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Digital jukeboxes put vast choice at your customers’ fingertips – and offer new opportunities to engage them
Published:  28 September, 2011

For some venues, music is simply a mood-setter, or a way to smooth over intrusive background noise. But for many others, it’s a valuable revenue stream – and with consumers now accustomed to a huge and easily manipulable range of sounds on their personal devices, they’re demanding the same from jukeboxes.

Consider, for example, the experience of Lakerose Leisure, an operator based in the seaside town of Peacehaven, near Brighton. Supplying music technology as well as gaming machines to pubs and clubs in the southeast of England, last year it finally replaced its very last CD-based jukebox with a Sound Leisure model using that firm’s VenueHub system and Milestones in Music library.

Said Lakerose’s managing director Terry Read: “We have been so impressed with the increase in cash box from our digital jukeboxes that we have gradually replaced our entire estate of CD jukeboxes in order to maximise revenues. The Milestones in Music technology, combined with music packages from Soundnet, makes a winning combination. It will be a relief not to have to update CDs any more.”

And Read’s positive report was underlined by Sound Leisure’s own managing director, Chris Black: “This is an endorsement that proves that digital does make a difference to the bottom line. We urge any other operators who are still servicing CD boxes to consider whether they could benefit from a change to digital as well.”

Indeed, Sound Leisure’s system – like TAB Austria’s, featured in our box headed A World of Music – shows just how far the provision of music has come since the firm started selling traditional jukebokes three decades ago.

At its core is VenueHub, a digital jukebox available in two cabinets – the P23 and P32 – each with portrait-format touchscreen. But VenueHub is not just a product for playing music; it’s also a platform on which new applications can be created, to deliver more features or different kinds of content, or to customise the consumer’s experience by presenting a branded interface.

It’s designed so that while customers new to the system can quickly get to grips with it, those more accustomed to VenueHub can employ other techniques – drawn from PC and smartphone interfaces – to navigate and choose music, for example by swiping the screen to scroll pages, or using a drag-and-drop search mechanism.

There are plenty of features serving to introduce customers to new music, too, as well as helping them find their favourites. For example, the most popular tracks in a given genre can be listed. Searching returns slight variations on the search string – for example, the company says, searches for “Jay Z” or “JayZ” will both return results for the rapper Jay-Z – and spell-checking also helps eliminate errors. Customers can build playlists of multiple songs, and ask VenueHub to suggest tracks from similar artists for possible inclusion.

From a management point of view, too, VenueHub takes full advantage of the flexibility that digital offers. Visually, the interface can be customised with colours and images. The full screen or portions can be used for advertising, and VenueHub can also deliver content other than music – for example, quiz and bingo applications come as standard, and other apps can be developed.

Charts and minds

Then, of course, there’s the music – far more, again, than a conventional jukebox could possibly offer. The Milestones in Music package includes every UK Top 40 track since 1952, stored locally on the hard disk, while the optional Unlimited feature adds a further 5m tracks online.

Sound Leisure continues to develop VenueHub: the latest major enhancement is the launch of the P32 version with 32-inch screen. Said Black: “The machine is based on the award-winning P23 VenueHub that has caused a real stir within the jukebox sector since its launch in June. However, some customers requested a larger version at the EAG show and following the release of the P23 we got straight on with the P32 development.”

But the potential of digital music isn’t just about flashier hardware and wider choice. Venues and music providers can also react quickly to current events and offer exactly the content that’s likely to be in demand. After the sudden death earlier this year of singer Amy Winehouse, for example, Sound Leisure’s exclusive jukebox content supplier Soundnet made a tribute playlist of her tracks available for free to Milestones in Music users.

“Amy Winehouse always topped our digital pay-per-play music charts and like everyone else we were looking forward to the release of her new album and hoping to see her back on form,” said Soundnet’s James Luck. The 11-year-old company serves more than 15,000 sites, including Mitchells & Butlers, Marston’s and Greene King pubs.

“When music hits the headlines, we know there is a demand to see this reflected in our jukeboxes’ content. In the past, we have created special playlists in situations like this and offered them free of charge as an extra service to our customers. We did this to honour Michael Jackson and also to celebrate the release of The Beatles Remastered album,” he added.

That’s something that would have been all but impossible in pre-digital days – and another way that venues can use music to develop customer involvement and differentiate themselves from the competition.

Just for kids

Not all sound is music. At Ikea’s Helsingborg and Västerås outlets in Sweden, for example, a new sound installation in the Kid’s Corner children’s play area uses directional speakers from Panphonics to entertain youngsters with fairy tales. The Sound Shower speakers enable audio to be targeted at specific spots to minimise distraction in the rest of the store.

“There is an increasing demand among retailers for immersive audio and video experiences that ensure customer engagement, and the IKEA installation is a pure sensory extension of the company brand,” said Thomas Folland, CEO of Ljudbyrån, the firm which designed the project. “The Panphonics speakers are amazingly efficient; they deliver clear, directed audio in a way that ideally complements room design, and fulfils the Ikea mission in an economical fashion.”

After installation in the Swedish stores by Electrosound, the technology is now likely to be deployed at further sites worldwide. “Ikea has always made the store a part of its customers’ lives, and with directional audio, we can create a more personalised experience inside what is a fun play area,” said Kari Mettala, CEO of Panphonics. “Maximising audio effectiveness and combining this approach with a memorable multi-sensory experience is integral to the Ikea store concept.”

Training day

Sound Leisure is running a technical training day on 18 October at its Leeds factory to take customers – including both engineering and managerial staff – through the working of its VenueHub products. Previews of new features will also be on offer. To book an appointment, contact the Sound Leisure or Soundnet sales teams.

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