Melbourne music entrepreneur Dean Cherny explains
Dean Cherny is a serial entrepreneur in the music, fashion, and retail industries with a colorful career. I caught up with him to talk about Marketing Melodies, his DJ enterprise, and his new venture SocialQ
Dean Cherny is a serial entrepreneur in the music, fashion, and retail industries with a colorful career. I caught up with him to talk about his retail technology business, Marketing Melodies, and his new venture, SocialQ.
Dean’s Music Career
Dean explains that his love for music began when he was a child, listening to his Mum’s collection of disco and soul records. The dulcet tones of black American divas filled his family home and formed the very beginning of what is now a very large and eclectic personal collection that spans 50 decades of music from around the globe.
Dean has always been a ‘tinkerer’. As a teenager he loved nothing better than tinkering with electronics with his friends, pulling things apart, and working out how they functioned. These things included turntables – and Dean loved to play music. Dean began working for a mobile DJ business before launching his own DJ business, which is still regarded as one of Australia’s premier music businesses.
Dean’s illustrious career as a DJ, and later as part of an electronic band Dirty Laundry allowed him to travel Australia and the globe, headlining some of the biggest clubs and festivals. Dean has played alongside industry giants Frankie Knuckles, Boy George, Deep Dish & Basement Jaxx, and in 2010 was handpicked by George Michael for the coveted support spot on his national tour. Dean describes this as the highlight of his DJing career
Marketing Melodies and storePlay
Thirty-five years ago, Dean founded Marketing Melodies, which finds brands the right music for retail, public spaces, catwalks, or wherever you may be using music.
Many business owners do not realize that using a non-commercial streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music or playing music without a public performance license is illegal.
So in 2012, Dean launched storePlay, the world’s first music streaming app for businesses.
With storePlay, Dean’s customers can run music through ios, Android, SONOS or their own storePlayer media player to solve this problem.
Their customers include McDonald’s, Smiggle, Country Road, and they supply an incredible 4,500 locations in Australia and New Zealand. Other services include digital signage systems and original content licensing.
Music is an extension of a brand’s DNA and it’s essential that it resonates with your target audience in the same way as in any other marketing channel. Music has the power to define and differentiate plays an increasingly important role in brand identity. On a tactical level, it increases dwell time to drive bottom-line sales and increase the average customer spend.
Music and fashion have always gone hand-in-hand – especially on the catwalk. Dean attributes much of his success within Australia’s fashion retail sector to his experience in curating and directing music for major fashion events.
Dean has been musical director for over 150 fashion shows and involved in over 30 Australian Fashion Weeks and Festivals and worked with international labels such as Chanel, Zac Posen, Hugo Boss & Armani Exchange.
Dean started Marketing Melodies on his own and stayed like that for nearly twenty-five years as he “enjoyed being the master of his domain.” But when he became a husband & father, he started to think about legacy and wanted to create a great business. To do this he realized that he couldn’t do it alone so he began to build a team.
Dean’s first thought was to employ a salesperson but then decided that no-one could sell with the sheer passion he had. So, he sought a Content Curator and found the perfect answer in an old friend who had recently returned to Australia from the U.K.
The next role Dean created was Customer Support. This released Dean to do the creative things he loved, including app development and gave him the opportunity to focus on growing his leadership skills.
Over the last few years, the team has grown to now include an Operations Manager, and then finally a dedicated Salesperson joined the team in 2020. Dean is now able to spend more time with his family while also developing new projects.
Marketing Melodies has been named in the AFR Fast 200, Smart Company 50, Anthill Smart 20. Dean has also been the Melbourne Chapter President of the Entrepreneurs Association.
In April 2020, Dean launched SocialQ, a shop by appointment booking system gaining significant traction with some of Australia’s major retailers and shopping centers.
Unlike elsewhere in Australia, Melbourne and the State of Victoria endured a grueling 11-week lockdown.. With the closure of all non-essential retailers, Marketing Melodies revenue dropped 60% overnight. Dean asked his team what they could do to connect, support, and deepen their relationships with their customers – and after extensive brainstorming – the concept of SocialQ was born.
SocialQ was based on an idea Dean had pitched to a business a few years earlier. It had some traction but then tailed off. Dean picked the idea up again, fast-tracked it, and rolled it out in larger format retail stores, Kmart and Target. One of the most pivotal moments for the business was when Chadstone, the largest shopping center in the southern hemisphere, recommend SocialQ to all their tenants as part of their COVID-Safe plan to help slow the spread in retail. SocialQ took over one million bookings in the first five months.
In addition to managing the physical distancing of customers and ensuring a positive shopping experience, SocialQ tech could also be used to track and trace visitors to stores. When one store had found they had a customer with COVID, they used SocialQ to trace everyone who had been in contact. Dean is rightly proud of this contribution to customer safety.
Over the l;ast 10 years, Marketing Melodies has pivoted from not just being a music company but to a retail tech company, which aims to create more engaging retail experiences. Dean says that while some of the SocialQ needs will fall away post-vaccine, they will continue helping their customers adapt to that future by providing better customer service and in-store experience. It was never intended as a short-term emergency product but something they will bed down for the long term now.
With SocialQ shoppers can nominate when they will visit, upload information on what they are looking for, and have a team member ready to serve them with options that match previous purchase preferences. Knowing who is coming through the door, and what the person is looking for, enables retail staff to customize their offering and increase conversion rates. A customer who books in through the SocialQ spends an average of four times as much as a walk-in, so the opportunities for stores to increase transaction value are enormous.
It will also help stores manage customer flow better, which means the tech has opportunities in hospitality to maximize bookings. They have been working with Australian giants Kmart, already a client of Dean’s, but are now rolling out with many of Australia’s major retail giants.
What Dean has learned
Dean says he doesn’t give advice per se but was happy to share the top three things he learned along the way.
The first is to love what you do. If you do that, you will never work a day in your life. Dean has loved his career from the very start and still gets excited to get out of bed to work in the mornings. He loves music, and he loves tech. Dean believes that love of what you do is what helps carve out success. His passion is especially evident when he talks of how they are developing storePlay to create playlists for several times of the day or different numbers of customers on the floor.
The second is not to leave your learning as late as he did. Dean joined the Entrepreneurs Organization (E.O.) in Melbourne five years ago. They have an accelerator program, which he says he cannot recommend enough. However, wherever you choose to learn, learning from other entrepreneurs and sharing experiences is the only way to do it. Dean says it allowed him to change and develop his business practices on the way to the aim of making him redundant.
His third and last observation is that the world has never been more open to enable us to work anywhere. There are no geographic boundaries anymore, and no-one has to limit themselves geographically. Someone can live in an apartment in Melbourne but work for a global business in San Francisco. That also means you can work with anyone as well. For Dean, this means that he can be at home but talking to prospective customers in the UEA about SocialQ. He has international clients with no boundaries. Bar doing something like laying bricks, we can have experiences and become entrepreneurs anywhere in the world.
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