Creating the perfect in-store experience

By Annie Konieczny

Most of us have been to a high-street clothing store during a January sale where you’ve had to navigate racks of clothing of all different sizes as music –  which seemingly has no assimilation with the brand – is blasted into your ears incessantly; there’s no-one anywhere to help with anything except the student working in the fitting rooms who’s too busy anyway negotiating what looks like a whole sweatshop of unwanted try-ons, all strewn with spray tan marks; there are coffee stains on the floor, sticky clothing hangers galore and possibly someone camping in changing room five. It is these nightmarish shopping experiences which have made online outlets so attractive with their slick, visually appealing and eminently convenient user interfaces.

Whilst it’s true that bricks-and-motor businesses are competing with the sheer accessibility of online stores, recent research shows physical stores are still the primary destination for most shoppers. In the National Retail Federation (NRF’s) Winter 2017/2018 Quarter Reviewit was revealed that 21% of shoppers surveyed identified themselves as primarily online shoppers, meaning they bought more than half their purchases online. The remaining 79% said they bought half or less of the items they needed online. When PwC Global first surveyed consumers for their Global Consumer Insights Survey in 2010, they found people were making weekly purchases in physical stores at a rate of just 30% – by 2018, this rate had risen to 44%. Conversely, the survey showed online purchases dropped from 7% over the same period.

According to Retail Dive,the top reason for customers to visit a store is to see, touch, feel and try on items and, whilst these shoppers may make a purchase online later, that buying decision’s birth was in store. The International Council of Shopping Centers(ICSC), an organisation serving the global retail real estate industry, revealed in a similar study that opening a bricks-and-mortar store leads to a 37% average increase in overall traffic to a retailer’s website and grows its share of web traffic within that market by an average of 27%.

The data shows that in order to drive sales, getting customers through a physical door and into a venue space is paramount which also means that creating a unique and appealing experience has never been more important. Here at Qsic, we’ve been creating bespoke in-store experiences for our clients and their customers for the best part of a decade and the nifty methods these innovative businesses employ to make the atmosphere of their spaces truly otherworldly are our bread and butter. Here are a few we love:

  1. Interactivity

One word: McDonald’s.  The burger giant has trailblazed the use of tablets in restaurants which you can now see popping up in venues across the world. The British subsidiary of the global fast-food chain joined forces with enterprise mobility management platform, SOTI, to equip McDonald’s restaurants with Samsung Galaxy tablet devices. Customers can now check their email, scroll through Instagram as well as order and pay for food right from their tables. McDonald’s have created an experience as convenient as an eCommerce one, but in a bricks-and-mortar environment.

  1. Freebies

Tom’s flagship in Venice Beach includes a coffee shop and juice bar, and Waitrose, a UK-based supermarket, offers free coffees to customers with every purchase. Many bookshops have started incorporating cafes into their spaces where customers can read their new purchases or indeed try before they buy. Other venues have given away bunches of flowers for a few hours on Valentine’s Day, held yoga workshops or have given out burgers, all to amplify shopping experiences.

  1. ‘Retailtainment’

Topshop’s flagship store on Oxford Street in London does ‘retailtainment’ so well. Personal shopping is available free of charge and the store also includes a number of hair and beauty services ranging from brow threading to piercing. The space also includes food and drink pop-ups such as Bubbleology and Lola’s cupcakes as well as state-of-the-art VR games and even a ‘Splash’ experience where the shop’s windows were turned into an interactive pool scene where customer could ride a virtual water slide.

  1. Click-and-collect

Click-and-collect is a service that lets shoppers buy online and pick-up in store. It has taken the world by storm with shoppers and retail owners alike going crazy for it. It’s super convenient for customers and drives traffic through the door – a huge plus for retailers. Research shows that a third of US shoppers chose click and collect over the Christmas 2018 period meaning customers who may have otherwise made purchases online were instead walking through doors and into physical stores. According to the ICSC, 69% of shoppers who went in-store to pick up their orders ended up buying additional items.

