For Toby Hoyte at Soundnet TouchTunes lockdown, for all its ills, provided a unique opportunity for positive action. He explains how the company has risen to the challenge and adapted for the better.
How do you see the first few weeks of the industry’s re-opening panning out for you?
Toby Hoyte: We started reviewing our music updating procedure for all the jukes we supply (Sound Leisure and TouchTunes) back in early June. For the last few weeks we have been focused on putting those plans in to action. Our most important task is to ensure we can supply these jukes as easily as possible for the customer. We are well aware that for many operators their initial focus will be on their gaming machines so we needed to make using and updating the jukes as easy as possible.
I think we have done this. It felt good to be able to help get the jukes back up and running and be ahead of the curve in terms of timescales.
We are judged on our music services and therefore the income generated by our customers jukeboxes. We have insight from many TouchTunes jukeboxes in other countries and can see that jukebox income in those sites is good.
I am confident we will also see good income within the first few weeks of the sites reopening. But let’s wait and see.
How will your daily work routine and business functions change due to Covid-19 and lockdown?
I worked throughout lockdown. Being based 100 percent of the time at home was actually great – being surrounded by my wife and kids and having them hear me go on and on very loudly about ‘when will the pubs open?’ with my customers had some initial challenges, but they are now completely used to it.
Unable to go to the gym I jogged (as opposed to run) 5k every other day without fail. I spoke to nearly every single one of our customers during lockdown. I enjoy speaking to my customers. I often have more to say to these people than anyone else.
As soon as Boris announced the lockdown of the pubs and bars in March we stopped all music charges. We have not really raised an invoice in nearly 4 months. This meant some of my colleagues were furloughed and other changes had to be made.
The vast majority of us at Soundnet TouchTunes are now working at home. This is good; people are more focused and efficient. We also don’t spend ages having meetings. We still meet, but with Zoom our time is much better used. We had to change our music update procedures and schedules. We had to devise a new way of managing the online delivery of our music. But in truth the changes we have made have all been for the good. We have discovered new and better ways to manage our business. In that respect lockdown has been good for us.
Social distancing and international travel are two key areas that will need adjustment. How will that impact on your business and what measures are you taking to adapt?
I do not do much international travel. My focus is 100 percent on the digital jukebox business in the UK. But I do very much enjoy getting on the road and meeting my customers in the UK. This has obviously stopped. But the moment I can get back in my car and out to see people I will. I am looking forward to this probably more than I should.
You’ve got a reputation for hitting the ground running, so what’s on the product development plan?
We have a few things coming up that we will speak about soon. We have launched a service where customers can download our music updates direct to their PCs so they can create their own USB updates.
What has been the real impact of lockdown on business and the industry in general?
This is unknown for everyone; but it is my hope that the machine income will 1) not be as badly affected as many people may fear, and 2) overall income will be back to pre-lockdown figures within a few months. I fear some sites will not re-open but I do think this will be a very low percentage.
As an industry we need to consider that this period of low income will not vanish on the 4th July and some sites will take many more weeks to open but there is nothing at all to suggest the trade will not get back to where it was soon.