MusicBox is a music streaming service with a specific focus: cafes, restaurants, stores and similar venues (hospitality and retail sectors). Music is extremely important to business in this market: it enriches the venue atmosphere and feeling, causes or intensifies good emotions in patrons and customers.
This importance on customer satisfaction, stay and spend is well established through extensive research, and easily confirmed by personal experience. However, most popular music services are focused on the consumer, not on these businesses, and that’s where MusicBox comes in.
Identifying the customer’s pain points
We first started by identifying the pain points the venues have. All the other solutions forced the venue managers or barmen to spend their time setting up and managing music playback. Other services interrupt the playback with jingles, shows, speakers, commercials, disrupting the patron’s experience in the venue. And lastly, they give the users very limited control over when and how something will be played.
Based on the initial research, there was a clear need for a solution that would address these problems.
We didn’t want to jump to conclusions and immediately start designing and building a complete solution. Our experience showed us many times this approach is likely to lead to problems - cost and time overruns, lousy results, and ultimately business failure.
Instead, we used an incremental approach, building out the solution in small steps, and talking to customers (venue managers and owners) at each step of the way, following the best practices of Lean Startup and Agile Development approaches. The feedback received was incorporated into the rest of development, tweaking and guiding our vision. Ultimately the solution ended up being exactly what the customers asked for, ensuring uptake and business success.
The user experience
To set the expectation of user experience and friendlyness, one of major competitors to MusicBox is a local radio - you turn it on, tune in, and that’s it. Moreover, the typical users of the service (managers or barmen) come from wide variety of backgrounds, are of different ages and have different computer skill levels, and are always busy. If they have to think hard about how to use the service, it’s dead.
This is where our small steps approach paid off as well. Starting from a simpler, limited interface, we were able to identify idiosyncracies, incorrect assumptions about user behaviour, and use that knowledge to design an experience that is as simple and intuitive as possible. This is not limited to what’s on the computer screen. As MusicBox has an (optional) hardware component, installing and setting up that had to be a no-brainer.
Each user receives a music box - small device that connects to internet and speaker system, and plays the music. For a day-to-day operation, there's nothing else needed. Optionally, users can control the playback (select playlists, create their own playlists from the songs in the library, or play a specific song) via a web interface accessible from any device - be it smartphone, tablet or computer.
The music boxes use Raspberry Pi as a platform with Raspbian operating system, the web interface is written in Django and the streaming server (streaming actual music to the boxes) is written in Go.
The MusicBox service is currently only covering Croatia, due to content licensing restrictions.