Most musicians who have tried to make money performing and selling CDs know how hard it can be to get people to take a chance and purchase music from smaller, independent artists. My band, The Highway Beautiful, saw a need to have potential customers listen to our CD before they purchased it, or before they would attend our performance at a music festival.
In the past, we have brought portable CD players, iPods, headphones and computer speakers to shows and festivals, but we have found them limiting for a number of reasons:
First, carrying around an old CD player or putting an iPod on our merchandise table looks very unprofessional.
Second, with headphones, only one person can listen at a time. This means that groups of friends have to take turns, generally shortening the length of time that each person listens to less than 10 seconds (far too short to make a great impression and sell a CD).
Third, computer speakers leave wires strewn about, and they're usually not loud enough to be heard over another band, or even just a group of people talking. Even worse, they generally don't sound that great, which might turn people off.
Our first attempt was to purchase a headphone distribution amplifier to allow groups to all listen with headphones at the same time. Before we had a chance to implement this system, we already realized that the number of wires on the table would be too much--even if the CD sounded good, our table would look unprofessional. It also put an 80 gig iPod at risk of theft. Finally, we still needed a way to transport all of the equipment.
One old briefcase, some extra road-case foam, and a few hours later, we had come up with a solution which not only stored and displayed all of our gear, but attracted people to our table asking, "What is that?"
We just returned from our first music festival. The verdict? Our CD sales were almost 500% above average! Clearly, this $120 "listening station" has already paid for itself several times over.
Read on as we dive in to building your very own "Portable Point of Sale Listening Kiosk"
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Step 1: What You Will Need
Gather all of the materials:
Music Player - We chose an iPod because we already had one, it's attractive, and it's easy for the average person to use (for skipping tracks). CD players tend to skip and they look a little dated at this point. If an iPod is not available, something like the Make Daisy could work great. If we were better with electronics, we would probably incorporate this at a later time. IMPORTANT: Find something with a display. Listeners will want to see the song titles, or the track numbers so they can follow along the track listing on the disc.
Headphone distribution amplifier - We used a Rolls HA43, available here. It's about $50, but behringer makes one for about $20. Find something with 3-5 channels, each having an independent volume control. For this design, we prefer controls on top to controls on the front. Professional models can cost upwards of $900. For a project like this, just stick to something under $50.
Headphones - Look for over the ear headphones with a "closed design." We used two pair of Sennheiser HD201's, which go for about $25 each. Soon after purchasing, we found a four pack of AKG headphones on musiciansfriend.com for about $60. Shop around, but find something that cuts out a lot of noise and is comfortable to wear. You'll need at least two, just leave one channel free on the amp to plug the speakers into. Note, many online music stores sell a bundle containing multiple pairs of headphones and a distribution amp. These are generally a great deal, so shop around!
Cables - Find whatever is necessary to attach your music player to your distribution amplifier. In our case, we used a 1/8"-1/8" stereo "aux" cable and a 1/4" adapter from radio shack. Find whatever is necessary for your situation, and look for something about 12 inches long.
Powered Speakers - Look for the cheapest computer speakers you can find, and go one or two steps up. Don't spend more than $20. They're really only for people who are afraid of sharing headphones or for large groups of people. We did find them helpful in being able to monitor what people were listening to, and in seeing people's reaction to different songs.
Power Strip - Look for something inexpensive that fits your color scheme, or paint it like we did. You don't really need a surge protector or a breaker unless your paranoid.
Old Briefcase - Find something cheap or free. Ours was an old Samsonite case with a hard plastic exterior. It inspired the "look" of the kiosk, which looks like an FBI gadget or a bomb or something.
High Density Foam - We had a road case which arrived with lots of extra "pick and fit" foam. If you cant get this, you can find rigid polyethylene foam from many sources.
Tools - A drill with a 1 1/4 inch paddle bit, utility knife, and a hacksaw.
Step 2: Preparation
Clean the case, inside and out. If you're planning on repainting it, do it now. It will be easier to work with and easier to clean before it's full of electronics. Since it's a display item, you'll want it to be presentable.
Step 3: Add the Foam
Add the foam and figure out how much you'll need to cover the inside bottom about half way up. We were using small pieces, so it took a little while to get the right combination. If you have a larger piece, just cut it down to size.
We decided to fill the inside, but leave the side and back edges open because of the depth of the speakers and the power strip.
