7 Questions with Johnny Seymour

Welcome to Ambie’s first 7 Questions with Series. Each month we will interview a professional whose experience and expertise expands across the hospitality sector, and gain insights into why music is so business critical.

1. So, Johnny Seymour, please can you tell us about who you are, what you do, your background in music, about Marksman Entertainment and live music within the hospitality industry.

Hello, I’m Johnny (@jzoid13).  I am the Entertainment Manager for The Ned in London and The Pig Hotels.  I started working in music playing in a band called Japanese Voyeurs, playing Download Festival, and supporting Slash on tour.  Quite a way away from the kind of stuff we do at The Ned and Pigs!

Now I book DJs and live acts, and this year alone have worked with DJs like Carl Cox, Diplo, Fatboy Slim, Annie Mac and The Blessed Madonna to live music such Jools Holland, Supergrass, Leon Bridges, Earth, Wind & Fire, Sister Sledge, Clean Bandit and Skepta!

2. Live music brings an added dimension into the hospitality space. What are the key considerations for hospitality venues (hotel, restaurant, or bar) if they want to have live music versus playing background music from playlists? 

Music is a huge part of a hospitality venue. It’s often hard to measure its importance but it makes all the difference when it’s done well. A good live band will create an atmosphere that’s difficult to get with a playlist. 

Live music has become synonymous with the identity of The Ned, so there are 3 or 4 live acts on the ground floor every day of the year and we opened a new jazz club called The Parlour in 2021 for some extra late-night entertainment.

3. What is music programming all about? How does this impact the music for the end-user?

Music programming is about choosing the right act for the venue and crowd who will be there.  The right combination can ensure a memorable night for everyone.

4. Post lockdown, the hospitality industry is beginning to recover after a very volatile period. What are the biggest challenges hospitality spaces are still facing, and what trends are you noticing in the hospitality industry moving forward? 

I have found that people have loved watching live music again since everything reopened.  The main challenges have been the increase in costs on all fronts. 

5. So, you’ve worked as a Festival Director at multiple festivals and multiple popular hotels including The Ned, tell us about some of the key music highlights in your career. 

There have been many highlights in terms of the acts I’ve worked with, but one highlight for me would be the growth of the Smoked & Uncut Festivals at The Pig Hotels.  We’ve steadily increased audience numbers, scale of the production and size of acts on the bill since I was first involved in 2015.  When I look back, we’ve come a long way and it’s been a pleasure to be involved in that.

6. What is the process for choosing live music in a venue from beginning to end? How far in advance do you need to book artists, are there any licences required, what technology is required, what contingency plans are needed, what is the ultimate volume for live music?

For festivals I try to book headliners as far in advance as possible so I’m booking next summer’s events now.

There are a few licences required, mainly PRS PPL for music and lots and lots of techy things which luckily, I don’t have to get involved in as I have skilled Sound Engineers and Production Managers for those things!

7. Music can make or break the overall experience of anyone in your venue, from the staff to customers, so taking time to ensure it’s on brand and attracts the right audience is key. What are the top 5 benefits of getting the music right in a hospitality space?

Once you have a great playlist in your venue, it’s important to keep improving it and speaking to the staff who hear it every day is a very useful to gauge how it fits with service patterns at different times of the day. 

Removing your own music tastes is important as you are creating something to fit the atmosphere of the venue rather than what you would listen to at home. Although having said that, I listen to quite a few of my playlists at home all the time!

Check back each month for our next 7 Questions Series here.

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