I’m feeling guilty that I’ve been neglecting my blog for the last few months.  Time flies when you are having fun and I’ve been engrossed in developing a new offer with Immedia Broadcast, who lead the UK in the design and delivery of bespoke live radio solutions for commercial enterprises.

Having set the bar for the last ten years in the high-ticket radio  and TV solutions that have made them famous Immedia are keen to apply their skills and experience to the volume end of the market and I’ve been working with the  amazing technical, radio production and music psychology experts in Newbury in the South of England, to create what we have called Dreamstream, an off-the-peg music solution that smaller businesses can access for a minimal monthly subscription.  It’s still a work in progress, but take a look and let me know what you think of it so far.  www.dreamstream.co.uk

The journey has been fascinating and among the interesting processes we have encountered along the way, we commissioned a significant research piece that involved talking to 800 small store proprietors.  This as a bit of an eye-opener and maybe a pointer to why our small stores aren’t always realising their potential.

While I’m used to retailers in the US and elsewhere, who, regardless of their size, already recognise the business case behind in-store music, their UK counterparts definitely need help joining the dots.  There’s research everywhere (and its a fundamental of my “Brandships” principle) to establish beyond doubt that music, that reinforces and reflects your brand will make customers feel at home.  It also shows that as a result of this they stick around longer in the store and return more frequently and we all know that once you have achieved this you’ll see an increase in sales.

There’s another angle to the in-store music argument though and that’s the impact it has on employees.  Those of us who have worked with this tool will know that store staff are responsible for a lot of the complaints about in-store music.  It’s also often the employees who exacerbate the problem by messing around with the content and volume in the stores where they work.  However, retailers that get their music right will find that their employees are energised and more enthusiastic about their work and this in turn increases productivity and sales.  Its pretty conclusive – increased customer propensity and greater employee engagement and there are case studies on the Internet where retailers have shown increases of 20% in sales just from music, without any announcements or commercials.

Sadly, some UK independents remain sceptical.  Our research even found a few who believed that in-store music actually had a detrimental effect on business.  The reason for these opinions can only stem from their experience of some of the absolutely awful in-store music that we hear in the UK.  I think there’s a major education challenge facing the sector and, with current challenges of the new economy, and the drift towards “clone towns” we need to get cracking on this quickly.

It beggars belief that a cash-strapped shopkeeper will pay more than £300 each year on PPL and PRS music licences, only to waste it by playing local radio or worse still the dregs of their own music collections.  Music that works is the product of the marriage of science and art that you can only get from professionals.  These small businesses need to understand that the DIY approach is a recipe for disaster and local radio is not going to do it for them either.

UK independent retailers have a long way to go to catch up with their counterparts in the US and until they understand how to make the most of the opportunities like in-store music that are definitely available to them, their self-pity and claims of a market biased toward multiples aren’t going to receive much sympathy.

Michael Weaver
December 5, 2010

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