The traditional jukebox has had a major digital revamp, and now gets its own national day in the USA.
The US-based interactive music platform TouchTunes has teamed up with National Day Calendar to designate a National Jukebox Day, to take place on the fourth Wednesday of November. The occasion will be observed each year on the day before the American Thanksgiving holiday, which TouchTunes identifies as “one of the biggest bar nights of the year as Americans flock to their hometowns for the Thanksgiving weekend”. This year’s National Jukebox Day will be celebrated on 23 November 2016.
To get National Jukebox Day off to a fast start, TouchTunes will call attention to the inaugural observance with promotions for operators and patrons of its networked digital downloading jukeboxes. The Jukebox Selfie Contest will encourage users to post a photo with a TouchTunes jukebox to Twitter or Instagram for a chance to win a year of free TouchTunes jukebox credits. In a parallel program, TouchTunes plans to crowdsource song recommendations for a National Jukebox Day playlist, enabling social media fans and followers to help curate an ultimate list of “jukebox anthems.”
Finally, TouchTunes is assembling a Social Media Fun Kit to help operators, locations and patrons to get involved in ensuring that everyone knows it’s National Jukebox Day.
That the first celebration of National Jukebox Day falls on November 23 is historically appropriate. Jukebox historian John Krivine claimed that Louis T. Glass demonstrated his first coin-operated phonograph in San Francisco’s Palais Royal Restaurant on 23 November 1889. This instrument was a precursor of the machines that – bolstered by reliable motors, disc selection mechanisms and vacuum-tube amplification – launched the modern jukebox industry in the 1920s.
Flash forward 120 years, the Internet jukebox remains a central part of the music scene in bars and taverns all over the world, thanks to the development of new products and services that have kept pace with consumer trends, and has sometimes been ahead of them. But TouchTunes chief executive Charles Goldstuck cautions that the cost to stay on top of technology trends and the increasing complexity of music licensing structures in the digital era are applying increasing pressures on the jukebox industry.
“Operator earnings in most amusement machine categories have been decreasing for the past seven years,” said Goldstuck. “But music has been the exception, with average weekly revenue generated by TouchTunes jukeboxes increasing over the same period, despite difficult industry conditions, and the significant increase in the number of TouchTunes locations. We were able to achieve this by consistently investing in new products and services.”
TouchTunes offers two smart jukebox systems that run on the latest version of its Open Stage operating system. Virtuo, its flagship box, was introduced in 2011, and the compact Playdium two and a half years ago. The TouchTunes mobile app, which is compatible with the company’s entire North American fleet of 65 000 boxes, has been downloaded over 5.7 million times and has about 2.2 million active users.
One of the biggest challenges facing the industry is the steady rise of music licensing fees. TouchTunes and other jukebox music providers are required to license music rights from public performance organizations (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and GMR), music publishers and record labels. “Music licensing rates in general have increased significantly as the music industry has transitioned from traditional CD sales to digital and streaming models,” Goldstuck said.
The TouchTunes chief executive said the upward movement in licensing rates for jukeboxes will also continue, just like it has for streaming and other digital services, affecting companies like Pandora, Spotify and Apple. In today’s market, the music industry actively looks for high royalty payments. Of every dollar that Spotify brings in, according to music industry analysts, about 75¢ goes right back out in the form of payments to labels and publishers.
Jukebox operators have in general been shielded from these fees since the introduction of the first digital boxes in 1999. TouchTunes, for its part, did not change the subscription rate charged to its operators during the first 12 years its boxes were online. However, the latest round of music fee negotiations with the licensing community will likely again result in higher royalty rates and will affect the entire channel.
“The music licensing dynamic for the jukebox industry is getting more daunting,” Goldstuck said. “Traditional coin-op, which relies heavily on music, will be impacted by our new licensing reality.”
Goldstuck said TouchTunes will continue to invest in research and development, and plans to launch a new suite of products in the next 18 months. Operators will get a first look at the new developments before the second annual National Jukebox Day, which will be observed on 22 November 2017.
Online retail gets real
After decades of experience in selling online, retailers still seek out the secret of reaching the digital consumer, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
It’s been 23 years since the first pizza and the first bunch of flowers was sold online. One would think, after all this time, that retailers would know exactly what works, and exactly how the digital consumer thinks.
Yet, in shopping-mad South Africa, only 4% of adults regularly shop online. One could blame high data costs, low levels of tech-savviness, or lack of trust. However, that doesn’t explain why a population where more than a quarter of people have a debit or credit card and almost 40% of people use the Internet is staying away.
The new Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Visa and Platinum Seed, reveals that growth is in fact healthy, but is still coming off a low base. This year, the total sale of retail products online is expected to pass the R14-billion mark, making up 1.4% of total retail.
This figure represents 25% growth over 2017, and comes after the same rate of growth was seen in 2017. At this rate, it is clear that online retail is going mainstream, driven by aggressive marketing, and new shopping channels like mobile shopping.
But it is equally clear that not all retailers are getting it right. According to the study, the unwillingness of business to reinvest revenue in developing their online presence is one of the main barriers to long-term success. Only one in five companies surveyed invested more than 20% of their online turnover back into their online store. Over half invested less than 10% back.
