06 August, 2007

Music in shops

I want to post a couple of emails here to raise the issue of what I like to call mindless music. The first is from Adrian Cotterill, editor of The Screen, an electronic publication serving the industry variously known as Out Of Home, Digital Signage and Captive Audience Networks - in other words, public TV screens in places like shops, stations, taxis and high streets.

Adrian's email demonstrates the growth in the sector, and also its relative naiveté relative to sound, and in particular music. My response suggests some rules for that industry (and indeed everyone) to follow when thinking of purveying public sound.

Adrian's post


Those of you who have been long readers / subscribers of mine or who have
attended one of my presentations will know my views on ‘music being a key
driving force behind those who wish to create the largest screen networks’ -
especially in the retail (ambience, brand factor NOT necessarily Grocers and
Convenience stores though) and captive audience (leisure industry NOT the
transport) sectors.

On Tuesday, July 31, 2007, Imagesound, the UK supplier of in-store music,
radio and TV services (retail and leisure primarily), announced that it had
acquired TSC Music Systems Ltd for £4.5 million.

Imagesound already had over 13,000 venues on its books and with this
acquisition they have added another 3,400 venues to that total. That’s a
pretty large estate in anyone’s terms.

Now, not all of those venues are screen based, a lot of the network is audio
only, the 1,000 UK McDonald audio network for example. There don’t seem to
be any exact figures available (yet) on the ratio of audio to screens but I
would guess that about 25% of the network has screens - for music videos
etc. Imagesound's music revenues must now be huge - this sort-of business
is all about economies of scale.

If you go through Imagesound’s customer base it reads as a who’s who of
retail, pubs, clubs and bars and increasingly the (more profitable)
hospitality (hotel) sector.

This is good news too for YCD who supply Imagesound with all the audio and
video based music systems of course.

Mood Media are predominantly an audio led music business as well - with
perhaps a little more of a European flavour - and increasingly with ‘wins’
like Toni&GuyTV are taking the screen business more seriously also.

Avanti Screenmedia have 3 or 4 UK networks (it depends on how you classify
their clever deal with Setanta Sports). One of these is a music offering
called Magnetic and MVN. The most recent data available for this network
shows: -

Number of screens: 4,100
Number of venues: 913
Footfall: 4.9m per week
Dwell time: 92 minutes

From a signage point of view not a bad network at all AND to be fair 100%
screen based AND with some great ‘hard-wired’ systems in place (’hard-wired’
systems are defined as those that run 100% advertising and are not
interspersed with other content, like music videos).

Kaleidovision (a privately owned company based in Hertford) have some really
good leisure brands on board and are the only signage vendor to have any
serious sized Casino and Bingo hall networks. Kaleidovision have about 1,300
venues in total with a very high percentage of those being screen based.

Avanti Screenmedia and Brightspace Media (the sister company to
Kaleidovision responsible for media sales on the Kv network) are both
blessed in being favourites of the media planning community (knowing the
right people, having delivered in the past, etc.)

The other big player in the UK is Bruno Brookes’ Immedia Broadcasting and
their Cube Music division (many of you in the UK will know Fi Ryder who
heads up Cube). Again they have some fantastic brands as customers
(including HSBC radio - which when I first heard about it I was determined
to hate but having heard it in action on more than one occasion I have to
say that it works rather well, adding to the brand and actually making the
bank branch quite a pleasant experience to be in).

My point with all of these is the sheer scale of their network operations,
especially Imagesound and Mood Media (and to a lesser degree for a private
company like Kaleidovision) and the threat they pose to those wishing to
compete in the screen network retail and lesiure sectors.

In the UK, Buzztime, Mediatheme and IntaTV all need to scale quickly or be
the best ‘niche’ players in their individual market space (IntaTV are doing
some very clever interactive initiatives and are also cross-selling
SalonInteractive, their hair dressing salon operation).

If you are a digital signage vendor and you don’t support music or do not
have a music offering you will not be able to compete in the leisure sector
and increasingly I feel you will be unable to compete in the retail sector



Adrian J Cotterill is the editor of The Screen's UK Media Sales directory
for Digital Out of Home Advertising Networks (DOOHAN)

The Screen is the Out of Home digital signage industry association. It is
based in London with members in the UK, France, India, Israel, South Africa
and the USA, see http://www.thescreen.org/

Adrian J Cotterill's Blog can be found at http://www.dailydooh.com

Fur Deutsche version gehen Sie zu http://display.innoea.de

My reply

Dear Adrian,

Interesting statistics on the growth of the music streaming business. But please as an industry let's retain a commitment to both brand differentiation (as expressed in brand experience in all five senses) and to optimising customer experience.

Brand differentiation is being diluted by one-size-fits-all streamed music. With the prevalent use of relatively homogeneous pop music as a retail veneer, we have already got so 'me-too' that in many retail outlets there is no brand if you close your eyes: your auditory experience is indistinguishable from dozens, even hundreds, of other shops. Every retail brand needs to design its own soundscape from the ground up and ensure that it's appropriate, attractive and differentiated.

At the same time customer experience is being undermined by over-messaging. We already receive thousands of promotional messages a day through eyes and ears, and according to Michael Bull's research the rise of the iPod is a direct response to this as people seek to re-establish some boundaries. Messaging in shops and leisure locations needs to obey the three golden rules: it must be targeted, appropriate and valuable. If not, we'll end up with people in bars wearing iPods! Many are already shopping with iPod in place because most retail sound is arbitrary, hostile and incongruous.

Finally, customer experience is being eroded by the increasingly widespread assumption that everyone likes jolly pop music everywhere. This is wrong both psychoacoustically (actually fast-paced music will probably reduce dwell time as it causes people to move more quickly) and subjectively: the research I've seen shows that one third like public music, one third don't care and one third hate it. The question is: does any extra spending by the positive one third outweigh the loss of trade as many of the negative one third don't even enter the space? I am not aware that anyone has answered this important question yet.

Sound is powerful. Licensed pop music is doubly powerful, coming with lots of personal associations. My advice for retailers and leisure brands is: define your brand sound and then create holistic soundscapes that optimise brand differentiation and customer experience. If music is part of that, great. But it may not be, so beware of me-too music! It could lose more customers than it gains.

all the best



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