  1. Walk Out Shopping

Last but certainly not least, we have Amazon Go, an initiative which is quite literally set to change the way we shop in bricks-and-mortar stores forever. In an Amazon Go convenience store, customers walk in, take the things they want and walk out, all while Amazon Go’s technology analyses everything the customer has taken using a combination of cameras, AI, machine learning and other advanced technologies in order to charge their credit cards correctly; a receipt is then sent to the customer in case he or she wants to double check any purchases. Even changes of mind are accounted for by the technology in store, such as picking something up, deciding against it, and putting it back down – customers will not be charged. All new Amazon Go shoppers need do is download the Amazing Go app and let the magic unfold. The experience takes convenience to a whole new level and feels like walking into the future.

 

 

 

The most velvety ballads ever made

By Annie Konieczny

On the blog today, a guest post from none other than Qsic’s Head of Content, Todd Watson. Both as a recording artist signed to Neon Records with a string of Top 20 singles and national radio play, and as a DJ enjoying residencies at some of Melbourne’s most prestigious clubs, Todd’s experience of the music scene is unsurpassed. Luckily for Qsic, he has funnelled this experience and passion into a body of work that now makes up the framework of the Qsic content library.

“At Qsic, we could give you a curated list of underground love-fuelled gems in preparation for Valentine’s Day to impress you with our musical chops but, let’s face it, when it comes to Valentine’s Day it’s all about roses, chocolates and the most velvety ballads ever made,” says Todd Watson.

“In respect to the creators of these romantic masterpieces, we have decided to provide the list in no particular order,” he says.

So, here’s his love-fest list that will have hearts exploding.

Al Green – Let’s Stay Together

The Beatles – Something

Michael Jackson – You Are Not Alone

Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud

Brian McKnight – Back At One

Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You

The Righteous Brothers – Unchained Melody

Barry White- Can’t Get Enough of Your Love Baby

Boyz II Men – I’ll Make Love To You

Luther Vandross & Diana Ross – Endless Love

H A P P Y   V A L E N T I N E S   D A Y  F R O M   T H E   Q S I C  T E A M

Qsic’s stars in the making 2019

By Annie Konieczny

Here at Qsic, we’re excited for some special announcements in 2019 all of which will make our clients’ lives even easier and put us firmly at the forefront of music innovation. We’ve got streamlined technology coming out, a whole new department opening and even more global expansion on the horizon. Keep your eyes open for news! At our heart though, is our deep love of music, so we thought what better way to start the new year than with a list of  artists to look out for in 2019.

Back in the day, it took a couple of years for a new artist to emerge like a phoenix rising from the ashes but, now, you can be a virtually unknown artist with a couple of popular songs on SoundCloud and resurface as megastar in a matter of weeks.

That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with the way things are moving, just a warning that there are bound to be some huge acts in 2019 who we’ve not even heard so much as a chord from yet – these days, anything is possible.

So, here’s our list. Would love to hear what you think:

1.Wafia

We had to start with an Australian-born artist. Wafia is the daughter of Iraqi and Syrian immigrants and a medical school dropout who chose instead to make insane electro-pop tunes rather than to become a doctor. She’s already made a fan out of Pharrell who plugged her track I’m Good on his Beats 1 show.

2. Ama Lou

Ama first came onto the scene with her powerful debut single TBC a couple of years back – a tune about the Black Lives Matter movement. Not only did she make her 2018 Ep DDD into a short film which has over a million views on YouTube, but she’s also just finishing touring with Jorja Smith and was Drake’s muse for his latest tune, Scorpion.

3. Giant Swan

This Bristol twosome bring high-energy, hardcore, punk, ‘techno-not-techno,’ improvisational live sets to clubs across the UK and have a dedicated following as a result of their totally unique sound.  Their recent release on the pioneering label Whities is absolutely wild with explosive drums and distorted vocals. These guys are made for massive festivals and will, no doubt, be on the big stage very soon.

