Meeting Modern Music Head-on On-premise

Advancements in on-premise entertainment—specifically at the jukebox—have been fast and furious over the last decade, challenging not only providers but also bar owners to keep up with the rapid pace that today’s consumers demand and expect.

When you really think about it, not too long ago your jukebox was physically spinning CDs. Perhaps you can even recall them spinning vinyl records, and if so, congratulations on your long, long career in the bar business. But since the day we hit Y2K, the lightning speed with which jukebox technology and on-premise entertainment options have morphed and advanced is really quite amazing. Gone are the vinyl platters, replaced by digitized music, jukebox photography, and live event streaming, just to name a few—and all conceived at a rather rapid pace.

“Things have been happening faster, for sure,” agrees Marc Felsen, Vice President of Corporate Marketing for TouchTunes. “The primary reason, as far as TouchTunes is concerned, is that we are not going to let technology in this space pass us by—and in passing us by, thereby pass the entire industry by.”
That kind of mission statement has put TouchTunes at the forefront of modern jukebox innovation on-premise, having introduced over the past few years its PhotoBooth and Karaoke platforms, a powerful mobile app, and most recently TouchTunes Presents, which in 2014 aims to stream major music events and concerts to customer locations. All of these advancements—and those to come this year (TouchTunes will make a major announcement about a new program at next month’s Amusement Expo in Las Vegas)—are part of the company’s continuous efforts to stay in touch with consumers and ahead of the curve for their locations.

“Consumer electronics and consumer gadgets and their social interaction has all been changing very fast over the last five or ten years, and we need to keep up with that,” says Felsen. “We can’t just assume that what was good for the last 20 years or 50 years is going to be good for the next five. Things are changing much too fast for that. And that’s how industries get left behind. ”

In fact, just last month, Megatouch LLC announced it would cease all development and production of its coin-op touchscreen terminals and associated hardware after 35 years in business. The Megatouch Live, ML-1 terminal, and ION software updates are all being discontinued.

“For some amount of time, there has been waning marketing demand for Megatouch hardware and software,” CEO Mike Maas told RePlay Magazine, noting that revenues had fallen “well below what it costs to develop, maintain and support the products. We’ve been dreading this day, but this is the end of Megatouch as we know it.”

While there are surely many factors leading to such a decision, especially considering a three-decade run of success for the Megatouch gaming systems, consumer experience and expectations require companies to stay aware and react to the changing needs of their customers to hopefully avoid such a fate.

“That is not something we want to have happen in our space, and we work very hard to keep ourselves moving forward and being not just up-to-speed with technology but ahead of that curve,” says Felsen. “We look at what’s happening technologically and how we need to adapt, but also what’s happening socially that we need to be aware of. How are people behaving differently? Not just our 30- and 40- and 50-year-old customers, but our 21- and 22- and 25-year-old customers, because there is more of a gap between them then there used to be. There are different expectations there. And it’s our challenge to make sure that our products and services are right for that entire audience. And that’s what has been driving us.”

TouchTunes, by all means, had a strong 2013. Felsen cites growth in the company’s location network and expansion of their new services throughout that collective. Yet for 2014, “we’re looking at the next wave of innovation from TouchTunes,” he says. “Overall, our goal is to provide the best music service that we can, and the best music service available, from a consumer point of view—finding the music they want and making it an engaging experience and making it relevant through the on-screen experience both at the jukebox and on mobile devices—and to make it a positive growth engine for our customers and for the locations, where they are able to grow revenue through the use of the music service.”

The company hit a lot of those goals in 2013, with its Virtuo digital jukebox becoming the flagship hardware upon which innovative platforms like PhotoBooth, Karaoke, and the TouchTunes mobile app operate in creating a broad, interactive experience for end-users.

Felsen recognizes that most bar owners may night have the time to stay ahead of the technology. “Our value proposition is that consumer sentiment and their expectations of what they want when they go out is changing very quickly,” says Felsen. “And it’s hard for a location to keep up on their own. So our job is to always be innovating and to be thinking about what is right for a consumer; what are the different choices that will make them feel like they’re having an experience that integrates with the rest of what they’re doing in their social lives and with their friends when they’re out? Our value proposition is this: Let us do the innovation and you can benefit from those efforts as a location.”

At the core of any such integration into consumer life on-premise, of course, is the ubiquitous smart phone. TouchTunes has made great efforts, through its own branded mobile app, to bring each client location into that world regardless of their own shortcomings when it comes to an online presence.

“We tell our locations that they should be looking at ways to become more mobile-enabled,” says Felsen. “A lot of locations now have Wi-Fi but they’re not really participating—they don’t have their own apps or anything else that makes them a mobile-enabled location. But our app is their app. When someone comes in and pulls up the TouchTunes app and uses it to interact with the jukebox, that makes that location special and makes it a fun place to go. Your customers can listen to music in a cool new way and they can see what’s playing, who else is there, build their own playlist, etc. All that functionality is enabled on the app—and the location becomes part of that. That’s a big selling point. The bar can participate in the customer’s desire to interact in general—with everything they do—using their mobile device.”

The on-premise music and entertainment scene continues to be a blur. “That’s the reason TouchTunes tries to innovate as quickly as we do, so we can stay ahead of that fast-moving curve,” says Felsen.

Are you ready to keep up with them?