As We See It

Weekly Q&A: Allen Klevens, the man behind the music

Allen Klevins is CEO of Prescriptive Music.
Photo: Christopher DeVargas

You walk into a restaurant and you hear it. Beneath the din of clinking glasses and sizzling meat, a song. You might not notice it, at least not at first, but if it were the wrong song—classical in a burger joint, hard rock at a chic bistro—the music would be a jarring distraction from the general mood. That’s where Allen Klevens comes in. The CEO of Prescriptive Music creates custom soundtracks for casinos, restaurants, shops and salons. So if you find yourself Shazaming on the Strip, you just might have him to thank for reeling you in.

You graduated from UNLV. How did you end up in Vegas? I was at UCLA first for two years. After two years of [general education] at UCLA, I thought, what do I need school for? I’m just going to go play the piano and be a musician. ... I wanted to go someplace where I could still work, play the piano and get my degree. Vegas was far enough from home [LA] and close enough from home all at the same time.

What does Prescriptive Music do? We call ourselves the hospitality secret weapon. We’re the secret weapon because we create the vibe for them; we’re their remote DJs. We create music playlists that match the demographics, that match the feel, the smell, the taste of the establishment.

You do the Venetian/Palazzo and a number of their restaurants. What are the differences between the music for Grand Lux Cafe versus Cut? If you walk into the Grand Lux, which is owned by Cheesecake Factory, it’s for everybody. So we want people to feel comfortable. We want them to feel, “I know that song. I know that song. I know that song.” It’s more “adult contemporary” with a twist of jazz. … Versus going into Cut, where you get chic, very cool, very sleek, upscale. They have a vision; Wolfgang has a vision. We go hardcore classic rock when you’re eating $80-$100 steaks. ... We could change that music to classical and it would change the entire vibe of the place.

When you’re out and about, do you notice what’s playing? Everywhere I go. After our conversation, you will, too. You go shopping at the mall and different places, every one of them has music. But the biggest mistake they’re making isn’t necessarily what they’re playing but how they’re playing it. There are legal issues about paying licenses and how to distribute the music in a commercial setting that most small business owners or hoteliers or restaurateurs don’t know. So when you go in and you hear an iPod being played, iPods are for personal use only. They’re not for commercial use.

How do you find the music you use? At the beginning, it was really tough. Anybody can get major-label music. You can go on iTunes and find anything you want. But how do you find those tracks that make you different? ... We have people sending us CDs every day from all over the world, so we have stacks and stacks and stacks of CDs. While some of them are “my girlfriend’s mom told me to send you my son’s CD,” there are plenty that are actually extremely good. And then, when we talk to these people all over the world; we basically say to them, we want to play your music and they give us permission. Then their music is heard at 200 Marriotts across North America or they’re heard at Lululemon.

Do you hope that people Shazam the songs they hear at your venues? My goal is when you Shazam it, it doesn’t show up. Then you know you’ve hit a gold mine where people like it and they go to someone at the hotel, or at the property, or at the restaurant and say, “Who does your music?” That’s our goal—“Who does your music?” When someone asks that, you know you’ve made an impression and you know you’re going to get more business.

What do you play in the office? Today we’re listening to tanning salon music. It is high-energy pop, R&B. And we’re listening to Sugar Factory at Paris. The candy store is open 24 hours, and the candy store needs high-energy music that’s current, up-to-date, the latest, newest, hottest that doesn’t slow down, because if it’s 1 a.m. or two in the afternoon, you’re jumping around and you’re buying $50 lollipops. Some days, I walk in in the morning and I just want all of our background music off. I call it clearing your palette.

Do you have a soundtrack for your home? I have many. It really just depends if the sun’s up, if it’s gray outside, what I did the night before. It’s really like deciding what clothes you want to wear. That’s what it is to me. What do you want to feel, and how do you want to feel, and how fast do you want to feel it? I really think of music as a prescription for living the life you want to live.

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