Music in Pubs, Clubs and Bars (ok in Retail and Hotels too!)

Adrian J Cotterill, Editor-in-Chief

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 applicable necessarily to Grocers and Convenience Stores) 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. Imagesound’s music revenues must now be huge – this sort-of business is all about economies of scale.

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.

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.

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 lesiure 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, Kaleidovision) and the threat they pose to those wishing to compete in the retail and lesiure screen network sectors.

In the UK, Buzztime, Mediatheme and IntaTV all need to scale quickly or become 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 some of the high street retail sectors too.

One Response to “Music in Pubs, Clubs and Bars (ok in Retail and Hotels too!)”

  1. Adrian J Cotterill Says:

    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.

    Julian Treasure
    The Sound Agency Ltd

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