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September 25, 2019

People in beta #4: Clay Bassford - The Freelance Marketing Strategist Who Redesigned The Music Experience For Brands

Music was always a big part of his life. After working as a freelance copywriter, music journalist and a producer, Clay decided to connect his passion for music with his marketing skills and in 2017 he founded Bespoke Sound - the platform for curated music experiences, which creates sound design for spaces. We sat with him to learn why a sound experience can be just as important as interior design and how to set your own brand’s sound.

Born just outside New York, Clay grew up surrounded by music and built up a strong connection to the scene. His professional career took him into the marketing industry, where for over a decade he did content production and strategy, supporting businesses and strengthening their brands. He did this up until 2017 when he came up with the idea of using sound instead of words and founded Bespoke Sound.

Read all about this new concept of using music as a branding tool and how it can be a new income stream for artists, in our interview with Clay. 


SO CLAY, BEFORE JUMPING INTO THE INTERVIEW, SHARE WITH US WHERE WE’RE FINDING YOU THIS TIME?

I’m currently in Sende - a great coworking and coliving space in Spain, very close to the Portuguese border. I travel pretty often and the idea of being out in the Galician countryside, around other creative, entrepreneurial people sounded like a good idea. I’m currently doing a sort of high-level "Design Thinking" appraisal of my business, rethinking what I’ve learned so far in this first stage of business and how we can improve our services to better benefit clients and artists. The rest of the time I spend on music-making, and mixing the next batch of my own music for future release.

People in beta Clay Bassford Bespoke Sound

SO TELL US WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND BESPOKE SOUND? HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA?

To be honest, I sort of fell into it. I was always working somewhere between content marketing and the music industry and around seven years ago a friend of a friend was searching for someone to help him curating music for his boutique surf spot on the beach in Costa Rica. The owner was a big music fan, but he just didn't have time to keep all the music up-to-date. So I got introduced to him, we shared similar tastes, and agreed that I would do the music for his space - curating it and updating it with new music on a regular basis.

This for me was a dream come true. I could finally work with music all day, and at the same time, I could help create an awesome experience for the guests. I saw people's reactions when they heard a song they liked. I saw them dancing, getting a little closer to each other at the bar and that for me was really rewarding.

This was the moment when I realized that there is something special about this idea and I got interested if there is actually market out there. I did some market research, and a lot of interviews with different hoteliers people in the industry trying to get more feedback. And the idea started growing more and more. 

People in beta Clay Bassford Bespoke Sound



WERE YOU ALREADY INTERESTED IN THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY BACK THEN? WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO FOCUS ON IT?

It seemed like a very good match for me. I see a really nice overlap between hospitality and music. When you work in the hospitality industry you aim to provide a good service to your clients in order to connect with them, make them stay longer and enjoy their experience. In the exact same way DJ’s and musicians aim to connect with their audience through sound. This honest dialog is why people in the hospitality industry tend to understand how music can help their business. 

Right now I’m focusing on hospitality brands, which means mostly hotels and coworking spaces like betahaus. When it makes sense I also approach restaurants, but currently the hotels tend to rather have the drive and the resources to invest in branding projects like this.

People in beta Clay Bassford Bespoke Sound



HOW WOULD YOU EXPLAIN THE IDEA BEHIND BESPOKE SOUND?

At Bespoke Sound, we like to share really good music with people. I like explaining it as something like - vibes design. Ultimately what we're trying to do here is designing a specific mood through sound and setting the energy of a space. 

We're working with music, but it’s tied in very closely with the physical space. When building up a space, a lot of businesses think a lot about their interior design, and they invest a lot of money to find a high-end designer who will make their place look great. In this case music functions the same way as furniture does - it creates an initial impression. It colors people's experience of the space and it can really influence how they interact with them within the space. 

People in beta Clay Bassford Bespoke Sound



OKAY BUT HOW IS BESPOKE SOUND DIFFERENT THAN PLAYING MY "DISCOVER WEEKLY’’ OR ANY OTHER AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED PLAYLIST ?

The first main difference is that we’re covering the music license for you. As a business, you’re supposed to license the music you’re using for a commercial use so you don’t get a notice from GEMA - the German music rights organization. There are such kind of organisations in every country, but the German one is very strict on checking the copyrights. So no matter where you are, it’s good to have this covered. A part of what we do is exactly this -  we cover the licenses to use this music for your space.

