“It’s always been about being really flexible and open to listening to the opinions of subscribers who’d say, ‘Hey, it’d be cooler if you could do this.’ Then we’d just get after it.” —Adam Melrose, Business Development Executive for 787 Networks.
787 Networks is the parent company of three music playlist, video, and digital signage providers: FEC Music, Bowling Music Network, and Control Play. For over 14 years, they’ve been leaders in innovative digital audio/video software that enhances the guest experience.
I sat down with senior Business Development Executive Adam Melrose to learn more about how this business music software became the multi-faceted, dynamic system it is. What I found incredibly intriguing was the number of features that were added because of suggestions and feedback from their users.
“When you’re at dozens of tradeshows a year,” Melrose explains, “you’re meeting hundreds of people, and you have those awesome conversations. I’ve gotten some really good ideas from prospects, like, people just at the booth really excited saying, ‘This looks so cool, do you guys do ____?’ <- Insert idea here. We’d say, well no, but that’s a great idea! Then we’d come back from the tradeshow and debrief the staff. We’d present [the suggestions] to the software team…and then they’d have this big magical wish-list of cool ideas. It was just about how many of these we could crack out and how many are scalable?”
It was interesting to hear how many of Control Play’s amazing features were added just by listening to subscribers and taking their suggestions to heart. From this short 15-minute interview, Melrose described 9 different additions.
1. Music videos
2. Multiple playlist varieties
3. Making song requests to the playlist team
4. Moving songs around in the playlist
5. Scheduling the music for dayparts
6. Video text
7. Digital signage
8. RSS feeds
9. Separate rating systems for music and videos
Even the inclusion of music videos, something Control Play prides itself on these days, was suggested by current subscribers at the time.
“We had just started with music,” says Melrose, “but this great customer from Pennsylvania said, ‘I’d be really into this if you guys would just play video.’ At the time we’re thinking, jeez, we’re just tryin’ to build a music library and now we’ve got to find the videos?”
But Melrose and the team were not going to back down from this challenge. “We’re in the business of solving problems,” he says, “There were a lot of companies selling projectors and screens, and then the proprietor would spend all this money but say, ‘Well, that’s cool, but what do we play on these now?’ So we knew it was the right product for the right time and we were able to forge forward and figure it out.”
From there, they started to build, source, and license the music and music videos for their library. The next step, however, was to expand the selection and provide a variety of genres and playlists.
“Again, it was people calling in saying, ‘We love that you guys are doing music videos, this is amazing…however,’” Melrose laughs, “‘We need a country playlist and a rock playlist and…’ But this was a great opportunity to go to our music team and say, ‘We got something here, get on the phone with the record labels and let’s get this content!’”
“It was all about building out that part of the service,” Melrose continues, “and that’s really just one of the services! Then you look at things like playlist features—being able to go in and move songs around on the playlist, make requests and add songs in, or how someone could schedule this content, which is when we made the scheduling tool. These all came from suggestions made by our subscribers and prospects.”
After seeing the success of music videos in bowling alleys and family entertainment centers, the company saw the need for their services in bars and restaurants and created Control Play. “The beautiful thing about it was that there’s so much similarity between businesses [in hospitality],” says Melrose. “A lot of them feel the same pains and have the same needs. Then it was about identifying the ideas that we knew would immediately help so-and-so out, but maybe the rest of these places don’t even know they need this yet.”
So, Control Play adopted solutions specific to the industry and surprised subscribers with an email informing them of the new features that would be useful to them—of which there were many.
Melrose says, “Things like video text was a request, even digital signage. Originally, we had audio announcements that would play, and people said, ‘Well, can we pair up signage to that, too?’ Of course! We realized that we’re already playing videos on [their] screens, so let’s do that.”
The addition of digital signage made for an accessible, all-in-one music playlist, video, and marketing solution for restaurants and bars that continues to be innovated today. “I think it’s because we’ve always spent so much time thinking, 'how can we make this better?’” suggests Melrose.
“RSS feeds is another one,” Melrose says of subscribers’ suggestions. Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds are real-time updates from news and social media websites. “The question was, how do we get Twitter handles at the bottom of this? So, we could turn Twitter handles into an RSS feed, or you could just go to certain feeds, like if you want the news to play on the bottom of your screen. Now, just go to CNN or whatever local news that you like, and you can pump that in. It’s a pretty cool feature and it’s underutilized ’cause there are so many things the software does.”
Regarding the RSS feeds, Melrose says, “A lot of the sports bars, they’ll pull 10 minutes’ worth of baseball news, 10 minutes’ of football news—whatever news they want that’s relative to their standard crowd, and then we can schedule that using the automation schedule.”
This service/subscriber relationship is something that truly separates Control Play from any imitators.
“If I was to call my razor company that I shave with,” Melrose explains, “and tell them, ‘Hey, it’d be really cool if you could make these handles bigger ’cause I have giant hands.’ Like, they might take it into account, but it’s not like they’re going to do it the next day. Whereas, we’re flexible because it’s our own software. In this case, with the razor example, they’ve got to call their manufacturer, get new molds made, then there’s a board they gotta get in front of. It comes down to the fact that we’re a small organization of go-getters and people who just wanna get it done.”
At Control Play, our core focus is to help our subscribers exceed their guests’ expectations by providing innovative digital audio/video experiences. From the sounds of it, this simply couldn’t have happened without the insightful input from our amazing subscribers—so, we want to sincerely thank you all for contributing and continuing to help us innovate to this very day.