Charlie Reyes is a New York-based DJ and sommelier. He founded Audio Culture to curate music for bars and restaurants, including a playlist for our Maze Row East Coast launch party last September at Fotografiska in Manhattan. Reyes shares how he uses his craft, and his knowledge of music and wine, to design playlists to help elevate the hospitality experience.
What is the process of compiling a playlist, and do you have a routine?
It is about getting to know the client, as we did with Maze Row. Music selection for guests has a pretty standard formula, so the details of a music program really rest in what the message the client is trying to convey to its guests.
Some spaces want head-nodding music, while one bar asked for music that will make guests sweaty. When putting together music for either an office party or a wine portfolio release event, the music always has to reflect the message. Nostalgia is quite possibly the biggest tool in a DJ’s toolbox, but what makes it effective is how you use it to connect to the crowd. A music curator or DJ uses music just like chefs use food to inspire emotion.
How do you use your musical knowledge to elevate an experience?
At Audio Culture we curate playlists to connect the space and its staff with guests in a way that rivals the food and wine experience. Music is such a connector of people all around the world.
[Hip-hop group] Wu-Tang Clan once talked about their first world tour, and how they couldn’t fathom how kids in Italy didn’t speak English, but knew all the words to "C.R.E.A.M." When you play the right song at the right time in a restaurant or bar, you will have finance bros and soccer moms singing along to Beyoncé and Jay Z before you even know it.
What’s been one of the most successful compilations you’ve curated?
It will always be my music program at (Soho restaurant) Charlie Bird. Hip hop is my alchemy. So being able to say I have basically been their resident DJ for a decade now is super humbling and will always hold a huge place in my heart. It is after all, where my entire story began.
What are the challenges of using music to spark up a party?
It’s never the music, it’s always the people. Unless you see a jukebox inside a bar, don’t make a request. Everyone swears their workout playlist is the most mind-blowing thing anyone has ever heard. Let the guys with the headphones and the laptops do their jobs.
And the rewards?
One of the best things, maybe the best thing, is the showing of emotion when you play the right song, at the right time. That “ooooo” from the crowd when all of a sudden everyone sings along, terribly, but in unison and having a blast. That is a rush of adrenaline and instant gratification that is pretty intoxicating. Looking into a crowd and realizing you’re controlling the music and they give you the “hell yeah nod.” And the absolute best question is when people ask, “can I have this playlist?”