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Merit Entertainment and Rowe International Announce Integration Plans

Merit Entertainment, the global leader in touch-screen entertainment, has announced plans to integrate its production and work forces with Rowe International, a leading manufacturer of digital jukeboxes, located in Grand Rapids Michigan. “It is essential to control costs and increase efficiencies to remain competitive in today’s global environment.” said CEO Michael Maas. “These changes will reduce overhead and allow both companies to better serve our customers with even more cost competitive products”. Both companies are owned by the same St. Louis-based private equity firm and are actively joining forces under the direction of Mr. Maas.

Merit and Rowe will operate under a single management team, and go to market with a unified sales force led by Sales Vice President John Margold. Other company functions, such as marketing, customer service, software, and hardware development have been combined under a consolidated management team.

Rowe International is shifting manufacturing from Grand Rapids, MI to Reynosa, Mexico on the Texas-Mexico border. The company has plans to complete this shift in production by the end of 2009; this will mean the closing of the Grand Rapids manufacturing facility. Some employees will be offered the opportunity to transfer to the Texas/Mexico facility.

“There are synergies from the consolidation that will help both companies become even stronger.” said Mike Maas, CEO of Merit and Rowe. “We are pleased that during generally tough economic times, we are able to maintain our customer service levels and development investments by leveraging the combined strengths of both companies,” added Maas.

Merit Entertainment exists to create the world's most innovative, immediate, and immersive touchscreen-game experience that delivers unrivaled enjoyment to players while driving strong ROI for business partners. Garnering 4.6 billion plays per year with its dynamic Megatouch brand, Merit continues to expand its position as an entertainment leader with fresh games and content, on-demand music, advertising opportunities, hardware solutions, and network connectivity. For more information, visit www.meritgames.com.

Mike Nickerson Is Named Vice President Of AMI MegaNet

New On-Premise Promotional Division Leverages Strengths Of Digital Jukeboxes and Countertop Videogames
Mike Nickerson has joined the executive teams of AMI Entertainment, based here, and its sister company Merit Entertainment (Bristol, PA). Nickerson has been appointed vice president of advertising at AMI MegaNet, a new division that will oversee the development of on-premise promotions running on AMI-powered jukeboxes and Merit's online countertop videogames.

In his new role, Nickerson will be responsible for the development and marketing of AMI MegaNet's out-of-home advertising network. He will report to Mike Maas, president and chief executive officer of both AMI and Merit.

Nickerson has spent nearly 20 years in the advertising and marketing industry where he focused heavily on the in-bar space. His client background in the beverage alcohol category includes such iconic brands as Budweiser, Bud Light, Coors Light, Blue Moon, Killians Irish Red, Corona, Partida Tequila, Smirnoff Ice, Jim Beam and Absolut. Premium non-alcohol brands include Coca-Cola, 7UP, Motorola, Hyundai, General Mills, Sony, Kellogg, Radio Shack and RJ Reynolds.

The new vice president of advertising brings to AMI MegaNet a versatile background consisting of traditional advertising, event marketing, entertainment sponsorship, and retail and trade promotions. A native of Key West, FL, Nickerson has worked for agencies in Chicago, Denver and New York City. He got his start in the media business as a DJ and promotions director at WROO-FM in Jacksonville, FL.

AMI MegaNet is a newly formed place-based media service that will build on the strengths of two established and growing out-of-home entertainment networks. It will employ the best features of digital networking to deliver interactive, content-rich advertising that can reach consumers in the fun environments of their local bars and taverns. It will also introduce a new revenue stream for operators offering AMI music and online Merit games to their location accounts.

"AMI MegaNet will leverage Merit and AMI's positions as market leaders in coin-op entertainment by delivering relevant advertising messages directly to patrons while they play," Nickerson said.

AMI MegaNet's on-premise reach is extensive because it accesses an installed base consisting of both jukeboxes and videogame terminals. Competing in-bar promotional programs are currently limited to jukeboxes only.

"The addition of countertop videogames means that we can deliver more impressions to our clients than jukeboxes alone because consumers spend a greater amount of time on average interacting with a game," Nickerson observed. "And longer time at the screen means greater ad frequency, which leads to better ad retention for the advertiser."

