1.) Please tell us about BMAsia came to be and what the name signifies?
BMAsia began 19 years ago as the first B2B provider of licensed computer-based background music solutions, initially in Thailand and then growing into Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe primarily through major hotel groups. It began in the late 90’s, with the meeting of the two founders while working at Smile Radio. Richard Buckle and Chris Andrews, who shared an interest in music and promotions, launched the concept. Both are UK nationals and have been in Thailand for over 30 years.
Richard's career began in the early seventies selling records in the music department at Selfridges London; moving on to Sperry Computer London producing AV presentations and as a DJ with campaigns to establish independent private radio stations in the U.K. He spent 18 months as a DJ on Radio Caroline, the famous pioneering free radio ship in the North Sea. Richard then headed to the US to learn more about radio programming and formats which in 1988 lead to radio assignments in Thailand as a program producer/presenter at Smile Radio and U&I Corporation (also known as FM 105 and FM 95.5.).
Chris began his career working with disadvantaged children in 1977, which eventually returned him to his love of music when he set up what became the best night club in the UK for 3 consecutive years (New Musical Express.) and a nationally recognized alternative arts center. Later he joined BBC where he spent ten years as both a music and news program producer. He arrived in Bangkok in 1989 where he worked with three private radio stations and assisted the Public Relations Department of the Thai government to establish its international radio platform, Radio Thailand, and produce its quarterly English language magazine Thailand Illustrated. He went on to teach English at various Universities including Kasetsart and Burapha and provide language training to key staff at Ford Mazda and General Motors when they opened, before returning to Bangkok to team up with Richard to create BMAsia.
These similar experiences put them in touch with program sponsors particularly luxury hotel managers who spearheaded the demand for more control over the ambience in their restaurants, bars and public areas. This led them to enter the B2B music services arena, establishing Broadcast Media Asia in 1999 and securing their first order to provide in-store radio and advertising to Tesco Lotus Thailand stores nationwide. This catalyzed more orders from local luxury hotels such as Hyatt, Sheraton, Amari, Anantara, etc. with a flourish. The founders restructured the company as BMAsia (Thailand) Co. Ltd in 2002 and it remains one of the few with a permanent presence in the region, becoming known to its clients as Background Music Asia.
2.) How has the company evolved over the years?
“There have been dramatic changes over the last 20 years”, says Chris. “We began from a spare room in Richard’s apartment at a time when the internet, email and the array of social media apps, now taken for granted did not exist or were in their infancy. Sales were built in the traditional way, phone calls and door knocking.”
As orders grew from nearly all of Bangkok’s luxury hotels the first office was opened in Thonglor just as computers became able to multi-channel music. Major groups such as Centara, Onyx and Minor Hotels signed up and stuck with BMA ever since despite strong competition coming on the scene. Soon, other major brands such as IHG, Hilton and Starwood were demanding music services in Thailand and across Asia.
Richard recalls, “Computers and internet access were still quite limited. We had to load music up on CD’s and personally deliver and install on-site at a client venue.” Chris and Richard recall the fantastic life of flying to luxury resorts all around Asia to first design playlists on site and then return to install. In parallel, marketing was a footslog of multiple appointments a day at resorts in major tourist areas presenting a wonderful opportunity to explore Asia and stay in some amazing hotels. “I recall witnessing the opening of famous properties such as the Shangri-La in Lhasa, Tibet,” says Richard. Chris recalls stays in Bali during the early days of the Sheraton and Westin Nusa Dua. Both remember the excitement of trips to Vietnam and China as they opened up.
Alas, those days are over with the advent of the internet, increased computer use, network and bandwidth improvements and music able to be downloaded remotely to a site and nowadays streamed worldwide. Marketing moved from phones and door knocking to emails, Skype and video conferencing even before Covid-19. Travel is no longer required!
“Streaming killed off CD’s by 2014 and pushed down our subscription pricing”, says Chris. However, clients were demanding a greater diversity of music delivered on platforms with more interactive features. We reacted swiftly, teaming up with suppliers of major label and independent music content that grew our music library from thousands to an astonishing millions of songs to create playlists. Partnering with a Spotify spin-off, Soundtrack Your Brand (SYB), in 2018 immediately provided access to a catalog of over 50 million tracks of major label content licensed for commercial use and an interactive streaming platform instantly providing music to multiple venues that can be controlled from any device, even a mobile phone, while allowing switching from custom designed playlists for daily use, to preset playlists for regular events and self- selection from the Spotify library for special occasions, all on a self-managed or managed service basis.
