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Soundry sets the sound for many of Miami's best chefs.EXPAND
Soundry sets the sound for many of Miami's best chefs.
Courtesy Amara at Paraiso

Soundry Sets the Soundtrack at Your Favorite Miami Restaurants

Restaurants are fickle beasts. There are the ornery guests seated under or too far away from air conditioning vents, the table of five that fits nowhere, and the no-call no-show cooks who leave the kitchen short-handed on its busiest days.

And the music that plays inside them is just as important. Late last year, New Times looked at how some of Miami's successful restaurants approach setting the sound for their space. Many had realized the soundtrack matters as much as the cuisine or service. A recent report by the Association for Psychological Science found restaurants that skillfully calibrate music can increase the time customers spend with them, sometimes leading to a larger check at the end of the night. Some restaurateurs, like Blackbrick's Richard Hales, learned their personal preferences, like Rage Against the Machine's face-melting guitar riffs and aggressive vocals, could do more harm than good.

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The importance of music and the quest to find the right sound for a space isn't limited to Miami.

Back in July, the New York Times outlined the tale of Ryuichi Sakamoto, a lauded composer and musician who lives in Manhattan and was so incensed by the music being played at his favorite Japanese restaurant he insisted the chef allow him to curate a new soundtrack for free. Late last year, the Atlantic hypothesized that restaurants in recent years have become louder, incensing an endless horde of Aunt Karens, because recent trends in minimalistic, open floor plans have removed the barrier between the bar and dining room, added an open kitchen, and at times turned dinner into an overstimulating cacophony.

"Restaurant people are so particular, and rightfully so, about everything they serve, about their staff and the presentation," says Lauren "Lolo" Reskin, who owns Little Haiti's Sweat Records and for the last five years has worked as a senior music programmer for Soundry, which created the soundtrack for Michael Schwartz's growing restaurant empire as well as the beloved spots owned by Matt Kuscher and Danny Serfer. "To go lazy on the music side makes zero sense to me because it's one of our five senses. Why are you going to piss off people’s ears when you're trying to tantalize their mouths?"

A decade ago there were precious few options for restaurateurs looking to sound their space. Then in 2008, a Brit named Mark Pratt (who has written for this publication) was lured to Miami after visiting his brother who vacationed here and decided to stay. The pair, long obsessed with music, hit a stroke of good luck after realizing how many restaurants were struggling to program their spaces with handmade playlists, and later, resources like Pandora or Spotify for businesses.

"It always felt like it's a kind of fantasy, a great opportunity to listen to music, to indulge in music while also getting into business to be attentive to restaurants' needs," Pratt says.

In recent years, the need and demand have grown as eatery owners began learning of Soundry's services. Area restaurateurs also realized they're paying $50 or so each month to cover music licensing fees for canned, online services that pale in comparison to what Soundry provides.

"For Michael's Genuine, I listened to and skimmed more than 4,000 tracks to whittle that down to a sonically specific, era-appropriate, dining-appropriate selection," Reskin says.

The process holds close to many of the other creative processes that go into restaurants. Chefs or owners come in with specific songs, artists, or genres in mind. Reskin, Pratt, and Soundry then extrapolate those and fine-tune them for whatever the restaurant might need. So the tracks that play during prime dinner hours may have the same feel but less of the driving energy one might expect during late-night hours.

"We can program playlists so granularly with sound that changes tempo that they become these living playlists, which is pretty impossible to do," Reskin says. "People can pay for and play their own thing but it’s going to be a ton of more work, and most of the time they're grateful to have one less thing to worry about."

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