AMI Proudly Helps Celebrate the Return of Legendary UK Band the Verve.

AMI digital jukebox network releases ‘Forth’ to bars two week before stores - listening events hosted in 2 selected jukebox locations.In the ‘90s you were hard pressed to find a rock band with a bigger sound than UK’s the Verve. After an 11 year hiatus, the band storms back into public view, via an exciting new album called Forth (Red). AMI Entertainment, leading content provider for more than 11,000 digital jukeboxes, helps celebrate the comeback by making the new album available to bar patrons on August 12, two full weeks before the August 26 street date. There will also be listening events for the album in New York City, and in AMI’s hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan (August 13th).

Fans will get a chance to hear the album in its entirety at Spring Lounge in New York City and at Jukes Bar in Grand Rapids. Not only will the attendees of these listening parties get to hear the album before its street date, they will also have to the chance to win prizes including Verve posters, copies of the new Forth CD and even a special boxed set.

album cover“This is a big, beautiful rock band of epic proportions” Says AMI Content Manager, Brian Hoekstra. “Rock and Roll didn’t feel right without them in the mix after their break-up. Urban Hymns is a staple of the jukebox network, and Forth traces all their classic angles” he adds.

It was with the album Urban Hymns, which took The Verve from Wigan to the world - going platinum in the States and receiving Q magazine’s inaugural Classic Album award in 2007. More song-oriented than previous albums - although still with a place for cosmic Verve songs in the shape of The Rolling People and Space and Time it sold 5 million copies worldwide. Bitter Sweet Symphony’s huge orchestral groove took the band to another level altogether; The Drugs Don’t Work shot to Number One and along with Sonnet and Lucky Man, Urban Hymns became the soundtrack of that time.
Even before they’d set out on their initial comeback gigs last year, which sold out within 20 minutes, they made public the results of their very first jam session as a reformed band. The Thaw Session comprised 14 wondrous minutes of music which signified their ability to spark off one another remained undimmed. Soon afterwards, the band debuted new song Sit and Wonder - a top tune trimmed from a 25 minute wigged out jam, just as they would in the early days. Those comeback dates proved so successful and were so enthusiastically received that the band immediately embarked on a full-scale tour of arenas in December, playing bigger gigs in many cases than the first time around.

Since then, they have been buried away in the studio, jamming and honing dozens of songs to produce the monumental Forth. That it is every bit as good as the most hopeful fans could possibly have imagined is the cherry on the cake, Forth taps deeply into what fans refer to as “old Verve” - the cosmic jams that first emerged on earlier epic albums A Storm In heaven and A Northern Soul. However, tracks like Sit and Wonder and Appalachian Springs combine this with hooks as strong as anything in their catalogue. Nick McCabe’s guitar has not exhausted its supply of magic dust, while the Jones-Salisbury rhythm section sounds as powerful as ever. In a way, it is perfect Verve.

Lyrically, Richard Ashcroft is once again in the familiar role of a seeker of truths, asking the big questions about life, the universe and everything, but perhaps with a keener urgency than before.. The songs are haunting, insightful and hymnal. The first single to be taken from the album, the progressive Love Is Noise, a rampaging epic built around a sample and the line “Love is noise, love is pain, love is this blues I’m singing again” every bit as memorable as the chorus of Bitter Sweet Symphony.

AMI Entertainment has featured a string of rock friendly pre-release promotions this year, including artists like Alice Cooper, Dandy Warhols, Black Keys, Alkaline Trio, Stephen Malkmus, My Morning Jacket, and Aussie newcomers Airbourne. Rock music is still “bread and butter” for the AMI Network, and patrons have come to expect exclusive content on a regular basis. The on-screen promotions accumulate millions of impressions in a given week, usually run for a period of 3-4 weeks, and has been known to create up to ten times more jukebox plays for an artists catalog. With its leading network, AMI Entertainment strives to partner with record labels to offer its operators new opportunities to increase traffic and revenue through music promotions, advertising and other marketing initiatives.

