Why your iPod doesn’t cut it.

Stuart Watters is a Director of Morph TV and consults for Nightlife Music.

Done right, an inspired selection of music can elevate the most rustic watering hole to greatness. Done wrong, a music playlist can drag the most chic digs to the depths of kitsch. Music can tie all the design elements of a venue together, while constantly morphing to suit the mood and tempo. But this adaptability is reliant on the quality and flexibility of the playlists, and just as importantly, the way they’re delivered. So the big question is: how far can you get on your own with an iPod or Streaming Service? When do you need to bring in the specialists? And what are the rewards for making that investment in your music?

With many venues looking to cut costs, the use of consumer streaming services and DIY iPod-style playlists have their attractions; but beware. As the old adage goes: ‘you have to spend money to make money’; combine that with another aphorism, ‘you get what you pay for’, and you begin to get the idea. Indeed, many operators aren’t aware that the commercial use of streaming services is not legal at all, and believe me, that’s not a negotiation you want to enter into. (Looking through the terms and conditions of every streaming service in Australia, not one offers a license for commercial use, and who wants to be the test case in such an action?) Keeping up with the licensing for an iPod is onerous and be prepared for some serious ‘bill shock’.


Licensing legalities is but the tip of the iceberg. Whether it’s an iPod or a streaming service, the cost of devoting a staff member’s time to maintaining playlists can quickly add up, often far costlier than most music services. Perhaps that’s why a good DJ can charge $5000+ a night for their services — because they’ve spent the time to create a brand based on seamless continuity. And this is what you should be demanding of your venue’s playlist. Having access to specialist knowledge in designing a music brief specific to your venue provides continuity resulting in new patrons, while keeping regulars staying longer and coming back more often. This is not something radio or internet-based radio services can even contemplate with their current ‘one-way’ structure; while streaming services and iPods are too cumbersome to manage given the total lack of integrated scheduling. Put simply: creating seamless and bespoke playlists is quite expensive and onerous unless you can harness the scale and know-how of the experts.


Leaving aside the legalities for a moment it is worth considering the many other shortcomings of streaming services and iPods. There are massive jumps in volume between tracks because none of the consumer services normalise their content, or use compression, cue points, or beat waves: which means you almost always need someone keeping an eye on the volume and the mix. Music providers like Nightlife Music have made an art out of creating seamless transitions, with carefully considered cue points, beat wave and compression algorithms, and studio normalisation among many other aspects that create a seamless experience. It is the lack of commercial tools like this in consumer products that people may not notice until it all goes horribly wrong in public. When bad transitions between tracks combine with significant volume differences the affect is very jarring; and with no filters for explicit content, things can go from bad, to worse, to unbearable at any point in time. Sound quality can also be a further issue, especially if the device required to play content is not up to date and in perfect operating condition. And when things do go wrong with consumer solutions, in most cases you are on your own because 24/7 on-call support is only offered by purpose specific commercial music providers. What’s more an influential coterie of artists hold out from streaming services on moral grounds, a fact that can leave you red faced when a punter reasonably requests their favourite Radiohead or Pink Floyd song. I think you get the message: taking short cuts gets noticed (in the wrong way), and music matters.


Even after considering all of these factors, I believe the main point of difference lies in the visual content. With streaming services lacking any visual function and iPods physically unable, venues are left to use only half of their audio-visual capabilities, without running into further chaos on both licensing and operational fronts. Music video, digital advertising and ambient visual content like Red Bull’s extreme sports and Fashion TV are the standard by which others are measured, and screen real estate is simply priceless. Having the ability to create dynamic and interactive visual messaging while balancing multiple channels of video, really comes into perspective when combined with a custom-designed music brief. Nightlife’s Manage My Nightlife App takes this up a notch again giving venue managers the power to adjust any aspect of the audio and visual content in real time from anywhere in a venue, on a phone, or tablet touchscreen POS device.

With a commercial-specific music provider you get the right kind of music, delivered through complex and unique scheduling systems that understand your business model. This is then comprehensively supported by industry leading professionals in music and video production. IT, licensing and service, who are all just a phone call away…


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