Step 4: Decide on Placement
Place all the necessary components and decide where you want them to be. Our placement was based on aesthetics and function. We put the speakers on either side to maximize the stereo effect, and we put the power strip along the back so that it wouldn't be in the way (and so we could easily run the cord out the back and behind our table).
At this point, just get a basic idea of cable runs. Everything will be coming out before it's installed for good. The point is just to test for fit before the foam is cut.
Double check that the foam fits securely. You could glue it later, but it should fit in place without glue for now. Notice in the photo that we added pieces on the side to keep the speakers in place.
Step 5: Cut the Foam Recesses
When you are settled on a placement, remove all the cords and cables, leaving only the raw components in place. With a utility knife, cut into the foam around the headphone amp tracing around all four edges. Make the cut about 3/8 inches deep, or just enough so that the bottom edge of the headphone jacks touches the top of the foam. We used multiple layers of thinner foam, so we just cut through the top layer and pulled the piece out. Thicker foam might require some work with a Dremel tool to make the intentation.
Repeat with the music player. We recessed the iPod so that the face was flush with the surface of the foam. Be sure to cut a recess for the dock connector as well, so that the iPod can be charged while in use.
Step 6: Cut Additional Spaces for the Wiring
To minimize clutter, we decided to run some of the cables into and underneath the foam. All we did for this was drill holes down through the foam in the spots where we needed to have the cables surface. We cut additional recesses as needed to accommodate the various connectors.
Step 7: Drill a Hole for the Power Strip Plug
Drill a hole so that the power strip cord can easily be run out the back.
The easiest is to use a paddle bit or a small hole saw to drill a hole big enough for the plug to fit through. This also allows for the cord to be pulled inside the box for transport.
Step 8: Connect All of the Cabling
At this point, many of the wires should be in place. All that's left to do is plug in the headphones and double check that all the connections have been made. Be careful not to add too many coils of wire underneath the foam, or it wont seat properly in the case. To prevent this, tuck extra wires along the edges, or in any empty space. Having a few stray coils of cable in the corners didn't bother us too much. Just keep them rolled up neatly with an appropriately colored twist tie.
Test and make sure everything works. We didn't find it necessary to glue the foam in place because we got the fit pretty good. If you do decide to glue it, be sure you have a way of removing and replacing cables if necessary.
The cable hookups are very simple: power for the speakers, amp, and music player; a cable from the music player to the amp, and then cables from the amp to the speakers. The headphones plug into the amp.
Step 9: How to Use Your New Kiosk
Set the music player to the desired song or album and turn on the repeat function. We find it best to pick a featured album. If someone is interested in hearing something else, you can always help them to change albums.
If you're using an iPod or something else with a backlight, set the timer to "always on."
Choose and EQ setting that sounds good through the headphones. Remember, the speakers are only supplemental.
We decided to leave the "hold" switch off so people can freely skip tracks. if this becomes a problem, you can always turn it on, to help discourage tampering.
If you're using a headphone output, set a maximum volume with the volume limiter. If you're using a line out, this isn't necessary.
Set the volume on the speakers fairly low, as people will play with the amp and accidentally turn them up.
Encourage people to use the headphones because the sound quality is much better. Enjoy the increased sales from people who are impressed by your CD.
Step 10: Conclusion and Tips
This entire kiosk can be set up for less than $150 if you already own a music player of some sort. If that seems steep, consider that our CD sales were nearly five times above average after we added this Kiosk to our merchandise booth. It's a great way to share your music, and it makes for a great conversation piece with strangers at concerts.
Our total time spent was about 3 hours, which included all of the design work, as well as hunting around the basement for some of the materials. Clearly this is a cheap and effective way to dramatically increase sales, and just to spread the word about your music.
In the next week or two, we will publish an instructable on how to sell your CD to passers-by using this kiosk.
1. When the headphones aren't on someone's head, hang them off the corners of the briefcase's lid. This will keep the table looking neat, and remind people what the kiosk is for.
2. Make sure the volume is always set to a comfortable level between listeners, in case someone set it really loud. You don't want to scare the next person away, or damage their hearing.
3. Make a display sheet to go inside the lid that helps "sell" the album. Include quotes for reviews, a clever bio, and an interesting photo. People will listen longer if they have something to look at and read.
4. Check back soon for our next instructable!
5. If you don't feel like building this yourself, we'd be glad to do it for you. Just write us and we'll discuss a fair price!
Feel free to leave comments and suggestions, and please, check out our music on myspace.