Rowe Introduces Solara 2 Digital Jukebox

2.7 screen shotRowe International Corp. is pleased to announce the availability of the Solara 2 touchscreen Internet jukebox. Solara 2 resumes the popular freestanding, compact cabinet design and introduces new graphics and updated computer hardware. Like all Rowe digital jukeboxes, the new model is powered by AMI Entertainment software and online music services. On the jukebox’s frontal exterior, the solar flare theme evolves into a stunning new pattern of blue radial bursts. Adding further style to the new eye-catching blue design is the “Solara 2” insignia, appearing subtly in the jukebox’s midsection and rendered in astral-style logotype. The slim, elegant box itself measures 61.5” high by 35.2” wide by 25.4” deep. Chief among the hardware enhancements are the new LCD monitor and faster processor. A 19” touch-sensitive LCD replaces the prior generation’s CRT touch equipment, while a 2.8 GHz CPU more than doubles the jukebox’s processing speed. “Solara’s slender and practical form factor has been one of the most successful in Rowe’s jukebox line for a long time,” said John Margold, Rowe’s senior vice president of sales and marketing. “The Solara 2 improves on this proven design by adding processing speed and state-of-the-art LCD touchscreen technology. These enhancements will allow jukebox patrons to take full advantage of AMI’s digital music services. For jukebox operators, greater processing capability will speed remote administration… We think they’ll love the new graphics, too.” Rowe jukeboxes connected to the AMI Entertainment Network are now running Version 2.7 AMI system software, which incorporates a number of new features that improve reliability and functionality. These new capabilities include better attract-mode processing at the location level; automatic album substitution; “Do Not Disturb” scheduling; database error detection; and hard drive cloning. The AMI network can support Rowe jukeboxes in broadband or dialup modes. The Solara 2 features a large-capacity hard drive that can store up to 300 albums and cover art. Amenities include “My Song First,” which allows patrons to move their selection to the front of the queue at an upcharge, and a quick search function called “Any Song, Any Time,” which permits the customer to locate a desired selection by artist, album or song title. Supplied with an MEI (Mars) “AE 2611-U7E” validator that accepts $1, $5, $10 and $20 notes and can hold up to 700 bills, as well as a quarter coin mech, Solara 2 also can be equipped with an optional credit card reader. A wireless router enabling a connection between the jukebox and a Merit videogame is standard; a wireless remote can be purchased as an option. The Solara 2’s sound package is built around a 1,000W. digital amplifier with 2-channel preamp, 70V. transformer kit and dual 7-band equalizer. The box is outfitted with six speakers: two 12” units for bass, two for midrange and two tweeters. Rowe backs all of its purpose-built jukeboxes and digital upgrade kits with wide-ranging warranties that cover electrical and mechanical parts and circuit boards for two years, LCDs for one year, touchscreen controllers for five years and sensors for 10 years. In addition, Rowe is the only jukebox manufacturer that offers a lifetime warranty on its hard drives, and will replace them, at no charge, for the life of an AMI contract. Information on Solara 2 and AMI Entertainment is available from Rowe International’s authorized distributors. A list of distributors and jukebox specification sheets can be downloaded from company’s website, www.roweinternational.com.

The Music Just Keeps Getting Better!
AMI Entertainment’s Version 2.7 software update is loaded with new features

2.7 screen shotAMI Entertainment, a leading provider of music to Internet-enabled jukeboxes, is pleased announced the availability of its latest jukebox system software. The release of Version 2.7 (v2.7) introduces a variety of highly anticipated enhancements that improve jukebox functionality and reliability. The software update began downloading to AMI-powered jukeboxes in mid April.

One of the most powerful new features in AMI’s v2.7 is attract-mode processing. It plays attract-mode clips individually, determines jukebox genre based on play data and retrieves clips that from the AMI server that complement those genres. This enables jukeboxes running AMI software to update attract loops more frequently and release them without a software update. It also helps match specific genres based attract loops to the appropriate locations. The result: Patrons will experience fresher promotional content, which target their music tastes.

According to Ron Richards, AMI’s vice president of software engineering, attract-mode processing illustrates how a digital jukebox can better manage user data. “We are excited about the ability to promote music releases with a far more dynamic attract loop tailored to the music played in the bar. This feature allows the AMI network to introduce new artists and highlight new releases to our listeners.”