4. Tenille Townes

Country Music is massive and Tenille Townes is touted as the next big thing on the scene – lucky for her if Taylor Swift’s net worth is anything to go by. Originally from Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada, she was nominated for a 2011 Canadian Country Music Award for Female Artist of the Year (she was just 17-years-old). She’s had a huge 2018 joining Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town as the opening acts on their joint The Bandwagon Tour. She also released her Living Room Worktapes EP in 2018 which features her single Somebody’s Daughter. We’re expecting big things from Tenille in 2019.

5. Badflower

These guys exploded into 2018 with the success of their single Ghost and have recently performed at the Daytime Stage at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas. They are also the first rock band to sign to fashion designer John Varvatos’ new label with the Big Machine Label Group. This year, Badflower is set to release their debut studio album OK, I’m Sick and will be touring later on in the year.

6. Yaeji House

We loved her cover of Passionfruit by Drake and here’s hoping we hear a lot more of YaejiHouses’ truly unique sound: English and Korean rap to the tune of epic house and hip-hop beats.

7. The Withers

This five-piece indie rock band from Los Angeles have a soulful, 60’s girl group, garage, funk and psychedelia feel which, as you can imagine, sounds incredible live. The band are currently making their first album with Griffin Rodriguez (Neutral Milk Hotel, Beirut, Modest Mouse, Akron Family) which should be released early in 2019.

8. Normani

Normani is an American singer and dancer best known as a member of the girl group Fifth Harmony. In 2017, her first single, the duet Love Lies with singer Khalid, recorded for the movie Love, Simon soundtrack, reached number nine on the US Billboard Hot 100. She’s currently working on her debut solo album.

9. Black Futures

If you like Death From Above, The Chemical Brothers or Nine Inch Nails, you’ll love these guys. Their live shows are like a post-apocalyptic, dystopian nightmare… but a really great one.

10. Grace Carter

She taught herself piano by watching YouTube tutorials and has since grown into a talented and original young songwriter. Her single “Why Her Not Me” is about her father choosing another life over raising her.

 

 

 

The Christmas Outsiders

By Annie Konieczny

Some facts are ubiquitous:  death comes for us all, it’s impossible to sneeze with your eyes open and Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is the greatest Christmas pop song of all time. According to research conducted by every organisation that’s every conducted research in this field (it’s a popular subject matter), Mariah’s romantic classic, catapulted to even dizzier heights after its inclusion in arguably the greatest Christmas film of all time, Love Actually, comes out on top again and again and has done for nearly 30 years.

Wham’s Last Christmas features heavily too, as does Bobby Helm’s Jingle Bell Rock, Bing Crosby’s White Christmas and Band Aid’s Do They Know it’s Christmas. But, what about some of the rank outsiders; the tunes that don’t necessarily get a mention in the research but that really get the Christmas juices flowing; the songs you might hear when you’re buying some over-priced hand cream for Granny just 12 hours before present-giving time and leave you no longer frazzled about leaving Christmas shopping until 11pm on Christmas Eve but, instead, thinking “DECK THE BLOODY HALLS!”

Well, here at Qsic, we’ve compiled a list of ten such classics – thank us later. Happy Holidays!

1. East 17 – Stay Another Day
If you were born in the 80s (the 80s) – this song would have been massive when you were a kid and will bring back all them aged-10 Christmas feels.

2. The Pogues – Fairytale of New York
Great if you want a massive cry. Who doesn’t like a cry at Christmas?

3. Sugababes – New Years
A 00s CLASSIC and another tear jerker.

4. Paul Kelly – How to Make Gravy
Australian, so…

5. Spice Girls – Two Become One
Not Christmas-themed as such but certainly a Christmas #1 in many countries and an integral part of the more indie (whilst not being remotely indie) Christmas playlist repertoire.

6. Run DMC – Christmas in Hollis
A tale of a good Samaritan discovering Santa’s lost loot and then finding out it was all for him anyway – a reward for his good deed. Magic.

7. Chris Rea – Driving Home for Christmas
One for the dads, amirite?

8. Bing Crosby and David Bowie – The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth
Bing’s back, but this time duetting with Bowie. This is literally mind-blowing for some many reasons.

9. The Sonics – Santa Claus
Who doesn’t love a 60s garage rock tune at Christmas? Particularly when the lyrics mention a “twangy guitar” as a key item on singer, Gerry Roslie’s, Christmas wish list.

