a little bit and I just continued working in audio when this job as a consultant came up.

Samsung – you created their program and manage that account – what kind of sound are you looking for when programming a client like Samsung, and how did you come about finding that sound?

This is a very forward thinking retail environment and I strive to reflect this in the music programming while keeping a mainstream sound intact. As most of the Samsung stores are located in malls, it’s imperative to keep a flow from one sonic space to another. Keeping a similar sound to what’s going on in the main mall area is key to maintaining a level of comfort from zone to zone. Additionally, it’s got to be feel-good music. This is a retail store and you want customers to feel good about their purchases.

From a regional standpoint all of the stores are on the west coast. This results in a very culturally diverse crowd of Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, Afro and Caucasian Canadians – specifically a lot of Korean employees. What we did for them is created a very K-Pop heavy program.

Is this what makes the Samsung store stand out from, say, the store across the mall?

Like I said, they’re very forward thinking, as well they have a reputation as a global tech giant. Specifically, we narrowed in on two different times of day: peak and off-peak. Peak is very much a high-energy vibe; as many of these locations are close to high schools, peak time is around lunch and post-3pm. I also have more flexibility during peak to get into a little more indie content. For the non-peak hours, when the mall is admittedly a little less busy, it’s important not to blow away the customers that do come in with something that might be out of place. So this non-peak program is a little more down-tempo. The third list we have going there is a Worldwide list which is pop music mostly from Korea and Japan.

How do you go about scheduling something like that?

We have a worldwide song kick in every 10 songs, augmenting the regular schedule. That secondary schedule is there to ensure that the world music is a subtle constant throughout the day.

Do you find for retail that you’re challenged by people (employees) who are in the store constantly, having to combine the needs of the customers with the needs of the people who listen to it all day?

Yeah, especially for retail environments more than any other concept. If the employees aren’t happy, the customers aren’t happy and that leads to lower sales. Samsung recognizes this – happy and engaged employees are a key piece to their atmosphere. The music has to do its part to encourage this.

What Does Your Brand Sound Like? Exploring The Sound Of Bar Louie

By | Music, Music Branding, retail

“Eat. Drink. Be Happy.” These are some simple concepts. Bar Louie, a truly unique chain of bars and eateries headquartered in Addison, Texas, prides themselves on this credo. Boasting over 70 locations across the US, specializing in handcrafted cocktails, local and regional beers, unique wines and craveable food, Bar Louie has developed a loyal customer base since their beginnings in 1990.

A major factor of their loyal customer base is their commitment to local appeal. Although Bar Louie does aim for the consistency of a national chain, no two Bar Louie restaurants are alike. This offers unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to creating a truly unique sound. To better understand this, I sat down with Craig Clemens, the Prescriptive Music consultant who handles the Bar Louie account to talk about his background in music and how he applies this to Bar Louie.

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What Does Your Brand Sound Like? Exploring The Sound Of Topgolf

By | Music, Music Branding, retail

Topgolf is a sports entertainment facility headquartered in Dallas, Texas with locations throughout the United States and the UK and are touted as a premier entertainment and event venue with a fun point-scoring golf game, upscale resto-bar and great music.

To better understand what goes in the sound of Topgolf, I sat down with Zack McNair, the Prescriptive Music consultant who handles the the Topgolf account.  During our conversation we discuss the overall concept, the art of choosing the right songs, promotional content and how he goes about tackling the task of creating the music schedules that he does.

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What Does Your Brand Sound Like? Exploring The Sound Of The Cheesecake Factory

By | Music, Music Branding, retail

The Cheesecake Factory has built its reputation by striving to take care of every guest, every day at every meal while delivering a unique guest experience. Part of that unique guest experience is the music selection that plays in the background while guests are dining.

To better understand what goes into the sound of The Cheesecake Factory, I sat down with Annie Hemming, the Prescriptive Music consultant who handles the The Cheesecake Factory account.  During our conversation we discuss her past work, her work with the brand, her creative process, the music selections and just how the brand’s lists are updated simultaneously to over 200+ of The Cheesecake Factory locations worldwide.

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Social Identity Radio: How Your Brand’s In-Store Music Reinforces Your Customer’s Self-Image While Bolstering Brand Identity

By | Background Music

The other day I read an article titled “Why Your Customer’s Social Identities Matter.”  It inspired me to think about the ways in which music speaks to people and how it can effectively reinforce one’s social identity.

To recap; we all have an image of ourselves, an idea of who we are, and how we want the world to perceive us.  This self-concept is the result of our social identity, which is defined by our membership, as individuals, to different social groups.

This concept is broken down into two components.  Firstly, we think of ourselves as members of certain groups but not others and, at any given time, our actions and surroundings impact our thoughts and behaviors. When at a sporting event, for example, we will think of ourselves as members of a group who care about a certain sport or individual team and it is unlikely that we are identifying with a group of people at an art gallery or in a place of religious worship.

Secondly, there’s a set of behaviors that are recognizably appropriate to a given group.  In this case, we can assume everyone at a sporting event is a sports fan and that one’s identity is enhanced by participating with cheers, boos, and other common interactions.   To break this down further, people will wear different team colors, logos or jerseys to demonstrate their allegiance to a certain side, distinguishing their social identity and enhancing their status within the group.

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