Live music can be the great differentiator for pubs against other on-premise competition, and MA Hotel Management have made a great investment in the space with Beach Hotel in Byron Bay to attract crowds and grow its reputation. By Cat Woods.

The value of live music to a venue is multi-faceted and not a simple matter of financial ROI. Live music differentiates venues from competing food and beverage operators nearby, including nightclubs, restaurants and cafes. It also defines the personality of a venue and can build a reputation that extends well beyond the local suburb, city or state.

The Beach Hotel epitomises Australia’s reputation for iconic live music venues. The Byron Bay hotel, in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, has a capacity of more than 1600. Its offerings span food and beverage, live entertainment and accommodation. In 2022 it won Hotel of the Year at the Australian Liquor Industry Awards.

In 2019, MA Hotel Management (MAHM) acquired the Beach Hotel, Byron Bay for $104 million. For the first time in 13 years, MAHM united the leasehold and freehold, enabling the owners to upgrade and shape the venue according to their contemporary vision.

Beach Hotel’s general manager Anthony Brady says, “Since we became owners of The Beachy in early 2020, being an active and supportive part of this community is a responsibility that we’ve taken very seriously. This helps guide our team and how we approach our business every day. That’s why we not only support live music but all artistry in the region, including our food and beverage offering as well as local initiatives like the Byron Music Festival and Bluesfest Busking Competition.”

While live music, like many industries, suffered in a multitude of ways throughout the pandemic – with some venues and artists opting out of the music industry altogether – the Beach Hotel continued to enable live music. They obeyed the restrictions to allow local artists to perform to smaller, seated audiences.

“Throughout COVID-19, we continued to host live music because it was critically important to us that we maintained our support for artists in the area. During a time of ‘dancing in your seats’ it was energising not only for our customers and regular artists but also our team because they saw our commitment to supporting the music industry,” says Brady.

Operations manager Marc Labonte adds, “Byron is a truly a ‘melting-pot’. There’s so much diversity in this town, from the locals who call it home through to the visitors we welcome here. With this in mind, it’s important to us that our entertainment schedule reflects this – you’ll find it is as diverse and varied as the customers who visit The Beachy. There’s something for everyone.”

Investing in sound

While live music was performed from bedrooms, loungerooms and attics throughout the pandemic, the sound quality that is acceptable on YouTube and iPhones is not going to attract a discerning music lover to a live venue. The clarity and amplitude of sound, requiring careful consideration of room acoustics and sound insulation (ensuring that sound remains in the venue, not escaping into the surrounding environment), and the ability to see the artist from various points of the room all play into the quality of a live music experience. It often doesn’t come cheaply, unless the previous owners have invested in recent upgrades to their venue.

“We invested more than $900,000 to upgrade the live music part of the venue. The capacity can be customised based on the performance and event but can be more than 1,200 people,” explains Brady.

Nearly $1 million ensured a full and thorough AV facelift for The Beach Hotel, assisted through consultation with a music industry insider.

“We undertook a total upgrade of all the equipment in sound and lighting. This included all new equipment including microphones, speakers and the PA system,” Brady details.

“We worked with industry renowned artist, producer, and Byron local, Jono Ma when we upgraded our live entertainment set-up. Working with Jono provided the insights we needed to ensure the sound and audio improvements were state-of-the-art and highly functional. We wanted to optimise the acoustics of the venue and ensure that the sound and lighting could be customised to create the right sound, vibe and ambience for almost any act, from an intimate acoustic soloist through to a large live band performance or thumping DJ set.”

They also made repairs to the stage and renovated the back-of-house area to be more functional through the inclusion of additional storage.

“The investment we made in our live entertainment set-up means we have a world-class performance space for artists and there is no longer a need to bump-in additional sound or lighting. We also have the flexibility and control to support almost any act. Today, artists who perform at The Beachy can simply turn up with their instruments and trust that we have the right tech to help them put on a great performance.”

This feature was first published in the December/January issue of Australian Hotelier. You can continue reading the feature below.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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