How to build a better brand?

The Botanist uses this one tool to enhance the customer experience.

Atmosphere is key

When it comes to attracting customers – new and returning – it’s well known that atmosphere is key. Think, playing gentle music in a cafè with the smell of baked goods and fresh coffee, or upbeat jazz, low-mood lighting and warm décor. When someone walks into an establishment for the first time, the atmosphere can make a big difference.

Luke Geoghegan, Head of Music at the New World Trading Company (NWTC), shares with Music licensing company PPL PRS how playing music shapes their biggest brand, The Botanist, and how using the right kind of music can encourage customers to return time and time again.

What is The Botanist?

The Botanist is a bar and restaurant brand that hosts live music every weekend.  During off-peak hours its venues play a selection of carefully curated background music playlists throughout the day to create an inviting social environment for customers to engage with when they visit, helping to leave a memorable and lasting impression every time. 

When walking into a restaurant, particularly for the first time, engaging a customer’s senses is important. All of the senses help craft the atmosphere of a venue, and music is just as important as smell and lighting.

In a survey, PPL PRS* found that over half (53%) of customers find sitting in a venue with no music playing unenjoyable, and 60% said the main reason they don’t enjoy it was because there is no atmosphere without music. 

The Botanist uses different playlists for background music to guide the atmosphere throughout the day – something that Luke is heavily involved in, sharing that “you put such investment into it, and you see how much it drives not only sales, but really moulds the guests’  perception of the brand during their drinking and dining experience.” 

But the brand also values live music for its venues.

Live music within your venue

Live music can be key when it comes to engagement by having the artist there to interact with a captivated crowd as customers enjoy their meals or drinks.  It adds another layer to the atmosphere and the customer experience, plus The Botanist likes to support artists in what they do.

The Botanist has a license to play music in a bar, provided by PPL PRS, which allows them to play recorded and live music for their customers. But Luke makes sure to inform their live performing artists that the money the venue pays to PPL PRS goes back to music creators (after deduction of operating expenses).

Luke shares, “It’s great for me to be able to say to potential new artists, especially DJs, that working with us can  help them earn the living that they want.”

In terms of live music, it sits slightly differently from the background music, but they still have to complement each other.”
Luke Geoghegan

The importance of having a musical identity

Elaborating further on the importance of a brand having musical identity, Luke shares that, carefully considered music choices can reflect the quality of experience for customers, just like décor, menu, and lighting. For example, unique polished music can reflect a high-quality, higher-priced menu.

Due to the quality of the music, customers walking in can gauge the atmosphere within the restaurant. But remember, your employees will also be listening to the music. The Botanist ensures the music played works for their employees, as they will be listening to it more than the customers.

“As well as your customers, you’ve got to engage your site and management teams to really get on board and treat the musicians as a vital part of the team.” – Luke Geoghegan.

For The Botanist, having a musical identity is a massive part of the brand.”
Luke Geoghegan

Wanting to attract people between the ages of 18 and 65, with its key target audience being 24-35, to come and have a drink or a meal, the brand uses a mix of genres such as RnB, pop, indie, and classic soul to create a series of “all killer, no filler” playlists throughout the day.

At times, this may mean introducing customers to new music during the day, but then playing recognisable hits in the evening and at weekends for customers to enjoy. The music reflects what atmosphere customers look for depending on the time of their visit, leading to a better customer experience.

Given how impactful music can be, establishing your venue’s musical identity should be top of your to-do list, and if you already have a musical identity, you can use these tips to make sure it matches your brand’s messaging.

How to establish your musical identity

Luke suggests that the best way to create a musical identity is to prepare your venue around the sound you want and the mood you want to convey. For example, when opening the Barnsley location of The Botanist, they wanted a big audible area, so the stage for live music performances was placed in the centre of the venue.

I think the music should be at the absolute inception of any brands that are starting in the hospitality industry.”
Luke Geoghegan

Before you start playing tunes to your customers though, business owners need a licence to play music in a bar. But once that’s done, a licence from PPL PRS will give you access to millions of songs, so you can enjoy seeing what sound will sell your brand to your customers, with the peace of knowing you’re covered for business use of music.

“I think the music should be at the absolute inception of any brands that are starting in the hospitality industry – just like you would when you’re thinking about what menu you’re going to develop for your food and drinks, or what space you’re going to operate in.” – Luke Geoghegan

Deciding the best music to enhance your brand

To choose the right songs, you may be looking at picking a music provider. Some restaurants and bars opt to use commercial music streaming services. But The Botanist (and other NWTC brands) opt to use a third-party music supplier, whom they work closely with to carefully curate the background music they play across the country to ensure that the brand stays consistent. 

When you know how your music will be sourced, you need to consider these things when picking the songs you’ll play:

1. Tone

You want to make sure the music playing matches the tone of your venue. This may mean taking into account the venue location; for example, is it in the nicer side of town? Near other busy venues? The lone bar on the street? These things can influence the tone of music you want to play, whether you want to blend in with the street or stand out.

Don’t forget to keep your menu in mind as you want to reflect the type of food or drinks on offer with the playlist too.

2. Genre and tempo

When thinking of genres, you could think like The Botanist and mix and match for a vibrant selection of tunes for customers to listen to throughout the day. Or you can play into proven formulas, say, if you’re a higher-end restaurant, why not play a low and slow mix of classical and jazz to tantalise your consumers?

Or if you pride yourself on your speedy service, match the tempo to your servers, playing some pop tunes and chill rock to keep customers asking for more.

“You really need to know who your target demographic are and research what you think they’re going to expect to hear. But a massive thing for me is how it’s going to interact with the type of offering you’re going to give in terms of food and drink. If you’re offering something that feels more premium, but the music doesn’t quite sit with it because it doesn’t feel premium, or vice versa, then you’ve got an issue.” – Luke Geoghegan

You really need to know who your target demographic are and research what you think they’re going to expect to hear.”

Luke Geoghegan


Whatever your style, TheMusicLicence enables businesses to have plenty of choice when it comes to thinking about the type of music that suits their brand and how they can ensure their playlists are both varied and recognisable. 

As Andrea Gray, Managing Director at PPL PRS, explains:

“By having the choice of millions of songs, businesses that have TheMusicLicence can choose exactly what style, genre, and tempo works for each occasion. 

This could include playing upbeat music over the summer months, for example, if bars and restaurants are providing special drinks offers or outdoor dining, or helping customers to get into the festive spirit in the lead-up to Christmas and other seasonal events.

Playing well-known and recognisable music can be particularly important as it can help to give businesses a familiar and welcoming feel, which can help to entice customers in and encourage them to stay longer because of the atmosphere which the music creates.”

What do the customers think?

In a recent survey**, we found music licensing company PPL PRS found that 98% of UK residents surveyed enjoy visiting bars and restaurants. 69% of these respondents found the atmosphere very important in deciding which bar or restaurant they go to, with over half (56%) elaborating that music is a very important component in the creation of atmosphere.

Music is such an integral part of some people’s dining and drinking experience, with almost two-fifths (39%) of respondents sharing that they will go to specific bars and restaurants because of the music they play.

When it comes to happy customers, The Botanist knows how to keep them. Their Trip Advisor reviews barely dip from 4 stars or more, with many quoting the atmosphere as a highlight alongside the food and drink on offer and the excellent customer service.

With its success, The Botanist shows why hospitality should use music more as a magic tool for customer engagement and enjoyment.


*A survey commissioned by PPL PRS of 2101 UK respondents by Perspectus Global in September 2021

** A survey commissioned by PPL PRS of 500 UK respondents by Attest in May 2023



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