How do I make an audio delivery system?
April 11, 2007 10:56 AM   Subscribe

I need an audio delivery system. Let's say that I have one-hundred locations across the country where I want to play a 4-minute loop of audio over an in-house PA system, and change the content of that 4-minutes on a weekly basis. I don't know if it's something that I should try to build myself or if there's something commercially available that will accomplish the task.

I also want to do this on the CHEAP.

I am interested in hearing about proposed solutions to this problem.

Of course, the option that immediately pops into my head is hooking up a computer with an internet connection to automatically download an mp3 once/week and then just play it on repeat. I'm computer savvy, in general, and I have some coding experience, but I'm basically a programming and networking novice. If this really is the best, cheapest option then can you please give me some very specific advice with where to start. I'm thinking cheap, bare-bones machines running linux, but I have no idea how to setup the networking, security, and automation or what language I should be learning to try to do this.

The other draw-back to the idea where a computer just sits on a network waiting for a new upload is that most of the locations don't have internet in the first place. It'd require all of the locations to pay for new internet service which seems like a waste of money in the eyes of the people that are paying for this thing. Do you think that a good work around would be doing some sort of scheduled dial-up connection once/week? If so, what, specifically should I look into to making that happen.

Thoughts on what the audio playback system looks like would also be appreciated (stereo, speakers, etc).

I really want to make this work, and I have until the fall to come up with something that works.
posted by TurkishGolds to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
Up2URadio does seem to be good. You can really lower your costs if you get unsigned groups to contribute songs. Programming is automated and done through broadband connections. This way, you can easily change promos, songs and single-store specials from your HQ.
posted by parmanparman at 11:47 AM on April 11, 2007

On the unsigned thing, that could be a good marketing tool if you had a kind of music competition through your store where bands would contribute music (for you to use for free) and then store customers would log onto your site to vote for their favorite artists. You could have prizes that would be cheap to do, such as hours of record studio time or shelf space for selling albums, etc.
posted by parmanparman at 11:49 AM on April 11, 2007

Response by poster: I'll own the rights to all of the audio, so no worries about royalties.
posted by TurkishGolds at 12:50 PM on April 11, 2007

if you have a week to get the next snippet out to the machines, you can just use modems.
posted by rhizome at 1:27 PM on April 11, 2007

Another thing to keep in mind: if this audio is going to be piped in to places where employees work for hours in the same location, please think of their sanity, and how listening to the same 4 minutes of audio for a week might affect it.
posted by Aquaman at 3:02 PM on April 11, 2007

For the client side, In-Store Announcement Player will work with most Windows machines using standard soundcards. The machine can continue to be used for other things, such as Point of Sale, and in fact, many stores are already so equipped, and have a cash register machine tied into the PA, for paging purposes.

Insofar as file distribution is concerned, if the sites don't already have Internet connections, and this will be the only use of such connections, the cost of connections and security efforts may not be worth the value added by your service. Security is the biggest headache in Point of Sale locations, as many stores run old, unpatched systems successfully, precisely because they have the ultimate 4 wall firewall. So, you might just need to duplicate and mail 100 CD's a week, which is no big deal in terms of cost or time, with a duplicator.

Next step up from that would be simply modems at client sites calling a central server number on schedule over the public phone network. A two line server could send out 4 meg mp3 files to 100 clients over standard modems in about a day. At the central site, you'd need two phone lines, and any OS able to run an FTP server. At the client sites, you'd need a scriptable FTP client (in later Windows version, you could use the command line ftp utility from scripts) , and a script to rotate or delete old announcement files. You'd set your scripts to run as jobs in Scheduled Tasks on later versions of Windows.

You don't really need to learn computer programming to do this, simple scripting is probably fine. You'd want your ftp scripts to re-dial automatically on dropped connections, by handling error codes passed by the Windows ftp command line utility, if you're using phone links, but this could also be done using a higher level ftp client program, within the ftp program. That way, you're assured of sending complete copies, even if the phone connection is interrupted.
posted by paulsc at 4:38 PM on April 11, 2007

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