The other part is that we use real, extremely talented human artists to curate it specifically for you. The playlist that we provide you with is specifically designed, tailor-made for your business, as a brand. Very often how businesses decide on the music they play is relying on someone on the team who has a good taste. However, this person’s taste doesn’t always represent the vibe or the personality of the space, and is rarely consistent enough to match the brand’s aesthetic values.

‘’We can help businesses communicate their brand through music and a specific atmosphere, rather than communicating the people behind the brand's taste through music.’’

Do you get the difference? 

People in beta Clay Bassford Bespoke Sound


ABSOLUTELY! BUT DOES THAT MEAN THAT YOU CREATE THIS ONE PLAYLIST WE HAVE TO PLAY ALL YEAR LONG? OR DO YOU UPDATE IT ON A REGULAR BASIS?

Well, both. Currently we offer the following two options: shorter publicly available Brand Playlists and long-form private Soundtracks for spaces. For both of them we work closely with the client to understand how sound fits into their brand DNA and what their audience is like.

We believe that the guests’ experience with a particular space doesn’t have to begin and end with their stay. The idea of the Brand Playlist is to be a public brand playlists designed to engage the customers before, during, and after their visit at a space. It’s always accessible for them and serves as a new, dynamic marketing channel.

The Soundtrack is slightly different. It takes sometimes up to weeks of work and is designed by a world-class artist, DJ, or tastemaker. For it we first work with you to develop a deep understanding of your business and style. Then we match you with the perfect artist, DJ, or tastemaker to create unique, always fresh playlists, custom tailored to match your brand. 

In both cases, we update them regularly based on guest habits and clients’ needs. 

People in beta Clay Bassford Bespoke Sound



SO YOU ALSO WORK WITH A LOT OF ARTISTS FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PROJECT? HOW IS THIS KIND OF COLLABORATION BENEFICIAL FOR THEM AS WELL?

The way we engage with the music community is something really important for us and honestly, what makes us different than other background music providers. A lot of the background music providers out there have internal teams of maybe five or six DJs that do all of the music for their clients. We aim to connect with the local scene and always work with local DJs. There's some kind of magic in finding the exact right artists for the brand.

And on the flip side of it, when we hire artists, we make sure that the project is also inspiring for them and that they would be interested in participating. We always make sure to pay them well. The whole project creates for them a new income stream that they wouldn't have otherwise.

People in beta Clay Bassford Bespoke Sound

FEW WEEKS AGO YOU CREATED A TAILOR-MADE PLAYLIST FOR BETAHAUS, CURATING OUR BETABEER VIBES. TELL US MORE ABOUT THE PROCESS.

Yes! This was really fun. The objective with the betahaus "betabeer sounds" playlist was to showcase the community side of betahaus. There are so many cool, interesting people in the betahaus community and we thought a playlist could be a perfect way to not only help bring the community together but also show the diverse funkiness of the communities of Berlin and Neukölln, which is why Hazy Pockets, a longtime local Berlin DJ known for his eclectic mixes, was perfect for this project.

This playlist moves from bluesy 60s rock into surf and tropicalia, picking up momentum into Motown and onwards through some laid back disco tunes. Perfect for the betabeer events betahaus hosts monthly!


YOU’RE CURRENTLY ENJOYING THE SUN FAR FROM BERLIN. WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE PLACES in berlin that YOU MISS THE MOST?

Oh, there are just so many! Like the Imren Grill for instance where you can find the best homemade Turkish food or Das Gift and Gordon which are both run by great music people. Kohelenquelle in Prenzleuer Berg is my favorite local bar (or rather kneipe). To satisfy my  techno / electronic records needs I always go to Hard Wax and one of my most special places is the Zions Kirche steeple, which has an awesome view of the city and a great Weinerei close by. 


THANK YOU, CLAY FOR YOUR TIME! WHERE CAN WE FIND OUT ABOUT YOU OR GET A TASTE OF YOUR FAVOURITE JAMS?

You can see me around betahaus. Online, you can always check out my website and listen to our public playlists on Spotify. We’re also currently working on a collaboration with betahaus, so a special Playlist curated by is will very soon sound around the spaces in Kreuzberg and Neukölln. 

''People in beta’’ is a series of blog posts, in which Vihra - our Marketing Manager - interviews teams and members to understand who they are, what they’re most passionate about, and what brought them to coworking. Read more here and become a part of the coworking tribe.

Interested in joining the beta family? Check out our membership options here.


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