Meet Rob Wood, Wood is the founder and creative director of Music Concierge, a company that chooses background music for businesses. His clients include iconic fashion brands, such as Harvey Nichols and Mulberry, and luxury London hotels, such as the Connaught and the Savoy. Some clients hire Wood because they want to influence individuals’ behaviour. When the football club Tottenham Hotspur was looking for music for its new training ground complex, Wood was asked to provide playlists for a holistic programme covering every aspect of Spurs’ players’ psychological and physical wellbeing. Others seek to create a certain atmosphere, such as the restaurant German Gymnasium, for which he sourced particular bell sounds that evoked Mitteleuropean cafe culture. For another client – a late night, alcohol-free burger bar in Kuwait, which delivers food on a conveyor belt – Wood had to conjure the vibe of a 1980s New York block party, choosing early hip-hop by Grandmaster Flash and lesser-known tracks by James Brown.
The background music industry has existed for almost a century, it has constantly been reshaped by changes in the way music is distributed. For decades, the industry’s ability to deliver music in a non-stop format was as important to clients as the music itself. Each of the background music companies developed its own technology for distributing the music supplied to businesses. For Muzak, it was the transmission through wires it had patented decades earlier; for fellow US-based company 3M, it was a bulky cartridge format, sent through the post and then played through a device also of its own design.
Just as it always has, the future of Wood’s industry will depend on how well it can adapt to the pace of change. Since Spotify was founded in 2008, digital sales of music have collapsed, and streaming – on Spotify and its competitors Apple Music, Tidal, Deezer, Pandora and more – has become the way most people listen to music. Everyone can now instantly access most of the world’s recorded music online.