Also new in version v2.7 is automatic album substitution. The new software automatically replaces an older album version with a newer one, which is delivered by AMI’s central server. In the past, when a record company released a new album version to AMI, the older copy was removed from the server and jukeboxes. But it was the responsibility of AMI operators to restore those albums to their jukeboxes. With the new software, the removal and reinstallation process requires no intervention on the part of the operator.

Another useful advancement in the v2.7 release is “Do Not Disturb” scheduling, which prevents certain actions from interrupting normal jukebox activity. The factory default “Do Not Disturb” setting is scheduled from 6:00 PM to 2:00 AM, when jukebox traffic tends to peak. During this period – or whatever schedule is programmed by the operator – software updates, catalog processing and database maintenance, among other routine system operations, will not run, making sure patrons enjoy uninterrupted listening pleasure.

The new software introduces database error detection, an advanced backup/restore/recover processing tool. It allows a jukebox to automatically detect and repair a corrupt database. Previously, a corrupt database caused a jukebox to go out of service, requiring a call to the operator and then to AMI technical support.

Hard-drive conservation and perpetuation can save operators time and money, and v2.7 gives AMI’s technical personnel the ability to clone an orphaned drive for music operators. The new feature enables the creation of a new drive that retains a local music configuration that is identical to another drive running on the AMI network. The cloning procedure can occur while a box is operating on location, gradually swapping out local music. And the duplicate can be an operating drive on the network or a new device that has been swapped in the same jukebox.

The cloning feature, according to Richards, was designed to address two circumstances. In the case of a hard drive crash, it allows an operator to swap a hard drive and then quickly restore the local music configuration to match previous settings. It also permits the operator to make an identical drive with same local music programming to be used in a jukebox at another location.

To meet the special needs of AMI’s growing international market, the new system launches with greater support for digital music operations in Canada and Ireland. A new Canadian catalog is now available for Rowe-build jukeboxes distributed north of the border. AMI is also partnering with Ireland’s Almotech, a jukebox manufacturer, to develop a music catalog tailored for the Irish market. Almotech selected AMI’s system software for its new Eclipse, a slimline wall-mounted jukebox, and the two companies announced a partnership in January.

AMI Entertainment powers digital jukeboxes built by Rowe International, Merit Entertainment and View Interactive. AMI listens to the suggestions of the operators and continually strives to make improvements based on their feedback and requests. “This release contains a nice mix of features aimed at improving our operator’s efficiency while at the same time expanding our ability to promote and expand the AMI brand.” Richards concluded.

The new v2.7 software downloads with several visual enhancements, including a popup window to acknowledge bill and coin deposits, along with new green skins for LavaLamp and PostClassic templates.

AMI Entertainment Previews the Dandy Warhols’ New Album Exclusively!

The Dandy Warhols’ upcoming album, “Earth To The Dandy Warhols,” has been released on AMI Entertainment Network, which delivers music to more than 10,000 jukeboxes around the country. AMI-powered jukeboxes began pumping out “Earth’s” 14 tracks on May 5, almost three months before the album is scheduled to hit retail stores.

AMI Entertainment, The Dandy Warhols and the band’s newly minted label, Beat The World Records, celebrated with listening parties across the nation, which was highlighted by a Cinco de Mayo party at 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco during the NARM (National Association of Recording Merchandisers) convention.

The band’s Peter Holmström and Brent De Boar were on hand, and keyboardist Zia McCabe played DJ at the San Francisco affair. Partygoers were also entertained by a Rowe touchscreen jukebox playing The Dandy’s new album in its entirety, while prominently featuring the band in onscreen promotional loops.

The event, coincided with the convention sponsored by the 50-year-old National Association of Recording Merchandisers, which serves the music retailing community, signaled a new direction for The Dandy Warhols, and demonstrated the unique promotional capabilities of the AMI network and the digital jukeboxes that connect to it.

For AMI, this is a way to feature independent artists on its network of over 10,000+ jukeboxes,” said John Margold, vice-president of sales and marketing. “It is part of an initiative to feature deserving bands, whose release may otherwise get lost in the thousands of songs that are added each week. The onscreen promos reach bar and restaurant patrons who interact with music as part of their nightlife. These impressionable listeners are between the ages of 21 and 35. Past onscreen campaigns have proven to double the amount of artist plays, and gives the unique opportunity to push The Dandy Warhols name further into jukebox cultural circles.”

