Getting the right musical balance to suit the mood of your customer base has always been tricky. Tony Halstead reports on some of the latest hi-tech systems that are designed to solve the problem.
Playing the right music can have a significant effect on sales and customer traffic through your pub.Alienate your customers with the wrong choice of tune and they may soon head for the exit. So striking the right note to suit the clientele profile has always been a difficult conundrum for licensees.
Fortunately the hi-tech digital age means there is no need to gamble with music and the licensee is very definitely the person in charge. Licensees can now pitch different sorts of music to different rooms in a pub and gear different music modes to different times of the day to match the tempo required by most customers — who will then be more likely to stay in your pub longer and spend more money.
Licensees need to make sure the music they play is the right genre for the pub's customer base and that it is played at the right volume, says Stefan Podolanski from Gamestec, the UK's largest distributor of jukeboxes, gaming machines and pool tables.
"Music that is too quiet can dampen the atmosphere and music that is too loud can be intrusive if customers are having a meal or a quiet drink with friends," he warns.
Jukeboxes remain a popular choice with licensees and pub-goers, with the digital jukebox gradually taking over from the traditional CD jukebox.
"Digital jukeboxes offer a number of advantages over CD jukeboxes as new music can be uploaded quickly to keep the selection fresh.
"Our exclusive Sound Station and GT Music models, developed and manufactured on our behalf by Sound Leisure, both feature 'MIMS' technology that calculates the most suitable tracks to add to the jukebox based on trends from previous paying customers, making sure you offer the right music for your venue.
"The touch-screen selection system is user friendly and can also be used for advertising to gain extra revenue. Both the Sound Station and GT Music have fully programmable background music applications," he adds.
"Not only do jukeboxes offer additional entertainment to customers, they are also a great way to increase revenue. The average jukebox will take roughly £120 a week, with some popular models making in excess of £200 a week.
"Some customers were initially reluctant to go digital due to the cost implications, but we have worked with our supplier Sound Leisure to offer the GT Music as a cost-effective choice."
There are also licensees, of course, who do not wish to install a jukebox, as they believe this will essentially hand over control of the music to customers. For these licensees Podolanski says Gamestec offers "CD sound systems for background music and are trialling an automatic background music function on our new machine management tool I-Assist."
For licensees wary of a jukebox, Hull-based Valeway Technology also offers an alternative system called Q-This. "A common gripe has also been that pre-programmed music systems do not play the right music at the right time," says Valeway's Jonpaul Wright. "But at the touch of a button the music and atmosphere changes to suit the customers who are in your venue at the time."
Operations director Paul Moss says Q-This has been a big success since its launch three years ago.
"It's all about ensuring the right background music is played at the right time of the day to the right audience in the pub.
"For example, a room full of people trying to eat a quiet lunch obviously do not want their ear drums shattered by loud rock music.
"Unfortunately, a lot of licensees cannot rely on their staff to match the music to the mood of the occasion," says Moss. "Q-This gives the licensee total control of what is played through the pub's music system with the added bonus of being able to send different music into different parts of the pub."
Get on stream with a Virtual Jukebox
Pubs can turn their existing stereo into a revenue-generating, data-gathering jukebox with The Virtual Jukebox, a service launching in the UK this summer from Jukestream.
Venues subscribing to the service are provided with a streaming music player that connects to their existing stereo system and internet connection (either wired or Wi-Fi).
Advert-free music is streamed to the venue from genres of their choosing, and played out to the public through their existing speakers.
Each venue is assigned a unique keyword so that customers can automatically request a song by sending a text message from their mobile phone. For example: JUKE123 Thriller by Michael Jackson.
Customer phone numbers are stored in the system, so that venue owners can send SMS marketing messages directly to the hands of their customers after their visit.
This can be used to promote new products, events or even run competitions. A customer can unsubscribe from the list at any time by simply sending an unsubscribe message.
Soundnet: giving control over music
Although a rough estimate from Soundnet director James Luck puts the figure of pubs with a jukebox at just 20%, it's nonetheless true that the majority do play some sort of music. As a result, Luck believes the new generation of jukeboxes can play an integral and profitable role in today's pubs.
"Hosts are wary of jukeboxes because they believe they'll be handing over all control of the music to their customers," Luck says. "However, with today's technology, you can have a great deal of control. You can limit choice to a single genre or artist at certain hours or even all the time."
The new jukeboxes can also be used as such only for certain parts of the day, which means the rest of the time, if you wish, they can just do background music. This means background music becomes a source of revenue not an expense.
"When sited and managed well, a jukebox can earn between £80 and a £100 gross profit per week," Luck says. "We've got some sites where that figure rises to £250."