W Hotels is a brand with a longstanding passion for music and this year it took that strong drive to another level with the Wake Up Call music festival. The brand has hosted three Wake Up Call Festivals this year at W Hotels around the world, starting at W Hollywood and W Barcelona in September and most recently at W Bali - Seminyak last October. Throughout the weekend, guests were treated to the sounds of renowned international artists, from Tove Lo, Angus & Julia Stone and Sam Feldt to hip local artists such as Kimokal across two stages that entertained around 5,000 people over two days at the hotel.
The music festival carried a luxury element as it was held at the hotel, where the day begins and ends in posh accommodations. In between sets, music lovers were able to relax poolside, chill out at the hotel’s spa, take wellness–fitness classes, or retreat to the comfort of their rooms. “A music festival feels like a natural evolution. We are always looking for the next step, it’s almost like the nature of the brand is looking over the next hill and wondering, what is the next thing we can do?”, Anthony Ingham, the Global Brand Leader for W Hotels Worldwide and The Luxury Collection, says in an exclusive interview with ForbesLife Indonesia.
Music is an important part of the brand since its establishment 20 years ago in New York. A lot of its DNA comes from the culture and chaos of Manhattan, which has 24/7 energy and is always looking at what to do next. W is one of the luxury brands under the Marriott Group. “The DNA of W has evolved to become a global brand, but it’s based on the principle of freedom of expression. It creates an environment that is free, open and attracts a lot of creative people,” Anthony says.
The brand is active in supporting the music community by spotting emerging artists and promoting them through its networks. It has a curated a compilation of CDs of which some have sold over 100,000 copies or equal to a gold album in today’s standard. It has also launched the first recording studio, in a hotel at the W Bali two years ago. “The next step for us is the launch of W Records, which is the first time a hotel brand launches a recording label,” Anthony says. Currently there are 54 W Hotels worldwide, most recently in Asia Pacific, namely the W Brisbane in Australia, W Xi’an in China, and W Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. According to Bruce Ryde, Marriott Asia-Pacific Vice-President for Luxury Brands and Brand Marketing, the three properties opened in the region are good examples of how W Hotels adapt to the destinations while still maintaining the commonality of a W. “They are all W but each feels different in terms of their feelings. When Australians stay at the W Brisbane, they can laugh because it has some humour in the design and is very Australian. In Kuala Lumpur, there is a sense of the jungle and the greenery of the city, while Xi’an is an imposing and futuristic hotel,” Bruce says.
Next will be the W Costa Rica in Central America and W Dubai at the Palm in the Middle East. “And next year we are excited about W Aspen, W Ibiza, W Philadelphia. Here in Asia there will be W Chengdu and W Changsha,” Anthony says. Anthony joined the company in 2010 when W was in its complete infancy; he was the head of luxury brands for Europe, Africa, and the Middle East for Starwood (Starwood was acquired by the Marriott Group in 2016). At that time, he was building and launching W Hotels in London, Paris, and Barcelona. “That was really amazing because the brand was kind of unknown in Europe and we built it from scratch and created excitement around the brand. The market had not seen anything like it before,” Anthony says.
Even though the brand has done a lot of live music events in its hotels around the world, it is the first time it pulled off an event on such a big scale. The brand has done a lot of preparations for the event. It has held a much smaller version as a trial for the Wake Up Call festival at the W Scottsdalle, Arizona, at the end of 2016. The trial was an experiment to test how the event will work as the brand has never done it before. “The idea was to take all the best elements of a music festival, the multiple stages and acts, work with the crowd, have the right sound quality,” Anthony says.
“There are people who go to the restaurant to have a fabulous salad, drink some champagne at the lounge, go to the spa to get your nails done and even do three outfit changes in one afternoon. All of those things were really happening, and they worked really well,” Anthony says. Making the event was not without its challenges as it is a complex undertaking, the biggest being logistics involving multiple stages and thousands of guests. On top of that the brand had to make sure the experience that guests had at the festival was a luxurious one. “Logistic is really a fascinating challenge in terms of figuring out how to make the experience a luxury one,” Anthony says. “At the Wake Up Call festival the service is what you can expect in a luxury hotel, but the difference is we have thousands of people. That is the challenge.”