Boutique chain hires its own music director

As Starwood aggressively expands its W brand worldwide, the company is getting back in touch with its original mandate of blending the hotel biz with entertainment — starting with hiring its own music director.

“As much as the W’s in New York are at the center of design and fashion, the W Hollywood will be at the center for entertainment,” said Eva Ziegler, the W’s global brand leader, about the venue set to open in December.

The boutique chain is putting a special focus on music because “the W’s overall intention is to be the coolest place in town, and cool places usually have cool music,” per Ziegler.

To that end, it’s hired Michaelangelo L’Acqua, a fashion show producer and diskery vet, who is producing music-centric events that promote the chain. He also chooses what guests hear when they stay at or visit a W property.

L’Acqua’s audible rebranding of the W was felt last week at New York City’s Fashion Week, as the W’s VIP Lounge at Bryant Park featured DJ and performances by a variety of acts including TV on the Radio, Bebel Gilberto and the Brazilian Girls.

The W produces an ongoing series of live music performances with Sony- dubbed Wonderlust Live that recently featured Natasha Bedingfield, Pete Yorn and Daniel Merriweather.

And the chain’s new W in London’s Leicester Square has backed a music program with Sony BMG to generate awareness for the property before it opens next year

But it’s not just music. The W Hollywood is finalizing plans to tie in with the Golden Globe Awards, premieres and other events in a major way. Similarly, its Hong Kong property has a big deal with the Hong Kong Film Festival.

With recession-battered consumers becoming choosier in how they spend their money, hotels need to lure guests with more than promises of a comfy bed.

All the moves add up to a renewed push for entertainment, which has been an important part of the company’s image since its launch a decade ago, but one that it hadn’t focused much on as it expanded the number of properties it operates worldwide.

“Entertainment is a great way to constantly provide our guests, as well as the local community, something new, an innovative experience and a reason to come back,” Ziegler said.

Ziegler, who joined the W in February, after holding a global brand leader post at Starwood’s upscale Le Meridien brand, is spearheading the W’s new entertainment initiatives, a role considered especially important as the W expands from 33 hotels to more than 60 by 2012 and focuses on becoming more of an international brand, with new locations in London, Paris, Milan, Barcelona, Santiago, Dubai, St. Petersburg and Shanghai.

The W’s music program had been showing its age. It was primarily supported by a CD that first bowed in 2002 and has been available in rooms and sold through its stores but was updated only once a year. Tracks were also played in lobbies and other areas of the properties.

The CD will likely go away as the company updates how it provides music to its guests, Ziegler said. That will include digital methods that have grown with the popularity of such devices as the iPod and other MP3 players.

The company will also soon overhaul its in-room entertainment channel, W Vision.

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