How Important Is Live Music In The Hospitality Industry?

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Article by Ryan Gallagher, 20 Lemons LLC

Spring fever is currently taking effect in New Jersey and all across the East Coast. For the Hospitality Industry, the start of Spring season means an influx of people coming out of the woodwork to enjoy local restaurants and bars. The combination of good food, sincere service, and entertaining live music have become the key factors in a community member’s decision to come out and play on nicer Spring days and evenings.

“Start the fire buddy! C’mon man, play something from The Stranger!” screams an event attendee. “We strictly do 80’s Joel music sir…” reasons the musician.

Any idea where this situation goes after this interaction? Even if this Step Brothers reference just flew overhead, it’s no secret that live music is amazing–until it really isn’t. What’s more, young restaurant upstarts along with their guests do not realize that there is a ton of ground to cover in between the time that restaurant managers decide they want to have live music and when the event actually occurs. From booking the bands, setting a music schedule, playing music to the vibe of the restaurant, and doing it all over again; restaurant managers, servers, bartenders, and live musicians are constantly working to get on the same page in order to make dining out with live music an enjoyable experience.

“There’s so many restaurants out there, so it’s nice when you have an opportunity to give a customer some added value to enhance their experience. Everyone can serve a burger and everyone serves pasta with shrimp but, live music is something that makes you different from everyone else,” said Joe Amore, a restaurant manager at The Blue Horse Restaurant in Highland Park. Amore and the team at CAM Hospitality Group recently opened the new restaurant back in October 2018 and decided almost immediately to introduce live music every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Since The Blue Horse is so new, the team had to start from the bottom up when looking for musicians and when setting a schedule. However, as soon as word got out that musicians were in demand, “there were weeks where I had six different bands coming in, asking if they could play. So, how do you organize that? We linked up with this gentleman John Bianculli. He’s a local artist with so many connections. He keeps track of our scheduling so we can focus on what we do best, which is food, beverages, and service,” said Amore.

A definitive schedule of events is one of the most important aspects when trying to successfully pair the Music and Hospitality industries. As much as customers appreciate a band or solo performance whilst sipping wine or slurping spaghetti, there is such a thing as “overplaying” live music. The Blue Horse, has three days of music each week and never more. Other restaurant owners like Kevin Trimarchi of 22 West Tap and Grill also have their own scheduling methods when it comes to booking musicians.

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“When we opened, we had entertainment every single Friday and Saturday for the first five months. We really evaluated things after that, and instead we wanted to make it something special rather than make it repetitive or washed up,” said Trimarchi of his location in Bridgewater, NJ. “We switched every Friday to a band and every Saturday to a DJ. We focused on the acts that really brought in the money as well as special themed nights like 90s Night or Techno Night.”

Once a band has been hired and added to a restaurant’s schedule, the work still does not stop for restaurant owners and musicians. Restaurant managers must begin to anticipate the crowd that each live act may bring through the door.

“We get music from New York, South Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Each band always has followers, so it introduces the Blue Horse to different people every single week,” said Amore. “We have our regulars but we also like to have new artists as well because you get another 10 to 20 people that may have never been here.”

However, once the night begins and the music goes live, the restaurant staff and performer(s) must always prepare to adjust spontaneously. Being a proper judge of the crowd’s mood or the restaurant’s atmosphere is a necessary characteristic for both musicians and staff.

“It is important that they are in tune with what’s going on around them. If there’s a musician that just plays the same 20 songs no matter what the situation well, that’s not the right person for us,” said Amore. “As we look for quality food and the right ingredients, we also have to look for the right musicians that can adapt to the crowd. Is it an older crowd or is it a younger crowd?  Is it too loud to converse or not loud enough? It’s music volume, it’s interaction, it’s music selection, it’s all of that stuff.”

Vic Della Pello, a musician out of Asbury Park, NJ agrees. “The place I’m playing tonight, I noticed that when I do their Happy Hour there’s an older clientele. So, I can’t go in there and hit them over the head with some of my harder material. I find they respond to things like the Beatles, James Taylor, or America. The types of bands that are a little bit lighter, a little bit more of the singer-songwriter type.”

Playing to a crowd is a tough, but a necessary skill when it comes to this line of work. Musicians like Della Pello have to be in sync with managers like Amore or Trimarchi when it comes to taking breaks in performance, keeping customers in the restaurant, and responding to the ever changing vibe of the evening.

Often times, a live performance can allow a server, bartender, or manager to take their time and get a dinner or drink order correct, instead of having to rush something out. “Music definitely gets a customer’s mind off of the question, Where is our food, when there’s something nice to listen to,” said Trimarchi. “I would say customers are also more inclined to hang out a little longer, get another beer, order appetizers before entrees, and stay out a bit later.”

While live music isn’t directly correlated to increased restaurant sales, studies do show that louder music volumes (such as those that are produced at live performances) do tend to lead to higher consumption of (alcoholic) beverages. Della Pello has noticed instances like this first hand…

“I think for the most part people are going to leave when they’re going to leave, but the other night a lady asked if we played any Bad Company. So, I said Hang out a little and when we come back on we’ll play a Bad Company song,” Della Pello recalled. “We played, the night continued, and then I saw that this individual was ready to leave. I turned to the band and said, let’s Play Another Bad Company song. And she ordered another drink [laughs]. That’s a very specific instance, and I can’t think a whole room is doing that, but there you go.”

There is never any guarantee that a restaurant’s food or a band’s music can satisfy the palettes of each guest who comes in–that has to be why Yelp exists. However, coming to the table or the stage with a plan of action and the know-how to make adjustments will assure waitstaff, barkeeps, entertainers, and administrators are satisfying their guests during this budding Spring season and during the busiest time of the year for two industries that couldn’t be more suited for each other.


Ryan Gallagher is the Marketing Coordinator at 20 Lemons LLC, a full-service marketing company. Gallagher and the marketing company’s founder, Noelle Stary advise a wide variety of clients across NJ, NY, & PA who work in industries like Hospitality, Professional Services, Health & Fitness, Coworking, and more. With a background in Journalism and experience with 20 Lemons, Gallagher’s focus is writing marketing content, blogs, articles, and news for the 20 Lemons and her clients. For more information, visit their website.

  • Imperial Dade
  • Day & Nite
  • RATIONAL USA
  • DAVO Sales Tax
  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • BelGioioso Burrata
  • Atosa USA
  • McKee Foodservice
  • RAK Porcelain
  • Simplot Frozen Avocado
  • Texas Pete
  • Inline Plastics Safe-T-Chef
  • T&S Brass Eversteel Pre-Rinse Units

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