Wake Up Call is a first of its kind music festival held within select W Hotels across the globe. Blending live music with the comforts of luxury accommodation, Wake Up Call offers music lovers and Marriott Rewards members a refined alternative to the hustle of traditional festivals.
Man of Many recently travelled to Bali, staying at W Hotels’ Seminyak resort for two days of live music and lounging under the sun. We also caught up with W Hotels Global Brand Leader Anthony Ingham to find out why the luxury hotel chain is hosting a music festival.
Anthony Ingham leads overall strategy for development, design, guest experience, service culture, marketing, PR and partnerships for the luxury brand. He is also responsible for making the W experience authentic, energetic and unforgettable at all 52 hotels.
Anthony Ingham, Global Brand Leader, W Hotels
Tell us about the W Hotels brand?
The W Hotels brand was born in New York 20 years ago. We wanted to be the first branded lifestyle, boutique chain. The thinking was to be progressive, forward thinking and tap into New York’s mix of extreme culture and chaos. This sits deep in the DNA of the W brand.
The other idea was to create a hotel that attracts locals to the city through its bars, restaurants and music. The reason we’ve been so successful is our attitude has stayed true throughout our entire 20-year career and all the W hotels around the world.
We build infrastructure by recruiting expertise from around the world. Our people understand what is relevant to that city/audience.
For example, every W Hotel has a music curator. For this hotel, it’s Damian Saint. English guy. Lived in Bali forever. Used to work for the Ministry of Sound. He’s a sound engineer. Was involved in the design of this sound suite (the hotel’s recording studio). He tailors the playlists for the zones of the hotel. Books the DJs and live music. He knows the crowd and scene and is super connected. He’s an integral part of this hotel’s experience and leadership.
The way that you make a hotel relevant is to find people like Damian and give them the freedom to do what’s right for each market. We apply this logic to many areas, and the result is a vibrant, energetic, open-minded, expressive perspective that feels unmistakably like a W, yet localised for each market.
Why was Bali chosen as a Location for the W Brand?
Bali is perfect. The area and music scene are perfect. When this hotel was built, there was nothing up this end of Seminyak. We find locations, prime beachfront or prime city centre. We like to be adventurous with locations we think are up and coming.
When this hotel opened every other hotel on the island was the classic Balinese style. They are all beautiful but look the same. This hotel is rich in design traits from Balinese culture but interpreted and executed in modern, surprising ways.
Why is W Hosting Wake up Call festival?
It’s the natural evolution of the brand. From the beginning, music was core to the W experience. W wants to attract locals to its bars and restaurants and music is critical to getting that appeal right.
That idea led to W becoming a business focused on the music scene by identifying emerging artists who would then play in the hotels. We ran a DJ lab for 4 or 5 years, running masterclasses teaching marketing, distribution and touring the DJs throughout W hotels around the world. This gave us a lot of credibility. We also have a partnership with Billboard in the US. Identifying emerging artists and helping them become known.
The sound suites came about when our music director, who is a producer, saw the need for artists to have space to work and record while on tour.
The role we play is more connected to the music industry than it is connected to the hotel industry. So a music festival was a natural evolution. We already have relationships with artists, record labels and festival producers. We even launched W Records earlier this month. Our first signed artist is Amber Mark.
Wake Up Call is the experimental next step but reflective of a true role in the music industry more authentic then what you would typically get from the hospitality industry.
What separates Wake Up Call from all of the other music festivals?
We see our hotel guests as music lovers and festival goers. They are also consumers of luxury hotels, luxury brands and want a certain level of comfort.
We asked how do we create a music experience that takes the best of a music festival – multiple stages and multiple acts – and bring it out of a dusty old field and 20-minute lines for a portaloo and puts it in the luxury hotel with bars and restaurants running?
You can pop up to your room and do three outfit changes during the evening. Get your hair done. There’s a champagne lounge. Or, there’s a frenzied mosh pit in front of the stage.
It’s the freedom to do all of the things you love in one place. Based off of the previous Wake up Call festivals in Hollywood and Barcelona, it really works.
Who is the demographic for Wake Up Call?
It’s a slightly older demographic to your usual music festival. Our guests are willing to pay for an accommodation package. So they are affluent music lovers of which there is a big audience who appreciate comfort and music. We’ll probably sell between 4-8 thousand day passes, and that will be a broader audience of consumers but still older and more affluent than your typical festival goers. That’s the dynamic you get from doing it in this part of the world.
You said Wake up Call is an experiment. Is it expected to come around again next year?
It’s been successful so far. It really resonates with the target audience. You have to be a member of the Marriott Rewards program to buy tickets. Joining, by the way, is free. For W, the return on investment comes from creating an out of this world experience for guests and creating a reason why you should be a member vs any of our competitors.
It’s likely that we will do more. I don’t know if we will come to the same places, we’re considering doing one in Dubai next year. The short answer is it’s likely, but we’re not sure where or when. Yet.
What dream bands or musicians would you like to see on future festival lineups?
I don’t know if I can answer that. I mean, how long is a piece of string? Maybe Sneaky Sound System.
Wake Up Call is expected to reach W Dubai – The Palm in early 2019.
The W portfolio includes the historic Gritti Palace in Venice, and the modern Marques de Riscal in Rioja, Spain, as well as new, indigenous hotels Las Alcobas in Napa Valley and Suiran in Kyoto. The Luxury brand is debuting 12 new hotels in 2018, with W Hotels Brisbane opening its doors earlier in the year. Sydney is expected to open in 2020.