Curator Story

Steve Dunn

Specialist in: classic rock, soul, and classic disco

Steve is a veteran of the business music world, having led sales teams and business development consultancy projects, across the last 20+ years. He helped launch the commercial divisions for both Jamo and Wharfedale loudspeakers. His passion for helping brands through music curation, is evident to those that meet him, and he is proud to have worked alongside many of the UK’s most progressive restaurant, bar, hotel, fitness and retail businesses.

Case Study

"We chose Open Ear based on their ability to understand both our growing business and the music brief given. I am pleased to say that on the performance of the music profile across the trial sites, we rolled out the Open Ear music service to all of our restaurants. Their music knowledge and account management has been a real support to the San Carlo Group."

Alessandro DiStefanoCo-Owner, San Carlo Group

"Curating music profiles for retail and hospitality brands has been an interesting and stimulating career for me personally. I'm a huge music fan, still active in buying music and going to gigs, so to be involved in helping my client's locations to sound great really is a dream job."

An interview with Steve

Let’s start from the beginning - please introduce yourself and give us a background of your life in music…

I’m Steve, Open Ear’s Sales Director, and I’ve been helping businesses use music to establish deeper connections with their customers for over 25 years.

Do you remember what music inspired you to progress with a career in music?

Curating music profiles for retail and hospitality brands has been an interesting and stimulating career for me. I'm a huge music fan, still active in buying music and going to gigs, so to be involved in helping the different locations of my clients sound great really is a dream job.

My journey towards working in music has been an interesting one, firstly via hi-fi and then through commercial sound, working for the two of the largest loudspeaker brands in the world. Prior to this, our home was filled with music. My brothers and sisters were huge soul, funk and disco fans, so our front room became a practice space for the latest moves, soundtracked by rare tracks heard in the clubs and not on the radio. It was then that I really became aware of how music helped to define different style tribes, from glam to mod, soul boy to new romantic and beyond.

Is there one area of music you specialise in i.e. genre or scene that you are particularly close to?

Disco and rare groove are my things, and the sounds that still keeps me spending on vinyl. Though my kitchen is my dance floor these days, I’m always putting personal playlists together when socialising at home, relaxing with a drink, or holidaying.

What are your favourite places, sources, sites, radio shows or people to discover new music?

Music blogs, music forums, radio, and friend recommendations. Though since joining Open Ear, I’m always digging through our playlists to discover artists/tracks that sound great and are new to me.

Talk to us about your approach to music playlist curation, do you have some key do’s and dont's?

Firstly I try to understand what my client is trying to achieve, be that creating a great ambience, extending dwell time or articulating their brand personality. From this we discuss their customer demographic, when they visit, how long they stay and how the playlist tempos should flow across each part of the week.

How is playlisting for a bar, restaurant, retail store or hotel, different than playlisting at home or for personal listening on-the-go?

It’s entirely different, it’s for them (and their aims) and not for me. I put myself in their shoes and drill down into what they are trying to achieve. Their customers are spending money with them and I am extremely mindful of curating a positive visit experience, one that hopefully drives them to return and tell their friends about it.

Tell us more about the client(s) you’ve worked with using the Open Ear platform. What was your thought process?

The first question I always ask is about how much control they’d like to give their managers over the music content - hands-on or hands-off. At Open Ear, our music platform can playback from a collection of day-parted playlists, all set to a schedule previously agreed with the brand champion. Though if they’d like their managers to be able to interact with these approved playlists and call and action them to match footfall to tempo or genre at any given moment, then we have a great app for that too.

What are your thoughts on computer algorithms shaping the future of music curation?

Nothing beats a person, informed through an in-depth discussion with a brand custodian, curating their playlists and weekly schedule. It’s musical tailoring, and is an ongoing conversation. Algorithms are naturally an off-the-peg approach, one that lacks the personal touch, often missing the very essence that makes a brand different from their competitors.

Steve also curates for

San Carlo