COVID-19 forced our next major change in early April 2020. It was “do or die”. One staff member tested positive; the office was immediately sealed off. Shortly afterwards, most of our clients, being in the hospitality sector, closed. Survival mode triggered a major downsizing; going virtual; automating as many processes as possible and a wake-up call to diversify the client profile from hospitality to groups in commercial offices, real estate, fitness centers, mid-sized restaurant chains, shopping malls, hospitals and auto showrooms with some recent success. Nevertheless, a year on sales remains well below pre-COVID 19 levels but luckily the downsizing has allowed us to buy time for a return to normalcy.
During the last year, the pandemic has forced BMAsia to become a much leaner business to survive. Updated music design techniques and delivery technology, reduced office costs, engaging paperless processes, moving operating data to the cloud, digital contracting and payment systems, virtual meeting technology and digital marketing techniques have allowed us to keep going albeit demanding a change in mindset, responsiveness and more discipline by staff. This would not be possible without the internet and music streaming technology and the tremendous support of our staff and suppliers.
3.) Please describe the products/services you offer, citing an example playlist, if possible, and how it was developed.
Through all the changes our core motto remains – “Wherever Music Matters” - providing custom designed music channels to commercial venues. Each channel consists of 300-500 tracks in two background music products, Major Label or License Inclusive Music (LIM) able to work on any device, Windows, android or iOS. It can even connect with smart TVs and send music to the social media of guests or customers if requested. It does not need expensive hardware and can settle in nicely to existing set ups.
The design process begins with scoping the music concepts with a client, selecting either License Inclusive and/or Major Label content, moves to designing and compiling music playlists and finishes by downloading on-line with ongoing management. The final design and ongoing management can adjust for moods, styles, time of day or adding seasonal mixes including local music representative of the culture where each property is located.
Music design is the key element to success. Music Experience Manager, Norbert Platzer, with a degree in psychology and years of DJ experience with hotel groups such as Four Seasons and Hilton says, “Designing successful playlists is no easy matter. We find and blend music tracks to build playlists that represent the brand image, location, product/services offered, guest/customer profiles and time of day.” “To top that off you must always have an ear for what each individual venue manager feels personally about music for the final playlists to be accepted." he adds.
4.) Please elaborate on "License Inclusive Music" & "Major Label Content" for the layman.
Major Label Content is controlled by Universal, Sony and Warner Music in which only the reproduction and transmission rights are included by the supplier. The end-user, in our markets, is normally obligated to obtain a separate public performance license from a Collection Management Organization in a venue’s jurisdiction.
Our LIM product is for those on tighter budgets or not requiring mainstream artist content. No additional public performance fees are necessary, and the operating platform has fewer bells and whistles. The user of LIM has no need or obligation with regards to the supplier or any third party whatsoever to seek permission to use this music. BMAsia has direct licensing agreements with major aggregators of LIM from a library of thousands of tracks. Content is delivered on a managed music player platform specific for this category of content.
5.) What separates you from your competitors?
Most of our competitors attempt to service Asia from HQ’s in EU, UK and US and lack an understanding of B2B music service needs in emerging markets. Their systems often require special, expensive hardware to run, dragging out timelines to activate the music and at rates unpalatable in our markets. Most do not offer a choice between Major Label and LIM or the ability to mix and match within a property. None offer access to the “Spotify” music library. Unlike us, some have not survived the COVID-19 crisis. Our Bangkok base, under a transformed leaner operation, gives us a strategic advantage in Thailand and throughout Asia to persevere with our unique selling propositions in real time with 24/7 front-line technical support, access to regional content and special event designs all delivered online via plug and play manner on our LIM or Major Label platforms – all in – BMAsia makes it easier to happen in an efficient and cost-effective manner and easier to manage from your mobile phone.
Thanks to all this quick maneuvering, we are now moving forward, albeit slowly, despite the ongoing pandemic. With existing and new hotels beginning to open and a more diverse client profile in the pipeline the future looks bright for the new streamlined operation that is BMAsia today.
BMAsia (Thailand) Co., Ltd
725 Metropolis Building, Suite 144, Level 20, Sukhumvit Road, Klongtan Nuea, Watthana, Bangkok 10110 Thailand
Contact info: email@example.com; www.bmasiamusic.com