MOVE Investigates: Sabai’s playlists

We did the hard reporting to find out who picks the songs at Sabai.

Sabai is known for its rice bowls, sweet chili chicken and hip tunes. Love it or hate it, from punk to funk to K-Pop, there’s always something different playing at Sabai. (Except that “Stacy’s Mom” is on every single time you’re there. We couldn’t figure out why that happens.)

The MOVE Investigates team spoke to assistant manager Carter Lawson about where Sabai gets its playlists, who decides what plays and how it fits into the Sabai brand. Here’s what we learned:

What service do they use?

Sabai uses Pandora for Business, an ad-free service that allows restaurants to play music over speakers without getting into legal trouble, since commercial uses of music require licensing.

Lawson says Sabai has about 20 playlists it keeps in rotation.

Their current roster of playlists and stations includes: 2000s pop, '90s hits, Motown, K-Pop, '90s R&B, Maroon 5, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Nelly and the Pandora BBQ and Road Trip stations.

Who chooses the music?

Most of the music decisions are made by student staff.

“One day, they might feel like hearing things from when they were younger, so it might be a ’90s or 2000s hit station,” Lawson says in an email.

But Sabai also uses certain types of playlists for certain days of the week.

Lawson says the staff typically goes for more upbeat playlists at the beginning of the week, and they play older music or playlists with a more “eclectic feel” toward the end of the week.

They have added dedicated days to David Bowie and Prince following their deaths this year.

“We really just want to play music that makes people happy,” Lawson says. “It’s always great to look out in the line and see people dancing along to one of their favorite songs."

Why do they play the music that they do?

For the most part, Pandora does the playlist-making work. Sabai staff will go through and take out songs “if they aren’t appropriate” or if students complain.

Sabai gets a lot of compliments and requests, Lawson says.

“When designing Sabai, we wanted to give it a feel completely different than any other location on campus,” Lawson says. "We wanted to incorporate all the senses into people visiting with us; everything from the colors of the walls, the different types of seating and the music help create the atmosphere we are looking for."

Do you have a MOVE Investigates request? Submit one here.

Edited by Katie Rosso | krosso@themaneater.com

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