Sell More CDs: How to Make a Portable "point of Sale" Listening Kiosk




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 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.

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    42 Discussions


    7 years ago on Step 9

    You could always take apart the speakers, and hide the volume control


    9 years ago on Step 10

    Try making one with medium sized, high quality speakers, maybe solar powered. :)


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Soon after you first posted this, I began working on a far less elegant, more cumbersome kiosk for use at an annual concert series we put on. I figured if we got this rolling, we could help the bands (including me!) move more CDs without adding much extra work on the day of the concert.
    I wanted "big and cumbersome" so it could be left completely unattended, but I also wanted to be able to set up & break down quickly. So I'm halfway through a collapsible plywood monstrosity with an integrated monitor and a few sets of headphones (one of which is a telephone) and a mouse for navigation through a browser-based interface for playing the music... it'll be posted on instructables eventually.
    Many thanks for the inspiration, and damn you for the additional unfinished project in my garage!


    5 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks a lot Mike, I'm glad to know that you've gotten some use out of our ideas. Please send us a link to your Instructable once you get it posted. I'd love to see it! -bryan


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    That's pretty cool. I'm a big fan of the honor system. I find that fans really appreciate being trusted and not treated like crooks. I'm sure the effectiveness of the system depends on the type of crowd, but it's a great idea if it's a friendly atmosphere. Another band I played with had a wooden "treasure chest" with a big padlock on the front and a slot in the top. Painted on the front was "Donations." For the most part, we'd find some change and a few dollars in the box after each gig, but occasionally we found a $50 or $100 bill in the box. Not bad for almost no extra work! Anyway, please find some more plywood. I'm very eager to see this project that you say I've inspired! Good luck! -bryan


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Here's a marketing tip I read from a psychology book. Buy a bulk set of 144 trinkets (flashlights, pens, whatever appeals to your audience). Hand them out to people a couple feet away from your kiosk. This makes them seem obliged to you, and in turn they will probably end up buying your cheapest item to save face. This isn't exactly the "nicest" way of boosting sales but it certainly works. Have you ever been to the airport and some wierd people hand you flowers for free?


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    We always have free stuff at our table. Even a piece of hard candy or a sticker will bring a lot of people over. Not only that but you'd be surprised how many people walk around asking for free stuff. Based on my experience, if you're good at making conversation, you can turn about one out of every ten free giveaways into a sale. More often than not, that person is pretty impressed by your friendliness, and they're happy to buy more than the cheapest item. They're also pretty likely to bring more people in if you ask nicely. Since giveaway items can often be purchased in bulk for less than 25c each, it's a pretty good investment!

    Lance Mt.

    10 years ago on Introduction

    I like but im not quite all for the selling point of view as... I've got nothing to sell

    BUT! I its made me remember how iwant a breifcase ipod.

    With speakers build-in and maybe lots of useless prettyness.

    2 replies
    bwyanLance Mt.

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I'm a big fan of "useless prettyness" as you called it. I say you go for it, as ours is pretty utilitarian in comparison to what I imagine you coming up with. Just like I said to j0nathan, please post a picture when you're finished!

    Lance Mt.bwyan

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    i'll have to. I'm tossing up whether to do this or go for the portable gamecube. Gamecubes not that great though >.>


    10 years ago on Introduction

    love it. plan on making one with comp speakers only to listen to in my dorm at school and then take it home on weekends without any hastle. great instructable!!

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    That's awesome! When you finish building it, could you post a picture? I'd love to see it!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Nice project to do! Sadly i don't have a band. and btw your music is great! if sold it on iTunes i would definitively buy it.

    2 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it and took the time to look at it, even though you don't have a band. Just so you know, our music IS available on iTunes. Just do a search for The Highway Beautiful.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Swing out/Popup speakers is a great idea so as if you have to leave it unattended you would not have to worry about the equipment since you will be able to close the briefcase. Other option, if you pop up the speakers you can close the briefcase (ON TOP OF THE SPEAKERS)half way and use the lid as a desk ( just add a bar at the bottom to hold your papers or book while expressing yourself to the people.)Excellent Instructable with many options.

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Or cut out sections of the sides and have the speakers pointed through to keep people from stealing your speakers. Of coarse nothing keeps them from walking off with your case...