10. Darlene Love – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Fan trivia: David Letterman had an annual tradition of inviting Darlene on his show every year to perform this hit.

DJs and lead guitarists are turning to music curation – we asked them, why?


DJs and lead guitarists are turning to music curation – we asked them, why?

By Annie Konieczny

Aside from its industry-disrupting AI capabilities – a gamechanger when it comes to controlling a venue’s audio environment – at its core, Qsic is a music streamer licensed for use in public. The company’s central ethos is to create bespoke audio environments through a careful curation of music most suited to a clients’ needs – no easy task when you’re working with some 1,200 plus venues, many with their own look, feel and commercial purpose. Whether it be choosing laid-back acoustica, old-school rock n’ roll or – as is the case for one of their clients – 60’s psychedelic Greek tunes, Qsic’s content creators are tapped into an abundance of music and are formulating new playlists constantly.

So, who are these music maestros whizzing up hours and hours’ worth of perfect tunes? From whence do they hail? What experience and talents do they bring? What are their favourite tunes of 2018? What are their favourite tunes ever? And, perhaps most importantly, how does one create a 60s psychedelic Greek playlist? To answer these questions we spoke to Todd Watson, Qsic’s Head of Content and Lorenzo Sillitto, a principle music curator at the ground-breaking company.

 

Todd Watson, Head of Content

Both as a recording artist signed to Neon Records with a string of Top 20 singles and national radio play, and as a DJ enjoying residencies at some of Melbourne’s most prestigious clubs, Todd’s experience of the music scene is unsurpassed. Luckily for Qsic, he has funnelled this experience and passion into a body of work that now makes up the framework of the Qsic content library.

Favourite tune of 2018: Don’t Matter To Me – Drake ft. Michael Jackson

Favourite tune ever: M83 – Wait

  1. What brought you to Qsic?

As an obsessive-compulsive music librarian, it just made sense to join a music service that needed someone who could catalogue and find homes for all the wonderful music available on the Qsic platform. That and, of course, the co-founders Matt and Nick, who create such a great energy around them and the company.

 

  1. What does your average day look like?

I like to be the first one in to the office, have a quick read on some music websites before getting stuck in to all the emails from both our valued customers and future clients. I’ll spend a decent part of the day working on bespoke curation for the national brands we supply and also trawling through all the new content flooding in from all the record labels that makes its way into the playlists available to all our subscribers.

 

  1. What did you bring from your previous work in music to your role at Qsic?

As a DJ, the primary modus operandi is to know your audience. You could have all the music known to man at your disposal, but it’s knowing what song goes where and when. That is most certainly the overall strategy when curating playlists for both national retailers with 500+ locations and the local pub down the road. Thankfully for the curation team at Qsic, our AI engine and data flowing in from our customers is helping take the in-store curation to a whole new level.

 

  1. What’s the best part of your job?

I get a real buzz when going out to see our customers in their businesses and seeing the Qsic system add such a great vibe to their in-store experience. I absolutely love the Qsic team, we are all so excited to share more Qsic innovations with our clients in the very near future.

Lorenzo Sillitto, Music Curator

Former guitarist and songwriter for Australian band The Temper Trap, Lorenzo has also worked in artist management and bookings before joining the content team. Bringing his unique experience and knowledge of the Australian and international music industry to Qsic makes him a vital contributor to the organisations musical setup.

Favourite tune of 2018: Sticky – Rayvne Lenae, After the Storm – Kali Uchis, The Wave – Lion Babe. The list could go on and on

Favourite tune ever: Constantly changing

  1. Is there anything similar about curating for Qsic and playing in a band?

I would say curating a playlist is similar to writing a set list. There is a lot of thought and consideration that goes into preparing a set list, getting the peaks and troughs of the show right and sending the audience on a journey. Creating playlists that suit different segments of the day and can fit into a variety of settings requires the same thought and consideration.

  1. How does the music curation process start?

The curation process usually begins by sitting down with the client to discuss the aesthetic of their brand, key demographics and what type of experience they are looking to create in their venue. We use this information to inform the style, genre and tempo of the music required and then send out a range of playlists we feel best suit their needs.

