How do you bring the jingle bells and whistles of the festive season to your restaurant’s playlist? You’ve decked the halls, woven your fair share of wreaths and even scored some snow spray (we won’t judge). What’s next is a Christmas playlist that lifts the spirits without disrupting service or conversations. Subtle yet nuanced, it should tug at diners’ heartstrings and make them recall fond memories associated with the festive season.
While we recommend leaving it to the experts such as DJs or sound gurus to curate a playlist for your restaurant, a DIY job is doable, too. Here’s a quick guide on how to select songs for Christmas-themed playlist that doesn’t just include Mariah Carey.
Where do you start?
“It really depends on the design DNA and offerings of the venue,” said Hasnor Sidik, a Singapore-based DJ who’s curated entertainment for venues such as The White Rabbit, Loof and Long Bar at Raffles Hotel. “The target audience and age group matters as well in the selection process.”
You know your diners best. Whether it’s collecting data based on past surveys and feedback, you know what floats their boat and gets their goat, so pick and choose songs that really resonate with their psychographic. Playlists are also an essential tool in brand building. Is your restaurant brand more The xx-meets-Frank Ocean, or more Khaled-meets-Years and Years?
Discover new tunes
Music discovery platforms have made it really convenient to search for season-appropriate playlists. But don’t just take the easy way out and click on “Christmas Hits”. Differentiate your restaurant’s soundscape and give your diners a break from some of these overplayed tunes. Dig a little deeper by filtering further by genre, looking at festive tunes from different eras such as 80s Christmas, or mix in some Christmas tunes by artists that are regularly on your playlists.
“I prefer to promote the less obvious, non-mainstream music,” said Aldrin Quek, a Singapore-based DJ and music curator who has created playlists for restaurants and bars such as The Double Bar at 1880 Singapore and Eliza. “There’s plenty of good music out there so I won’t just settle for the hits. Instead, try to expose the audience to new artists and music.”
For a start, Spotify suggests some cool and offbeat choices that include famed chemist’s Yo-Yo Ma’s album ‘Songs of Joy and Peace,’ She & Him’s ‘The Christmas Song’, and Fleet Foxes’ ‘White Winter Hymnal’.
Listen out for new covers
Nothing will refresh your Christmas playlist like music that is newly released for the season this year. Lucky for you, it seems there’s no shortage of new Christmas music.
If you prefer sticking to the classics, a new spin on an old favourite with add interest. While Quek and Hasnor consider ‘The Christmas Song’ and ‘Black Christmas’ — the latter a mesh of hip hop, funk and soul — as their guilty pleasures, it’s great to mix it up with an acoustic cover or one that’s by a breaking new artist.
You don’t have to look far for inspiration for your Christmas playlist. Find out if musicians in your community have put out any music for Christmas to give your playlist a uniquely local flavour. Some musicians from Singapore put out a Christmas album in 2012 to raise funds for Rare Disorders Society (Singapore). Timeout Hong Kong has compiled some Cantopop songs that get you in the holiday spirit.
Get contributions from your team
“Don’t curate based on just the songs you like,” said Hasnor.
Since the festive season is about getting everyone together, why not extend this camaraderie to brand-building, too? Gather both your kitchen, service and management teams to contribute their favourite festive tunes. You’ll be surprised at the gems you find. After all, the people who will be listening to this playlist the most will be your staff, who, let’s be honest, need that mood-booster the most.
Expecting a crowd over Christmas? Equip yourself with a digital waitlist so diners don’t get disappointed.