Does SONOS Fail its Commercial Use Case?

Why can’t providers share explicit filters?

I have been looking at SONOS as a tool to stream music in my restaurants. It’s a great system with the option to play different music in different rooms, and you can even convert an existing wired system into a SONOS streaming system with a single additional box. The salesman I spoke to told me about hotels that connect up to 42 different speakers so they can offer streaming in different rooms.

The promise is the access to “all the music in the world” which also means you can switch out the stale playlists you have been using for too long (and give your employees something new to listen to). However, you don’t actually want all the music in the world, because all the music in the world contains a lot of explicit lyrics. And in a public environment, that’s actually the last thing you want.

Most of the sources that power SONOS (Apple Music, Spotify, etc) have some form of explicit filtering/tagging built into their own ecosystem. However, this information is not published via the APIs to SONOS and there seems little desire between the companies to make it happen, despite (literally) years of postings on forums for just this implementation.

The end result is that if you’re playing SONOS, you can’t filter the playlists and what starts out as a nice mellow background soundscape eventually degenerates into a string of profanity. The explicit filters you may have set in the source system (e.g. Apple Music) are not pushed to SONOS so it just plays everything.

Spotify has said you can set up your own playlists via their desktop site which exclude the explicit lyrics, but this means you have to physically manage the content you want to stream on the SONOS system. There is an argument that you should be doing this anyway in a restaurant (or any public space) after all some establishments have a specific “vibe” so even the music is part of the brand. Even with this manual playlist creation, you still have the risk that an employee will just play an unapproved source (as they are wont to do and we have caught them on numerous occasions).

For the smaller business, being able to stream safe tunes from a constantly updated source is something I (and many, many others) would like to see become a reality. With a simple toggle in SONOS to filter explicit tracks irrespective of their source, this could become a reality. An additional ‘show playlist in SONOS’ option within iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, etc, would also allow a restaurateur to curate allowable playlists and have them appear in the public SONOS control app, minimising the risk of the ultra-reliable and trustworthy employee of the month ‘accidentally’ playing Killing Strangers by Marilyn Manson or something else of such ilk.

Until then, you will have to just plug in your iPod (et al) with your pre-selected tunes as the promise of a utopian music soundscape is still some way off; the Internet of Things is still playing catchup.

After the Cut

As usual, I’m always just ahead of the play. On 16th August, Spotify announced a partnership with SONOS to allow direct play from within Spotify Premium to SONOS equipment. This allows you to play your Spotify content, filters intact, direct and mitigates this issue. The update went live a short while afterwards. I wonder if they read this article?

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