Caffè Nero has been involved in grass roots music sponsorship and support since 1998 when we had five stores. With the Soho Jazz Festival coming up we decided to put some live music into Caffè Nero and were introduced to Tony Moore, a leading light in the London grass roots music industry who became the first musician to play live in a Caffè Nero. As a result of that introduction I became friendly with many up and coming musicians in London and started playing their music on our in-store music system, which helped to build their fan base, gave them royalties, and of course helped to build the very special Caffè Nero store ambiance.
Increasingly, young musicians asked to play live in Caffè Nero and, in 2005, a young musician called Jack Savoretti asked if he could do a tour of Caffè Nero. This was very successful (he played in 30 Caffè Nero’s) and helped to accelerate his career to where he is today as a global superstar. As a result, demand from young musicians to play in our cafes continues to grow and today we host about 300 live gigs each year, as well as having a permanent stage with a grand piano in Heathrow Terminal 2 where we host a gig every weekend.
Our in store playlist has become an important distribution channel for unsigned musicians and approximately 20% of our afternoon music is provided by unsigned artists. All the music is curated by our in-house music expert and an external music librarian. As a result of someone in the music industry ‘Shazaming’ a track we were playing in 2009, the artist ‘Passenger’ (who had played in a number of Caffè Nero’s and at our music festival) was discovered and turned into a major global artist.
Eleven years ago we were asked to provide coffee to a music festival in Oxfordshire which had about 12,000 visitors per day. We agreed if we could also add a small stage and live music. This stage became an immediate success and since then our annual presence at the festival has grown until we now have a full size stage – hosting 21 bands over three days – and have become a major part of the Cornbury Music Festival. We are renowned for showcasing some of the best unsigned talent in the UK. As well as emerging artists, we often get asked to showcase better known artists such as Kiki Dee, Chris Difford, Jack Savoretti, Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone who seem to enjoy playing an intimate stage with an audience of music loving listeners!
Probably the most bizarre music experience we had was having Bryan Adams sitting in our tent for 40 minutes listening to Twinnie sing. After her performance he asked if he could join her in our Green Room which of course we allowed. Three hours later Twinnie was on the main stage backing Bryan Adams for his headline performance! That was the fastest career jump I have ever seen in the music industry.