As well as generating revenue, music can make or break a venue’s atmosphere.
So should you opt for a jukebox, or a streamed music service?
Jon Bruford investigates.
Music can be stirring, inspirational, create an emotional response from nothing – or it can drive a customer to the exit door without them necessarily realising on a conscious level why.
If it’s used well, it can ensure that a leisure venue or shop attracts exactly the demographic it seeks, and equally importantly, keeps them there. You only have to visit a retailer like Topshop to see how effective music can be at cementing brand identity and adding to the customer’s experience.
Immedia, a company specialising in music strategy and implementation, is at the forefront of creating the right experience for your customer. CEO Bruno Brookes, a former Radio 1 DJ, explains: “It’s all about experience. The consumer now, wherever they go, they’re looking for experience. If you have five fashion stores in a row and one of them has an experience that is five times better than the others, and that experience fits my profile, I would rather be in that environment than in the ones that don’t fit that. It’s about feeling comfortable and that you are part of the brand, the retailer or venue, and what they offer.
“There are many ways to do this. Stacking shelves and box-shifting has long gone as a retail concept, and there are plenty of examples on the high street. Apple and many others have proved that point.”
How, then, does music contribute to this creation of an experience? The key differences between the jukebox and streamed solution are simple: the jukebox takes money, while a streamed, tailored solution allows you to market your brand to every site visitor. There are good reasons to explore the potential of both, depending on what you want to deliver to your customers – but surprisingly, streamed music as well as a jukebox can actually help increase revenue.
A bowling alley, for example, might struggle to deliver a solution that pleases all the members of its core customer base – families. But there are still ways to deliver a music message, says Brookes: “We have to understand what it is that you as a business are trying to achieve; whether you’re looking to create the sound of a bowling alley or whether you’re looking to try and create something experiential for each player in that bowling alley environment.
“For a bowling alley, it depends what experience you want your customers to have. To bowl, obviously, maybe to eat something, drink something, hang out with some friends, see some digital screen content, music and other elements you can add in – it depends how far you want to go. Some businesses don’t think it’s that important to offer a sophisticated sound experience, but we might recommend otherwise.
“With Wi-Fi and other network communication offers available, there are a number of ways you can select different channels. A bowling alley could provide headphones for customers that can play Wi-Fi radio so they can select channels and listen to their favourite music, which includes promotions for that bowling alley while they play.”
21st century jukebox
In defence of jukeboxes, however, they have come a long way in recent years, with advances including Inspired’s networked jukebox and the latest leap forward, Sound Leisure’s VenueHub.
That firm’s Christopher Black explains what you get with the modern jukebox: “You get a lot more than when people think of CD-based machines; basically it’s a PC with a touchscreen and a coin mechanism. As a manufacturer or as an end user, you can decide what you want to do with that PC the same way as you can in any other walk of life.
“The modern machine can be as simple as a machine that hangs on the wall, someone puts a coin in and it plays music. But at the other end of the scale you’ve got machines like our new VHub [VenueHub] that has every chart track from the 1940s to the present day, and can have the top ten videos on from 1978 to the present day; we’ve just done a tie-up with LastFM as well, which takes the functionality of the jukebox to whole new places. It’s a huge music social networking site, where you sign up at home or on your iPhone or whatever you want to listen to music on, and you can stream this service in.
“Each time you play a track it notes the track and ‘scrobbles’ it, the term for analysing what you’re playing so suggestions for other artists you might like can be given. When you go into the bar or wherever the jukebox is, you can have all the music you like at home there because you can enter your password and use it as an extension of your LastFM identity.
“And because the jukebox is also scrobbling, it then forms a ‘radio station’ so you can make friends with that pub, and you can hear the type of music they play at the bar in your own home. It’s a real social networking step for LastFM as well. This is the first time it’s ever been put on a commercial jukebox; it’s the first stage of what we’re doing but it opens up lots of doors for us. We’ve been working on it for two years now, we’re very excited about launching it.”
The company also recently said that the VHub was breaking cash box records over the holiday period, with a number of locations taking more than £475 a week; this suggests that the integration of social networking is being embraced by users, in a big way.
It’s this leap forward that is allowing the jukebox to compete with foreground music systems (music that is intended to be actively listened to, as opposed to background music), alongside greater functionality for the venue as well as the customer. Black adds: “Over the last few years, a lot of modern bars have been putting foreground music in over jukeboxes, because there’s a myth that a foreground music system can do what a jukebox can’t. To be fair, both systems are basically a PC, touchscreen and video screen. But jukeboxes now offer a lot more interactivity; we can profile the music in a similar way to a foreground music system, so we can decide at certain times of day what music is suitable, and we can remove unsuitable tracks. The other thing we offer is, each time someone puts money into the machine, they are unlikely to leave the site until their song has been played, so they stay longer.
“We’ve done tests with customers where jukeboxes have been put into lively bars, but we’ve put them in on free play. What’s been happening is, the bar is taking more money than they did previously because customers are coming in and putting music on, and waiting to listen to their songs. It’s a kind of ownership from the customer, rather than having a quick drink and moving on.”
Adding revenue generation to the welcoming feel that the right music gives a venue might just prove irresistible. Immedia’s Bruno Brookes concludes: “It’s not dissimilar from my last career – it’s all about understanding your audience. In order to be able to build audiences on national radio stations like Radio 1, you have to understand what your audience wants and try to exceed their expectations.”
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