Play That Funky Music, White Boy

Dan Fogarty brings the sound of music to Chipotle.

Dan Fogarty may have one of the most coveted jobs in corporate America. He's a walking iPod for Chipotle -- traveling around, listening to music, and deciding what beats are funky enough to go with Burrito Bols and steak tacos.

"We like music to be in the foreground, not in the background," Fogarty says. "It's great when you see someone sitting and eating alone, staring out the window, tapping their foot."

But Fogarty's no High Fidelity music geek who prides himself on throwing down the most obscure top-ten lists. "I'm not really that knowledgeable about music," he says. "I don't read any music publications. It's more just dumb luck. If I like it and it has a certain listenability to it, I'll put it on there. We try to play stuff that they won't play on the radio. Or if we do use a famous song, we'll have someone else covering it in a cool way. We try to surprise people.

Sound man: Dan Fogarty and Pete the Wonder Dog.
James Glader
Sound man: Dan Fogarty and Pete the Wonder Dog.

"We've got Indian and Arabic influences, a lot of blues and New Orleans influences, tons of Brazilian and Parisian songs. Most of the artists are pretty small and unknown," continues Fogarty, who has put together 32 "Chip Mixes" CDs over the past eleven years. "It's a discovery process; we listen to everything that we can. I find a lot of stuff through my travels. I go to Brazil, to Paris."

As a result, Fogarty and Chipotle have become musical tastemakers and have to constantly update their playlists. "The tunes behave much like the food, in that they have an expiration date on them," says Chris Arnold, director of hoopla, hype and ballyhoo for Chipotle. "They're going to be constantly updated so that you don't hear the same song every time you come in."

Sometimes, however, customers would like to put the music on repeat. Chipotle has been flooded with e-mails and in-store requests to buy the soundtracks to their meals, but the company has decided not to sell a pre-packaged lifestyle. "We realized that was a little too Pottery Barn-ish," Fogarty says. "We sell tacos, not tunes. We're not trying to make an extra buck off everyone -- we just want them to like us."

Instead, Fogarty had the Chip Mix songs posted on www.chipotle.com in early March, allowing visitors to find artists they'd heard in the restaurants and then click through to Public Radio MusicSource and buy the CD. The St. Paul, Minnesota-based nonprofit donates at least 5 percent of every sale to local public-radio stations. "This is the first time that we've done anything for-profit like this," says PRMS commerce manager Edward Lube. "It's new and kind of exciting, this idea that a for-profit company like Chipotle would want to do something like this. They're not getting anything in return."

Already, the music section of Chipotle's website is getting 600 hits per day. "The word is just starting to get out," Lube says. "But hopefully, this will generate a lot of money for public radio. We're expecting good results."

Chipotle's not stopping there, however. The funk masters are bringing their music to the masses this weekend with the first Global Groove world-music festival. Held Friday and Saturday in the Central Platte Valley directly behind Union Station, the festival will feature Zimbabwe musical legend Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited, reggae and hip-hop artists Pato Banton and the Reggae Revolution, Afro-Cuban artists Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca, and a variety of other DJs and purveyors of Latin jazz, Celtic music and Asian fusion.

"We're just hoping that people will come together and open themselves up and experience some new music," says Fogarty. "That's the ultimate goal."

 
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