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There's no escaping the music in Vegas

When ambient music's no longer ambient

I'm in Las Vegas covering the Consumer Electronics Show--I'll be blogging regularly from the floor over the next couple of days. I'd forgotten that in Vegas hotels, there's a soundtrack. It plays everywhere--in the elevators, in the bars and (especially) on the casino floor. It's louder and much harder to ignore than typical ambient music--if you're not engaged in conversation, you're going to hear it. Presumably, it's carefuly calibrated to the desired demographic, with possible tie-ins to entertainment at the hotel. Last year, I had the good fortune to stay at the Mirage when they were promoting a Cirque du Soleil tie-in to the release of the Beatles' Love album. That meant all Beatles, all the time. They never quite got to "Revolution 9," but hearing "Tomorrow Never Knows" in the elevator at 3 in the morning was a pleasantly Hunter S Thompson moment.

Beatles-Cirque du Soleil tie-in
There are worse things to hear in a casino than The Beatles. Mirage Hotel

This year, I'm staying at The Palms. I have no complaints about the facility itself, but the soundtrack's mostly middle-of-the-road white "active" guitar-based top 40 pop that I associate with being a teenager in the late 90s or early 2000s, which I wasn't. Mall music. Gym music. You know, there's that song that goes "you better take some time, little bit little bit, blah blah blah, everything's gonna be all right, all right." And that Smashmouth song that goes "hey now, you're a rock star, go out, get paid." I haven't heard Third Eye Blind yet, but I'd take even money that I will. Last evening when I got in, it was a little sappier, some diva pop singer with lots of melisma.

I would rather hear almost anything else than recent top 40--surf music, R&B, hip-hop, New Age spa music, anthropological field recordings, even new country (which at least has a sense of humor)--and I honestly don't know how long I'll last at the tables with this stuff piped in. Although that might be good for me, it's bad for the hotel.

I know: I'm old and out of touch. (There certainly seem to be lots of serious Jimmy Eat World fans out there, so I'll guess that maybe their albums have more to them than their singles.) But here's the point: music can alienate customers, so if you're trying to appeal to one demographic, be careful you don't drive away too many others. Although I guess it could be worse--until recently, Celine Dionhad a standing gig Caesar's.