 

  1. What’s the most difficult thing about music curation?

Finding and deciding what tracks to put in a playlist. SO MUCH MUSIC!

 

  1. And, what do you know about 60’s Psychedelic Greek tunes

All I know is that it’s rad and I want to find more of it.

 

 

 

Qsic’s game-changing Artificial Intelligence (AI)

 

In its early guise, Qsic were capitalising on a simple problem that many businesses didn’t know they had: playing background music in their public venues from streaming services using private subscriptions, which is illegal. Back then, in 2011, there were no smart speakers, talk of automatons was confined to Ex Machina-type dystopian worlds and the idea that a self-driving car would be allowed on our roads was ludicrous.

Today, the number of smart-speaker users is growing at an annual growth rate of 47.9%,robots are in fact being introduced into the work place in droves and self-driving cars are no longer a thing of fantasy. In 2018, it’s hard to miss the buzz around AI and Machine Learning (ML). But what are these terms? How do machines with these capabilities work? And what has Qsic’s patented, industry-leading AI called AVA, Autonomous Volume Control– which can learn, predict and adapt to changing business conditions – got to do with it all?

The concept of AI emerged along with the first computers which were – simply put – remembering information and making calculations. As our understanding improved of how the human brain worked, so did the technology around AI. While computers still make incredibly complex calculations, it’s not these developments which excite technologists. Instead, what gets them going is creating machines that can make decisions like humans and can complete tasks intuitively.

Machine learning is essentially a branch of AI based on this idea of building machines which process data and learn on their own – completely autonomously. After all, it’s moreefficient for humans to teach computers how to think for themselves, rather than for humans to input the data needed for computers to perform tasks, and then making them complete as many tasks as possible. This idea, coupled with what the internet offered in terms of unprecedented information storage, meant machines would be able to look at vast amounts of data, absorb it and then make decision based on what they had learned.  This is where we are today – creating machines which can learn without being programmed, discovering insights for themselves through various data touchpoints.

What’s this got to do with Qsic and AVA? Like all good ideas Qsic cofounders, Matt Elsley and Nick Larkins, fell over AVA. Feedback from clients was that whilst being able to stream curated playlists legally into their venues was a real coup, a major issue for them was volume control. Specifically, that their ever-changing foot traffic affected how their background music sounded, meaning that it often felt too soft when the space was busy and then blaringly loud when say, the lunchtime rush, finished. This left staff having to continuously adjust the volume of their systems when they could be doing much more useful things.

Always at the forefront of developments in technology, the duo introduced decibel readers as a data touchpoint to their systems in these venues and began working on algorithms that would allow the platforms to adjust volume autonomously based on their own learnings. This system independence would allow businesses to vary volume levels across their venues without human involvement – a major win not least because one store may be experiencing a very different level of foot traffic to another, but also because it would enable staff to focus on customers rather than worrying about adjusting the volume of the background music.

Add more data touchpoints such as temperature into the mix plus the potential to feedback to clients the information gleaned from the machine’s learning, the possibilities are endless for AVA and are steering Qsic into a whole new stratosphere of venue environment control, putting them firmly at the forefront of technology for businesses centred around making patrons feel good.  Qsic saw the potential that AI brought and, like all great innovators, evolved with it. Now, Qsic is not only a commercial music streamer but an industry-first, game-changing system, able to listen to a venue and change its environment autonomously.

 

Qsic offer solution to hairy music-licensing problem

What is now an industry-leading automated and intelligent audio system was, in the beginning, something simpler. Qsic launchedin 2012 on the premise that some business owners playing music in their shops and restaurants would be doing so illegally due to an innocent unawareness of the licensing and copyright regulations involved. Their idea was to offer a legal solution. Fast forward six years – and to a six-figure fine levied on a Melbourne bar – and it looks like their premise was right and their solution more relevant than ever.

