Online radio service Pandora has partnered with marketing firm DMX to bring online streaming music and personalized song channels to businesses of all sizes, effectively immediately. A legal and customizable solution for beaming endless online tunes on-demand to retailers, restaurants and offices, the service hopes to provide entrepreneurs with a hipper alternative to Muzak.
"Music plays a vital role in the experience that someone has in any environment such as a store, hotel, spa, gym, or office," says DMX chief operating officer Chris Harrison. "It can impact time spent in the store, purchase amounts, perception of value, [customer] loyalty and the likelihood of word-of-mouth advertising. Music also represents and conveys brands' personalities to the world." In other words, he claims, in today's age of choosier customers and split-second snap judgments, even dentists and car dealerships can no longer afford to keep the dial stuck on Wham!'s greatest hits, unless milquetoast is the vibe they're looking to hit.
Access to streaming music, customizable by artist, genre or preferred song type, is made possible via a $99.95 (temporarily discounted to $74.95) set-top media player unit with $24.95/month per location subscription fee attached. Requiring a wired DSL or cable broadband Internet connection of at least 150Kbps speed to operate, systems will offer subscribers access to all Pandora artists, tracks and musical categories, including seasonal holiday jingles. Functioning in the same way as does Pandora's existing consumer service, users will be able to customize personal radio channels that reflect their taste by specifying preferred artists and acoustic genres. Optional settings further allow filtering of explicit content to daytime broadcast radio standards, so shoppers won't accidentally be subjected to Snoop Dogg's wittier, if less PC, couplets while browsing at the local optometrist.
"Ever since we launched our service, we've received inquiries from business owners large and small about offering a custom musical solution for their listeners," says Jessica Steel, EVP of business and corporate development for Pandora. "Now they finally have the opportunity to personalize the soundtrack for their establishments."
According to DMX, there's ample incentive to skip more obvious solutions such as simply putting a portable media player on shuffle as well. According to its research, nine out of ten retailers play in-store music to create a positive and pleasant atmosphere for shoppers. But of of the 6 million total businesses out there, precious few realize it's illegal for owners to play unlicensed music in commercial outlets, penalties for which carry huge fines. "When playing or performing music in public, as in your business, you must also adhere to U.S. Copyright Law and obtain and pay for proper licensing," Harrison explains. "Many people are unaware of the requirements, or think that if they've bought music (via iTunes or CD) that they have the right to play it in their business."
Of the roughly one in four retailers that currently play Internet radio or music from an iPod, studies find, most don't pay public performance fees to ASCAP or BMI, not knowing fees are attached. Beyond alleviating obvious legal risks, Harrison argues, his firm's solution is also a convenient and cost-effective way for professionals to make customers' ears perk up while putting a personal stamp on acoustics. "Pandora for business is zeroed in on the large, untapped local business market," he explains, given small business owners' more frequent and far-reaching ability to personalize in-store and office experiences than is possible with homogenized corporate chains.
As for why most still relying on instrumental covers of "Billie Jean" haven't upgraded to alternate high-tech or online solutions yet, which have previously been available, Harrison blames a variety of reasons from lack of awareness, tech savvy or perceived costs. Looking to change the status quo amongst both boutiques and chain stores alike, he claims that DMX's new solution should completely level the commercial playing field.
"Music is a critical part of the [business] experience, and owners should be more focused on it than ever," he says. "Pandora makes it simple to personalize music for clients… and DMX's media player also offers management control features to make sure that only the music you want to play is playing. You don't have to worry about losing CDs or employees throwing in one of their own that's inappropriate, or people stealing personal media players as well. It's a simple, affordable solution that's fully licensed and supports artists."