Universal Music Group and investment holding company Dakia U-Ventures, LLC made a rather brief announcement in August of a partnership to develop what they called “a new music-focused experiential hospitality category.” They promised more details at a later date.
Today, the two companies are revealing the first three locations for UMUSIC Hotels, their music-themed luxury hotel venture, with projects underway in Atlanta, Orlando, and Biloxi, Mississippi.
“Everyone’s looking for an experience,” says Robert Lavia, Chairman of Dakia U-Ventures. “And we want to do something that’s deep and authentic, that really tells the story of the region, the community, how we’re transforming those communities, integrating into those communities, and how we’re bringing music and storytelling into them in a whole different fashion.”
Lavia says each location will be designed to reflect its local community and music scene. The hotels will provide concert venues—and much more. “Think of the hotel as a hub of collaboration and innovation for artists, composers, writers, bands, and their local followings,” says Lavia. “It’s an energetic vibe drawing in guests from around the world. This is not just a bunch of photographs on the wall.”
The result appears to be a 21st-century version of Hard Rock Hotels—on steroids—though UMG avoids such comparisons, saying this will be an entirely new experience. According to a local report in June, the UMUSIC Broadwater Hotel in Biloxi is slated to be a $1.2 billion, 266-acre entertainment complex featuring a 12,000-capacity concert venue, a golf course, a marina, 18,000 square feet of retail, and a 125,000-square-foot casino. The hotel will feature suites that front onto the concert venue, so you can watch shows from your room.
The American locations, of which Lavia says there will be more, will be overseen by Boston-based hotel management company Pyramid, with Dakia and UMG focused on developing the guest experience, music programming, and community integration.
It may feel a bit odd to be announcing a massive new hospitality venture as the world continues to navigate a global pandemic that has decimated the tourism and hospitality industries. An August report from the American Hotel & Lodging Association said that 40% of hotel employees are out of work, and 65% of hotels are running at 50% or less capacity. But Lavia says UMUSIC Hotels is building for the long term.
“Without question the pandemic has forced many changes,” Lavia says. “But we look at this as a huge opportunity to reignite these communities. These projects are community-centric, from everything like the supply chains to food and beverage to hotel employees. We’ll be looking to help transform these areas to help these communities beyond the pandemic.”
UMG is one of the largest music companies in the world. With decades of history and a collection of record labels that includes Motown, Def Jam, Island, and Virgin Records, its intellectual property includes the music, imagery, and artifacts of music legends.
Universal Music Enterprises president Bruce Resnikoff says utilizing that legacy is central to this venture. “It’s driven by our desire to continue to give our artists, estates, labels and entrepreneur partners new ways to connect with fans and expand the range of commercial and creative opportunities available to them,” says Resnikoff.
Universal artist J Balvin recently launched his own McDonald’s combo meal, so why not ask him to design a hotel room? Why not develop a Rihanna suite? UMUSIC Hotels is looking at integrating that IP into everything from live entertainment and room experiences to lobby and communal spaces.
“Let your mind wander how far it can go,” says Lavia.