AMI music content manager Brian Hoekstra added: “It is a piece of cake to put out the new album from rap artist and hip-hop producer Kanye West – the kids will play that no matter what! The Dandy Warhols are a rad band, however, and deserve a little face time with our customers. Jukebox people like to drink, and they like guitars, and The Dandy’s cater to both of those interests.”

The listening event was a solid fit for the NARM convention. The promotion not only focused on the availability of “Earth To The Dandy Warhols” in the digital space, but also provided information on the album’s release in retail, NARM’s original constituency.

“This is a win-win for all parties,” Margold summed up. “The Warhols build buzz leading up to its album’s physical release date, and AMI Entertainment gets to offer exclusive content.”

Rowe International & Firestone Financial Corp. create a spring promotion designed to give operators the option of zero% financing OR six months before the first payment.

Rowe International, the world’s leading digital Internet jukebox company, and Firestone Financial Corp., one of the industry’s leading equipment financing firms, are teaming up to offer special pricing and tiered financing options including ZERO % APR and NO payments for up to 180 days on Rowe’s GrandSTAR™, NiteHAWK™ and Solara™ digital downloading jukeboxes. This exciting program is available to all qualified operators on purchases from participating authorized Rowe Distributors through Firestone Financial Corporation from now until June 30, 2008

"There will never be a better time for operators to upgrade music,” said John Margold, Rowe's Senior VP of Sales/Marketing. “Special pricing on our jukeboxes and music fees, combined with great rates from our friends at Firestone, give operators flexible finance options that will suit just about everyone."

A tiered approach to financing allows operators to increase their savings and maximize revenue by purchasing more jukeboxes. Investing in 3 new Rowe jukeboxes qualifies for 7.99% for 24 months, with a first payment due in 120 days, plus 50% off AMI Music fees for the first 3 months. Increasing to 6 jukeboxes entitles the purchaser even better terms – 0% APR for 12 months! There’s also a 5.99% APR for 24 month option- with no payments due for 6 months. Buy 9 or 12 jukeboxes and the incentives continue to grow!

“We are very excited to partner with Rowe on this aggressive promotion. Rowe has really stepped up for their customers, and it’s a perfect time for operators to invest in their routes,” explains Jim Hines, Vice President of Sales at Firestone.

For product information call Rowe International at 800-393-0201, or visit www.roweinternational.com; for finance information call Firestone 800-851-1001 or visit www.firestonefinancial.com.

ABOUT ROWE INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION and AMI ENTERTAINMENT Rowe International Corporation is the No. 1 manufacturer of commercial and home coin-op jukeboxes, and the leading maker of CD-to-digital upgrade kits. The Company manufactures the GrandStarTM and SolaraTM (floor format), along with the NiteHAWKTM (wall-mounted) Internet-enabled all-digital jukeboxes. The Company’s Internet-enabled devices can operate over a variety of broadband connections. AMI Entertainment, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rowe International Corporation, provides digital music content and Web-based management services for Internet-enabled jukeboxes over the AMI Entertainment Network. Jukeboxes powered by AMI Entertainment are designed to maximize revenue with features like Music on Demand, which allows the music patron to search and purchase music by song, artist, album title or genre from a vast music library licensed by AMI Entertainment. Rowe International and AMI Entertainment are headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Rowe also maintains a technical support and sales office in London, and has one of the industry’s most extensive sales and support systems with distributors in more than 35 countries. Distributor and product information is available at Rowe’s website, located at www.roweinternational.com, or by calling the Company at (616) 243-3633.

ABOUT FIRESTONE FINANCIAL CORP: Firestone Financial Corp. has been financing amusement and vending equipment since 1965. Being in the business for over 40 years has allowed the company to gain a specialized knowledge and understanding of these industries. Firestone prides itself on building long-term relationships with its customers. The proof of their commitment is that over 75% of customers are repeat borrowers. For more information on Firestone Financial, call 1.800.851.1001 or visit www.firestonefinancial.com