Grace Digital Targets Custom Biz Segment - Radio World

Grace Digital Targets Custom Biz Segment

Internet radio manufacturer focuses on music/messaging content providers
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Internet radio manufacturer Grace Digital has decided to take on the customized business music and messaging market, using an adaption of its GDI-IRBM20 Internet radio.

Grace Digital is aiming to become an equipment and platform supplier to small and medium-sized business music/messaging content providers. These companies create and sell custom audio mixes to individual stores, retail chains and franchised restaurants— the kind of content that was once only provided by major business music/messaging firms such as Muzak.

Released commercially in 2013, the GDI-IRBM20 is an industrial-grade Internet radio receiver, with the ability to be integrated into a business’ background music and telephone system. Grace Digital’s recent software upgrade allows business music/messaging providers to offer their custom audio streams for delivery directly to the GDI-IRBM20. The system is supported by a Web-based control panel that automatically removes competitive audio streams, provides control functions such as volume and channel selection, and can optionally shut off radios during off-hours to minimize music licensing fees.

“Functionally, the GDI-IRBM20 is really not different than the many models of Internet radios we sell to consumers, except for its ruggedized case and construction,” said Grace Digital CEO Greg Fadul.

“The big difference is our custom business-grade software and Web-based control panel. This provides any business music/messaging service provider a platform to compete against the 800-pound gorillas, at a very competitive price.”

BUSINESS MUSIC
Business music and messaging refers both to the custom music streams that retailers and offices choose to shape their customers’ and employee’s moods, as well as the business-specific messages and music people hear while sitting on hold in a company’s voicemail queue.

Thanks to the advent of personal computers and the Internet, even the smallest of mom-and-pop stores can now have their own business music/messaging services, which are typically managed for them by a local content provider.

The content provider takes responsibility for producing the steams and messages, based on the customer’s requirements. They also deliver it — historically using hard media such as tape, CD and thumb drives, and more recently via the Web.

According to Fadul, such services are usually received on proprietary business music/messaging receivers connected to the Web, or, failing that, a standard Internet-connected PC. “A proprietary unit tends to be expensive and tied to a large legacy service provider, while a PC is really not a reliable device to stream 24 by 7,” he said. “In contrast, the GDI-IRBM20 can fulfill the same functions and more, at a retail price of just $199.99.”

STRATEGY
It was this logic that led Grace Digital to launch the GDI-IRBM20 into the general business audio market last year. Its recent addition of a Web-based remote control system, plus the modified GDI-IRBM20’s enhanced software features, has transformed this Internet radio into an intelligent and configurable device, one that can deliver custom content while providing customer security and cost savings.

“Using our Web-based control panel, a business music/messaging provider can log directly into a customer’s suite of GDI-IRBM20 receivers; right down to a single unit,” Fadul said. “The provider can program the radio to only receive the customer’s custom audio streams, wiping every other audio stream from its firmware.”

The provider can also schedule the radio to switch between audio streams, from relaxing morning audio to pulsing late-night club music. They can create individual “radio groups” that each have their own streaming schedules, and schedule volume levels and even power on/off times.

“If you’re a business music service provider’s customer, you’re paying music royalty fees,” said Fadul. “Turning off the radios on a custom schedule when a store is closed means you’re not paying to play music when no one is there to listen.”

In the same vein, a GDI-IRBM20 can be plugged into a customer’s telephone system to stream music mixed with promotional messages. “Many chains are getting very specific about the timing of promotions, switching them around frequently,” Fadul said. “Our system allows a retailer to extend this level of control into their telephone systems, so the audio being heard while someone is on hold mirrors their radio, TV and Web promotions.”

AMBITIOUS PLANS
Grace Digital isn’t alone in its business music efforts.

It has been joined by RadioIO.com, an Internet-only audio service that offers a different way for businesses to curate and play music. RadioIO.com can provide a wealth of music genres and selections for business music customers — all royalties paid — as well as create custom stations for unique business needs.

RadioIO’s Chief Operations Officer Julia Miller says the company provides “music to thousands of business outlets,” some of which have “tens of thousands of outlets down to single unit locations.”

Fadul has big hopes for Grace Digital’s business music/messaging platform and its ability to help small operators compete with powerhouses like Mood Music.

“During the last few years, Mood Media has acquired and consolidated many of the leading business music providers like Muzak, DMX and True Media,” he said. “Grace Digital’s plan is to provide small to mid-sized business music/messaging service providers with a cost-effective superior platform that will allow them to create best-in-class audio and messaging for their clients.”

James Careless reports on the industry for Radio World from Ottawa, Ontario.

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