Empty House? Perhaps It's Time To Chuck Pandora and Check Your Play List.

Categories: Complaint Desk

Jukebox.jpg
Flickr user Heather Clemons
Picture this. You've just sat down at one of Dallas' fine dining establishments. Your date looks stunning. The service is cordial. Wine is delivered. And then a sumptuous basket of bread. You use a butter knife to shave some beautifully salted butter and ...

"Hey hey mama say that way you move, gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove"

And then Jimmy Page busts into the opening bars of "Black Dog."

No matter. The lights have dimmed, and first courses arrive, punctuated by a delightful amuse bouche. Your focus is on the food, and your date's conversation when you suddenly wonder ...

"Who are you? Who who, who who?"

It's fine. I get it. Classic rock is apparently big in the Dallas restaurants I've visited, and I've got absolutely nothing against the genre. But then a Maroon 5 tracks breaks up main courses and I have to ask who's in charge of the music. The answer is the same at most places I've questioned: Pandora.

Pandora is great. I listen to it at home when I'm too lazy to flip records. (Editor's note: What's a record?) I have a handy iPhone app that keeps me busy when I'm bored on the bus. But I'm not a restaurant looking to create a scene or ambiance for my customers. If I were, I'd take my music selection much more seriously, and take it out of the hands of Pandora.

Besides, Pandora states right on its website that these restaurants are committing a sin.

If you are playing Pandora for yourself while you work, that's great -- it's considered personal use even though you are at work. In fact, a large number of our listeners do this.

On the other hand, if you are playing Pandora over loudspeakers at your business for your clients or customers, this is considered commercial use and is not permitted by our music licenses or Terms of Use.

Nor can we offer commercial licenses for Pandora for any other purpose.

But let's put the matters of royalties, ASCAP and other legalities aside. I'm not a lawyer, and I don't care if unauthorized music play violates the law. I just think using canned play lists reflects poorly on the business smarts of the place. Restaurants spend so much time and money choosing art, paint schemes, booths, fabrics, colors and tones. Why don't they make some effort when designing their play lists as well?

Music can define a place. The Libertine bar caters to a young, post-college crowd, and the music list reflects that. Death From Above 1979, New Order and other such bands played to a packed house when I visited last week. The music matched the clients. It also made the space.

Now imagine cutting into a perfectly cooked steak slathered in Bearnaise while a jingling tambourine signals the start of Bon Jovi's "Dead or Alive." Imagine it in a half-filled house. Without a din of dining chatter the mistake becomes even more apparent.

Restaurant managers and owners plagued by empty tables might do well to spend a little more time looking at their tunes. A cool jukebox makes the Windmill Lounge. The Black Friar, like the Libertine, fills its space with music that matches the people who fill its stools. More Dallas restaurants should ditch Pandora and do the same.

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14 comments
Murphythadog
Murphythadog

Truth! Check out Libertine and Three Sheets some of the best playlists in town.

Hulon Pate
Hulon Pate

I tried telling a "Friend" last year that Pandora was not great if you ever want to hear any new music. It gets old and repetitive. In Texas we drown in conservatism. We are subject to 24-7 Classic rock ,pop-40, Country. I believe most people identify music with there own life style. Most generic music people do not really  ever buy any music  because of the Americanized  state of  FM radio music programming in relation to corporate controlled focus groups.  There are so many places in Dallas that will  hire a crappy dj who will only play typical FM styled music that  sounds like your dad playing  music at a wedding.

This  makes your stay so boring and typical in Dallas fashion. This is when places try to be all things to all people with a generic venue and soundtrack. With a little of this and a little of that mentality.  In the more corporate owned venues the music is always the same it is pre-programmed by people who are not passionate about music or have the time to be able to program new musical finds. This is why there are focus groups people.  These  corporate owned  night clubs  tend to have djs who are not in charge of there venues overall programming via a human juke box.The fact is there is a real science & art with programming. In  a djs set or in  broadcasting, programming should always be your top priority in your entertainment choices. I find most places people can and do complain  because they are not hearing a dull and typical by the numbers musical  soundtrack that represents there life style choice.  People can like whom ever they want. I would just hope people who do have bad taste in music realize that mass marketing  really works.                                                                                                               

Bryan Coonrod
Bryan Coonrod

jukeboxes leave you open for jukebombing - the act of a customer finding the worst song and putting it on repeat as he leaves

cvote
cvote

The Nodding Donkey won't even get a subscription and the 90's playlist was comical.

phunny
phunny

haha, come on...what was the restaurant? i think it depends on the place. if it was Sfuzzi then ok i can see it.

my vote for worst music was Tillman's Roadhouse, paired with mediocre food it was a lousy night.

Steve
Steve

Inwood Lounge bartenders play vinyl and it's as nice as their lithe, tatooed, sun-starved flesh.

Drew
Drew

Note to bar owners: If you put a juke box in your establishment, you will be at the mercy of your customers. My fave bar put in a Juke Box a few months ago. It has been interesting watching the battles between customers VS customers and customers VS the bar manager.

jon from tjs
jon from tjs

great post.  i remember once sitting at a nice sushi place and we couldn't stop laughing at song after song.  "now i put my tender/heart in a blender"

blech

pandora isn't the problem (although i had no idea it was illegal to use that way)...the problem is what pandora station they are setting up.

a steak place can set up sinatra and ella pandora and be great.  creole restaurant just put on dr john and professor longhair pandora and you're set.

pandora is MEANT to channel your creativity.  it can't make you creative!

Scott Reitz
Scott Reitz

What about vinyl? You know the shiny black stuff? I was in Denton this weekend and while thought the za was bad, I was smitten with J & J's pizza's record collection. Anyone see any of that in Dallas?

Aaron Porkstick Miller
Aaron Porkstick Miller

I prefer Slayer with MY steak...but that's just me.  Bon Jovi should get one banned from life anyhoowwwwwwwwwwww.  

Rob
Rob

I think Smoke has some of the best music around, and I happen to know that owner Chris Jeffers is a little nutty about hand picking his own playlists. The music fits the vibe and complements the food... just like it should.

Alexander Flores
Alexander Flores

More live music... and I'm not talkin' Joe Local and his Localists playing bad covers and sneaking in some of their own. I'm talkin' musicians that play music made to order for the atmosphere. Pianists, trumpeters, someone that plays the sax well.

LesliO
LesliO

I love Smoke's music - I can't think of another place where you could hear Willie Nelson and Joy Division during one meal. :)

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