What does a Porsche sound like? So it’s not a car – a brand. The question goes to Arndt-Helge Grap, 58, and before he can answer, he tilts his head as if listening to a voice from afar. “Porsche sounds defined, modern, beautiful, worldly, unique,” says Grap. “Not mainstream, not top 40, but David Bowie. Cars are style icons.” That’s his job: to paint a solid picture with the right sounds, to get music into people’s ears and hearts.His company Radiopark provides carefully selected background music around the world.
Personalized playlists fill cruise ships, hotels and airports, stadiums, restaurants and fitness clubs – as well as several Porsche Centers. With more than 30 employees in Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Miami and Dubai, Grap creates music programs, tailored to the desired location, time, atmosphere, desired effect. To put it simply: Radiopark works in a similar way to modern music streaming services. However, Radiopark was there first. And above all: It’s not algorithms that do the song selection, it’s people. With a good feeling for music.
The center of this sound system is located on the fourth floor of an office building in the city center of Hamburg. A guitar trellis leads to Arndt-Helge Grap’s office. He got his first when he was eleven. At 15 he started a band at his high school in a small town north of Hamburg. It was the late seventies. With lyrics in a Low German dialect, Grap recently celebrated success in a regional music competition.
He read like a big Allegro
It was clear to him: I study music. Instrumental lessons, voice training, concerts, master class with Abel Carlevaro in Buenos Aires and also children in English and teaching – studying like a big Allegro. However, he abandoned his original goal of a senior teaching post after his stay at the school. “The music teacher didn’t know a single song off the charts, and didn’t seem to get along with the rest of the staff either – it was clear I didn’t fit in.” An alternative appeared on the bulletin board. in the university hall: “We are looking for Locals for a new radio station!” Grap went.
Soon after he sat in front of the microphone of Radio Hamburg, one of the first private stations that wanted to be cleaner, better and faster than the stations established in the dusty environment of the German media. Grap had found his playground. It started modestly, continued with celebrity interviews, and from the mid-1990s he produced a full program with his colleague. It became a problem when broadcasters began to narrow down the selection of music to clearly appeal to certain groups of listeners. Broadcasters called it format radio, while music lovers scoffed at the tubes. Looking back, Grap explains: “Our programs were no longer necessary, we were interested in exciting music, not amazing music.” Again, it was no longer appropriate.
Music on Aida’s ship
This time, however, no alternative was found on the bulletin board. Instead, in the spring of 2002, Grap received an email. A guy who worked for the shipping company Aida, which was still new at the time, wrote: “The music is not good, we are a club ship, but the CD changer always comes with the same sauce. .” And Grap replied: “Get the ship’s CD changer. You need a computer that controls when the song is played in which area of the ship.” There was nothing like it before. Grap said, “I can provide that. The technology needed by the music.”
So a media player was installed on the Aida, which could continue to be loaded with new songs via satellite from Hamburg. Grap developed eight different music programs for the sun deck, Italian restaurant, fitness club, bar and casino, among others. The time of day was also taken into account: morning sounded different from afternoon, evening or night. “We set tone the way interior designers set decor,” says Grap. Boredom was frowned upon. For example, if Mariah Carey was playing at the breakfast buffet on Monday at 9 am, the song was blocked for the next four days in that time zone. “Considering all the elements while creating the environment you want requires a high level of coding, a lot of knowledge and a sense of music. That was our job.”
“The ship dances in the waves”
When that was done, it didn’t take long for an email from Aida’s club director to arrive: “The ship is playing in the waves.” When Grap read that sentence, he suspected that this work was just a subterfuge. At the time Grap was 39 years old. A talented guitarist who never turned pro. A great music connoisseur who has never been a music teacher. A passionate manager who couldn’t stand being on the radio. And now? He sat with a bottle of red wine on the harbor wall of Hamburg and thought: “Who else can use what we have just designed for Aida?” When the sun went down, the bottle was very empty and the note was full. Others took care of themselves: Grap founded Radiopark.
“It all started in 2003,” he says. Everything was fine. At that time, disturbing sounds could be heard from loudspeakers in hotels and shopping malls. Sticky electronic pianos, disturbing saxophones, flooded restaurant elevators, cafes or mall floors. Radiopark, on the other hand, promised a feel-good acoustic environment. That is still in use today, as is the business model: the software is registered, and the technology can be rented if needed. And then the music reveals its almost magical effect. People become more relaxed, more communicative, more attentive – in short: they thrive.
This works in luxury hotels from Berlin to Dubai, in the Maldives as well as in Bangkok or Santiago de Chile, in holiday hotels, shopping malls or stadiums – and of course on large cruise ships sailing the oceans of the world. Radiopark even keeps crews in good condition on container ships. “They play songs from all over the world, depending on the country where the workers come from. Music like a small part of home on the high seas,” says Grap.
Background music for Porsche stations
Radiopark has been putting together background music for Porsche Centers in Austria for three years; Porsche Middle East has now been added. Music as an acoustic imager, as a stimulus for customers and employees. When it comes to Porsche, Grap combines professional standards with personal passion. In 2014 he bought his first model, a 911 Targa, Type 997 in midnight blue metallic with a beige interior. As the children grew – Grap is the father of two boys – the car grew too. “First it was the regular Panamera, then the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo,” he says. “The car stands for everything that Porsche stands for.”
What? How does a plug-in hybrid Panamera sound? So it’s not the engine – the car itself. Grap tilts his head again, as if listening to a distant voice. Then he begins. “My exit playlist starts with Amos Lee’s Hands of a Woman, then Lizz Wright’s Hit the Ground and John Coltrane’s Blue Train.” Grap is in his element. Does he never rest? Doesn’t he need silence too? “I live in the country and sometimes I listen to the birds singing,” says the entrepreneur. “But I’d like to listen to music.”
Text first published in Christophorus Magazin, issue 404.
Author: Sven Freese
Photo: Matthias Haslauer
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