Following the merger of TouchTunes and PlayNetwork, Pascal de Mul was appointed managing director, Europe with a brief to drive business growth for the combined company in EMEA. With significant experience spanning high profile roles at Philips, TRAFI, Spotify and most recently Deezer, Pascal is a champion of the relationship between music and technology.
Coinslot: Your background is working with brands such as Spotify and Deezer. Would you say your main passion is music or technology?
Pascal de Mul: I’d say both.Before Spotify I actually spent some time with Philips Consumer Electronics in the division that made the headphones and the internet connected equipment. It is there where I experienced the power that music brings, the power to create inspiration and enjoyment and how it can change the environment.
At that time music streaming was in its infancy, but with Spotify I could see it transforming from being able to play a few songs from a CD to playing a day of music from a stored collection, to being able to play years of music from an online service.
Before that time, we were technically limited to fully enjoy the music, but now those limits are gone. Now you can listen anywhere from the device in your hand. That is truly miraculous.
At TouchTunes I see all those elements coming together: Our jukeboxes can play almost anything you can think of, and with our mobile app you don’t even need to walk up – you can choose the music while you are waiting for your drinks. Compared with the disc-based systems of the past, that level of engagement is truly miraculous.
According to social commentators such as Chloe Combi, the pub sector is facing a huge challenge in terms of how to engage with various demographic groups, not least Generation Z also known as the iGeneration, one third of whom are teetotal.
CS: Do you think that technology-driven products such as Playdium have a role to play in this?
PdM: Yes I very much believe so. I love the newer generations because of their uncompromising demands. They don’t accept the limits that we have become used to accept. Everything needs to be instant and experiences need to be full – waiting is not an option and neither are selection limits. This creates huge demands on our sector, which we are fulfilling with the latest technology.
Suddenly elements such as a full catalogue of service, access through a mobile app, integration with their own music service (Spotify), these are no longer differentiators, they have become standard expectations. It is only with the latest technology that we are able to deliver on those expectations.
CS: Do you think pay to play in-venue music receives the right level of recognition as a powerful element of the entertainment mix and what can be done to raise its profile?
PdM: This is a difficult question, because I tend to speak to the converted: our current operator customers and venues in the UK, fully recognise the power of our interactive music. They are very enthusiastic about our product and see that their customers very much appreciate our product and the atmosphere it allows them to create, both through the engagement and the coinage, which is significantly higher, especially when the mobile app is added.
For venues and operators that have not converted yet, I do not believe it is an element of recognition, but an element of education. I believe many venues do recognise that interactive music can create a great atmosphere, but they have not yet experienced the full features and impact of the platform.
CS: How can technology products such as Playdium help reinvent the pub experience?
PdM: They may not know that we can change the selection, the home screen and which music is promoted, and thereby guide people to a certain atmosphere. Even though an Irish pub and a Rock pub have the same Playdium, the music that is promoted is very different.
CS: The TouchTunes app has been referred to as a “game changer” by both operators and publicans. Have you been surprised at how readily it has been accepted by consumers?
PdM: For me personally, coming from a mobile-streaming world, the success of the app is not a surprise at all. In fact, I would have expected it to go faster. However, what is a surprise to me is the mix of users.
I would have expected the app to be a success for the younger generations, who appreciate that they can choose from their Spotify catalogue, that they can check what is currently playing in many pubs around them, and that they now even start using the app to choose a pub to explore based on the music selection.
But what surprises me is that mobile is also such a success with the older generations. In more traditional venues such as working men’s clubs the share of coinage and level of interactivity of the mobile phone is surprising. As a result, the venues with the mobile app often outperform the venues that have not enabled it, even for venues where we had not expected that impact.
In the United States well over a third of coinage comes through the mobile app – they passed that milestone almost a year ago. In the UK we have launched later and we are catching up. I have all the expectation that we will also be above that level by the end of the year.
The Playdium arrived in the UK some 70-years after the Wurlitzer 1015 was launched.
CS: Do you think it will also go down in history as an iconic product?
PdM: I would hope not. You may be surprised at me saying that, but I don’t want the Playdium to be seen as the pinnacle that the Wurlitzer 1015 was. That product stayed in the market for decades without changes.
With the Playdium we are building an interactive music experience using all the technical innovations of the past years with the introduction of streaming, smartphones and software innovation. These innovations don’t stop when the jukebox is installed: we are still optimising the software, adding the content, improving the representation and adding features. With the mobile app those innovations go even faster.
I hope the Playdium will never stop innovating, continuing to build more engagement and more coinage. A better experience for users, a better atmosphere for all visitors and better revenues for the bar. You cannot get ahead if you’re standing still.
CS: Playdium is now the UK market leader. Why, in your opinion, has it been so successful?
PdM: I believe the Playdium delivers a unique experience which meets and in some circumstances exceeds expectations.
Where previously you could get away with a “reasonable” experience, nowadays people carry a supercomputer in their pocket. They want at least the same level of experience as they are used to on their phones. When they walk up to a jukebox they expect a responsive touch screen, they expect the music selection on the same level as Spotify or Apple Music, and they expect sound quality.
Playdium is the only jukebox that delivers all these elements, which gets people to engage and gets them to come back, which we see in the uplift in coinage that happens directly after installation.
The benchmark for the visitor is the mobile phone, and with the amount of innovation happening in that field it is very hard work to stay on par with that experience. It takes the scale of a company like TouchTunes to deliver that and to continue to deliver that.