On the surface, the industry looks healthy, as a surprisingly high 71% of online retailers surveyed say they are profitable. But this brings to mind the early days of Amazon.com, in 1996, when founder Jeff Bezos was asked when it would become profitable.
He declared that it would not be profitable for at least another five years. And if it did, he said, it would be in big trouble. He meant that it was so important for long-term sustainability that Amazon reinvest all its revenues in customer systems, that it could not afford to look for short-term profits.
According to the South African study, the single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer service. A vast majority, 98% of respondents, regarded it as important. This positions customer service as the very heart of online retail. For Amazon, investment back into systems that would streamline customer service became the key to the world’s digital wallets.
In South Africa online still make up a small proportion of overall retail, but for the first time we see the promise of a broader range of businesses in terms of category, size, turnover and employee numbers. This is a sign that our local market is beginning to mature.
Clothing and apparel is the fastest growing sector, but is also the sector with the highest turnover of businesses. It illustrates the dangers of a low barrier to entry: the survival rate of online stores in this sector is probably directly opposite to the ease of setting up an online apparel store.
A fast-growing category that was fairly low on the agenda in the past, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, has benefited from the increased online supply of vapes, juices and accessories. It also suggests that smoking bans, and the change in the legal status of marijuana during the survey, may have boosted demand.
In the coming weeks, we can expect online retail to fall under the spotlight as never before. Black Friday, a shopping tradition imported “wholesale” from the United States, is expected to become the biggest online shopping day of the year in South Africa, as it is in the USA.
Initially, it was just a gimmick in South Africa, attempting to cash in on what was a purely American tradition of insane sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. It is followed by Cyber Monday, making the entire weekend one of major promotions and great bargains.
It has grown every year in South Africa since its first introduction about six years ago, and last year it broke into the mainstream, with numerous high profile retailers embracing it, and many consumers experiencing it for the first time.
It is now positioned as the prime bargain day of the year for consumers, and many wait in anticipation for it, as they do in the USA. Along with Cyber Monday, it provides an excuse for retailers to go all out in their marketing, and for consumers to storm the display shelves or web pages. South African shoppers, clearly, are easily enticed by bargains.
Word of mouth around Black Friday has also grown massively in the past two years, driven by both media and shoppers who have found ridiculous bargains. As news spreads that the most ridiculous of the bargains are to be had online, even those who were reticent of digital shopping will be tempted to convert.
The Online Retail in SA 2019 report has shown over the years that, as people become more experienced in using the Internet, their propensity to shop online increases. This is part of the World Wide Worx model known as the Digital Participation Curve. The key missing factor in the Curve is that most retailers do not know how to convert that propensity into actual online shopping behaviour. Black Friday will be one of the keys to conversion.
Carry on reading to find out about the online retailers of the year.
Reliable satellite Internet?
MzansiSat, a satellite-Internet business, aims to beam Internet connections to places in South Africa which don’t have access to cabled and mobile network infrastructure, writes BRYAN TURNER.
Stellenbosch-based MzansiSat promises to provide cheap wholesale Internet to Internet Service Providers for as little as R25 per Gigabyte. Providers who offer more expensive Internet services could benefit greatly from partnering with MzansiSat, says the company.
“Using MzansiSat, we hope that we can carry over cost-savings benefits to the consumer,” says Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat chief operating officer.
The company, which has been spun off from StellSat, has been looking to increase its investor portfolio while it waits for spectrum approval. The additional investment will allow MzansiSat’s satellite to operate in more regions across Africa.
The MzansiSat satellite is being built by Thales Alenia Space, a French company which is also acting as technical partner to MzansiSat. In addition to building the satellite, Thales Alenia Space will also be assisting MzansiSat in coordinating the launch. The company intends to launch the satellite into the 56°E orbital slot in a geostationary orbit, which enables communication almost anywhere in Africa. The launch is expected to happen in 2022.
The satellite will have 76 transponders, 48 of which will be Ku-band and 28 C-band. Ku-band is all about high-speed performance, while C-band deals with weather-resistance. The design intention is for customers of MzansiSat to choose between very cheap, reliable data and very fast, power-efficient data.
C-band is an older technology, which makes bandwidth cheaper and almost never affected by rain but requires bigger dishes and slower bandwidth compared to Ku-band connections. On the other hand, Ku-band is faster, experiences less microwave interference, and requires less power to run – but is less reliable with bad weather conditions.
MzansiSat’s potential military applications are significant, due to the nature of the military being mobile and possibly in remote areas without connectivity. Connectivity everywhere would be potentially be life-saving.
Consumers in remote areas will benefit, even though satellite is higher in latency than fibre and LTE connections. While this level of latency is high (a fifth of a second in theory), satellite connections are still adequate for browsing the Internet and watching online content.
The Internet of Things (IoT) may see the benefits of satellite Internet before consumers do. The applications of IoT in agriculture are vast, from hydration sensors to soil nutrient testers, and can be realised with an Internet connection which is available in a remote area.
Stephanopoli says that e-learning in remote areas can also benefit from MzansiSat’s presence, as many school resources are becoming readily available online.
“Through our network, the learning experience can be beamed into classrooms across the country to substitute or complement local resources within the South African schooling system.”