- Ask music operators what single factor is driving the transition to downloading, and the answer is universal: increased revenues. That's certainly been the case for Craig Byler of Progressive Amusement, based here. The owner of a route with 120 units located primarily in taverns, Byler was an early supporter of Rowe downloading machines. He is known by many as the operator who purchased the first Rock-Ola "E-Rock" last November.
"I love the digital boxes," Byler says today. "They're great; I wish I could put one in every location. Revenue is more than I expected and it has not dropped off. If anything, it's growing. We are going to get out and hustle and put in more downloading boxes."
Even "B" locations can be turned into "A" accounts with a downloading machine, Byler asserted. "We concentrate on bars and started three [jukeboxes in] brand new locations. In others, we replaced CD boxes and saw revenue jump 30 to 40% immediately.
"It's tough to say how to measure which locations qualify for the investment of a downloading jukebox," Byler continued, "because I've heard so many stories about CD boxes that only make $150 a week, yet when the new technology comes in [those figures climb] up to several hundred a week. So the problem in many cases may not be the location, but the jukebox and the CD music management."
What accounts for the big increases in the cashbox? According to Byler, "Downloading piques the interest of players in just about any location. I would say nearly any location would be a good stop. I have not had to remove a downloading jukebox from any location on my route."
Progressive owns 15 boxes, half of which are digital. Byler remains enthusiastic about both Rowe and Rock-Ola models. "I started downloading music with Rowe equipment since my distributor, Commercial Music, was selling them," he recalled. "It's a nice product and I like their jukebox. When Rock-Ola's downloading model debuted at the 2003 AMOA show, I fell in love with it. It's clean, straightforward, and there is no intimidation."
The lack of intimidation is an important factor that helps operators , as well as players and, in some cases, locations , become comfortable with downloading machines. "I'm not a computer guy so in the beginning I was a little leery about these products," Byler explained. "But my distributor salesman, Jim Brewer, took the time to explain it and I said, 'let's try one.' It's been terrific ever since. And the 'E-Rock' looks like a conventional CD jukebox and is less intimidating to my customers and service personnel."
Byler entered the industry in the early 1990s, running another operator's route and learning the ropes. When that operator exited the business, Byler resumed his career as a professional photographer. He launched Progressive Amusement as a sideline with a single account in 1997. He began buying new equipment with his profits and added locations gradually.
In addition to music, today his business centers on pool, countertops, table soccer and video golf, with a few cranes and merchandisers in the mix.
Byler made his historic "E-Rock" purchase during an open house hosted by Commercial Music. Rock-Ola officials said Byler was so impressed with the unit that he purchased one on the spot. "I chose the new 'E-Rock' because I was confident it would increase revenue," Byler stated. "The accounting and maintenance of this downloading jukebox is superb and the cost compared to competitors is much more attractive."
A remote digital music management system is one of the main advantages of Ecast-powered downloading jukes, Byler explained. "With a mid-range number of jukeboxes, keeping up with CDs was a nightmare," he recalled. "With digital jukeboxes, it's wonderful. I can go in the office, go online, rotate music, buy new music, bank music that I've already purchased, find out which song is the most downloaded, buy the album and put it in the jukebox and get revenue from the rest of the songs by the same artist. I love it."Reliability is another big plus, said Byler, "I have not had a single service problem on any digital box for months now," he reported. "We had a few of the normal bugs with the DSL providers at first. That's normal for the Internet and frankly, I had the same issue hooking up my computer at home. But once we got that worked out, it has been great."