Reggae or lullaby? Stamford startup plays soothing tunes for pets

There may be more than a few dogs in Greenwich who love lullabies, but you can consider Miles Davis leading the pack.

And dog owner Derrick Garnett promises many more will follow, as he rolls out his Zoundz Music for Pets app as a streaming service with calming tunes to help people and pets – and their vets – to connect better.

The idea for Zoundz Music for Pets came to Garrett two years ago when a neighbor from Greenwich, who is a veterinarian, described the difficulties calming nervous dogs and cats at the clinic.

A veteran of the music industry, Garrett pondered the possibilities of creating soothing sheet music for veterinary clinics, as well as pet grooming services and animal shelters. He discovered a body of research on which combinations might work best and contacted some of these experts.

With the concept in hand, it was easy to realize that the service could expand into the home, helping people connect better with their pets. Garrett rents space at the Serendipity Labs office in Stamford while he develops Zoundz.

“Animals don’t know if they’re listening to rock or reggae, but there are parameters in the music that they react to such as the frequencies, tempo or key in which a song is written,” Garrett said. “There’s a big misconception for a lot of people who even recognize that music can calm your dog or cat: they immediately think classic. … There are some classic pieces of music that will fall within the settings of the right key, the right tempo, the right frequency – but that’s hit and miss.

He’s built a music catalog using independent musicians that Zoundz streams on a subscription app, for a few dollars a month. Music is differentiated for cats and dogs, and categorized through channels designed to encourage specific responses in pets.

Garrett learned about the animal kingdom in his youth, first in Hamden where he spent his early years, and then in Virginia after his father moved the family to establish a working farm. He was interested in tandem music, playing drums in a rock band with high school friends before quickly turning to soundboard management during performances.

He then studied audio engineering at Full Sail University in Florida, before landing a job at the famous Clinton Recording Studios in New York. Garrett agreed to become a chief engineer for a small studio in Mamaroneck, NY, then started his own production company called Roundhouse Media which began producing music for large advertising campaigns.

His career took a turn while vacationing in Mexico. As Garrett recounts, the resort restaurant was playing a song he thought was pretty ugly, but when he went by the pool the piped music was much better. The playlist was repetitive there and in other parts of the complex. The opportunity came to him to produce extensive sheet music for hotels and resorts, with differentiated music for separate zones and dramatically expanded playlists. He eventually adopted the term “musical architecture” to describe the service.

“It’s way beyond muzak – it’s about strategically bringing music together based on the audience the complex is trying to target,” Garrett said. “The different areas, the time of day, even the restaurant looking at the menu – we really took a deep dive. … That’s when Roundhouse really changed and we started to focus on resorts.

Roundhouse continues today, but Garrett now spends much of his time getting Zoundz off the ground. It aims to launch the first full version of Zoundz Music for Pets by November on the App Store and Google Play, with a 15-day free trial. Those who don’t subscribe to the full service at this point can still access just one pet music channel for free.

“Ultimately our goal is to affect cats and dogs in a positive way,” Garrett said. “Music is such a powerful tool. … Our hope is that Zoundz becomes the genre – that when people think of music to calm pets, they think of Zoundz.

[email protected]; 203-842-2545; @casoulman

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