According to a study conducted by Nielsen[1]earlier this month, the majority of business owners incorrectly believe that a personal account can be used to play background music in say a café, and only 17 percent of small businesses have the correct licences to play music at all. The study encompassed 5,000 in-store interviews with businesses in the U.S., U.K., Sweden, Spain, Italy, France and Germany and revealed that 83 per cent of businesses are using personal music subscriptions and free music services to play songs in a public setting, costing the global music industry $2.65 billion annually and artists over $100 million a month.

So, how do you get your venue licensed appropriately here in Australia? With great difficulty. Intellectual property law, which creates copyrights to safeguard inventors of music, is a minefield and no exception is made when it comes to playing background music – including radio – in stores, restaurants or other venues constituting a “public performance.” To do it legally, you’ll need to navigate laws regarding mechanical rights which not only grant the licence to copy and distribute music but govern everything from online music streaming to playing CDs, vinyl and even those cassette-tape vestiges in the box under your bed.  If you don’t own the mechanical rights to these devices, you can’t play them.

Where can you buy these rights? You can’t. Not directly anyway – and this is where things get more complicated. Businesses playing background music are required to obtain a licence under the Copyright Act 1968. These range from $80 AUD to over $2,000 AUD annually depending on the size of venue and number of devices used to play the music. Fees are paid to the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) and the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA) to cover royalties for the composer, publisher and artist and it doesn’t stop there. Music duplication fees must also be paid annually to the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS) and Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) via PPCA when copying music onto a smart device, MP3 player or CD.

If this all read like “blah blah blah,” then you’re not alone. Businesses everywhere are up in arms not only about the myriad bodies to which fees are owed and the convoluted pricing structures involved, but because of the lack of guidance – who knew that an APRA licence was necessary when a personal subscription had already been paid? But, as the saying goes, ignorance of the law excuses not and continuing to play personal music in your venue this way will leave you with repeated cease and desist notices at best or –  at worst – a hefty fine as was the case for the owner of Melbourne café-come-bar Hairy Little Sista earlier this month who was ordered to pay a staggering $185,000 AUD for infringements.

In response to the growing concern from businesses, a solution has been proffered by APRA, AMCOS and the PPCA: OneMusic Australia. To paraphrase the website spiel, set to launch in 2019 the combined body will hold more than 140,000 public performance music licences currently held by Australian businesses and will see new licences developed with new fee structures. The aim is to simplify the current model by removing the reporting requirements around the number of devices and different types of spaces used, but overall fees will increase with what appears to be little or no value add.

Cue the QSIC platform, which offers a cost-effective resolution. Not only does the platform keep you on the right side of the law, taking care of all of the above and therefore removing the nuisance from your business administration, but the platform also has the capability to deliver branded curation to subscribers which can be distributed to Australia-wide subsidiaries, giving businesses visibility across their entire network. There are a number of other features for businesses included in the service such as API access, music scheduling, consumer analytics, digital-signage integration, head-office control, audio-advertising functionality, multi-zone audio and much more making Qsic the obvious choice for punters wanting bang for their buck in this messy space.

“It seems obvious that you can’t play Netflix to a large audience but for some reason people don’t apply the same logic to music streaming,” says Matt Elsley, Qsic CEO and Founder.

“Education is necessary but what small businesses want is life to be made easy and that’s at the heart of what we do.

“The case of Hairy Little Sista has been a wake-up call for businesses all over Melbourne and we’re happy to chat to concerned venue owners about their needs,” he says.

Business owners know that music has profound effects on the way customers engage with and enjoy their spaces. What they have been slower to realise is that laws governing playing music in these spaces are complex and purchasing a personal subscription to Spotify or buying a CD to play for your patrons can land you in strife. Who knew an act as seemingly innocuous as a playing “Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers could leave you Bay-City-Rolling in a six-figure fine. No doubt, most companies would gladly pay if they knew they were doing something wrong and, hopefully, Hairy Little Sistawill be enough to raise the red flag for businesses wanting to ethically and legally source their music so musicians are getting the money they’re entitled too.

To speak with one of Qsic’s friendly tech team: 1300 113 279

[1]Published on Monday 15 October 2018 by fellow licensing service Soundtrack Your Brand