Today, Apple announced (after months of rumors) some big improvements to music streaming. Starting in June, your favorite songs will sound a lot better. And this absolutely relates to your credit union (when don’t I make the connection?).

Apple iPhone Hi-Res Music
Image credit: Apple

Skip the audio explanation if you must. You’re missing out, but I understand the need to get right to the point. I’ll help you identify what your credit union should be doing to ensure the value you create is recognized. For everyone else, let’s sing!

What’s in a Song (File)?

(The not-too-technical dive into how music works on your phone, iPod, or even CD collection)

So here’s the basics on digital audio, from a guy who puts way too much time into his music quality (When Circle of Life blows your socks off, everything’s just right):

  • Most services stream music at “near-CD quality”, which has some technical numbers surrounding bitrate (how big the file is), bit depth (difference between quietest and loudest sounds available), and frequency (amount of times per second the amplitude is sampled). Don’t worry about that stuff.
  • This quality means a lot of the original information is thrown away, but it still sounds good because engineers are really smart about only tossing the parts of the file we can’t hear too easily.
  • Whether you use Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, or another “standard” service, a typical stream or file is 256kbps (bitrate), 16-bit, 44.1KHz. You can go a little up or down, depending on data usage or service, but that’s close enough.
  • Hi-Res (specifically Lossless) audio aims to capture every piece of the original recording. It does so by bumping up each of those values. Bitrate goes up about 5x, depth to 24-bit, and frequency to 192KHz (usually).
  • But that’s just the technical side, and I can guarantee your speakers aren’t good enough for you to notice much of a difference from just those changes.

You may be wondering, “why bother?” if I just explained that few people will ever hear anything. Great question. It’s also one the music services considered, so they’re not just bumping up the raw audio quality. They’re also adding value.

Your Music. All Around.

Crowd and Stage Lights at Concert

Full disclosure: I wrote that headline before seeing that Apple wrote…hmm, the same thing. Something about “great minds”?

When you have more room to put audio information, it’s worth considering what you can do beyond making that cymbal crash just a tiny bit more realistic. Imagine being at a concert (remember those?). How did it feel?

If it was a great venue and the band (and sound engineers) were top-notch, you had a special experience. Their music didn’t just come from right in front of you. Nor did it sound like it was only blasted from their loudspeakers.

The music arrived as a series of individual sounds, woven together in an intricate pattern. The drums were “behind” the lead vocals, while the bass hung out on the “side”. The rhythm guitar kept things moving on the other end.

Building a Soundstage

Audio Mixer
Adjust the dials of your own member value offerings.

You hear music aficionados describe the “soundstage” of great recordings as they review headphones, speakers, and amplifiers. My Sonos systems are especially adept at doing this. (Yes, that was a promo for them. Sorry not sorry.)

Listen to some Beatles songs and you’ll notice their skill at creating a soundstage. Each of the Fab Four can be heard harmonizing or playing from a different “position” in the song. And though some were remastered, a lot of it came from 60s tech!

Of course, for that to work, you have to be planted in front of a high-end system, or, wearing premium headphones. Not to mention the source music has to be great. Or, there’s some new options in town.

Dolby Atmos

Most of the time, you hear about this for action films and shows. A typical surround system has 5.1 speakers (three in front, two in back, and a subwoofer). This gives you sound all around you in a single plane.

A Dolby Atmos system goes one more dimension, with, say, 5.1.2. That extra two would represent a pair of speakers which create an “above you” sensation. Instead of a helicopter flying from behind to in front, it could be hovering directly overhead.

Apple Music is adding Dolby Atmos to millions of songs. Which means your music, when using supported headphones and speakers, can sound like it’s coming from all around. And that’s not their only treat.

Spatial Audio

Headphones on Books
Image credit: Sound On from Pexels

This one I lament not having been able to try. Anyone want to get me the AirPods Max? I’ll even give you a shoutout!

Spatial Audio is an Apple-exclusive feature that has been described as, “you have to experience it.” In essence, what you hear is “locked in space” no matter how you move around. The sensors in your headphones keep track to manage the sound field.

In a sense, it’s like Dolby Atmos that follows you around.

That doesn’t sound too exciting, but every person who’s used it says it’s amazing. It’s also coming to the HomePod (which doesn’t go on your head), so this Sonos user is crossing his fingers for non-Apple speaker support!

Anyway, that kind of immersion is coming to Apple Music as well. Another piece of value, that not accidentally will also help sell more of their compatible products.

Member Value at Your Credit Union

Group of Hands in Center
Bringing people together for good.

How does this whole audio exploration and announcement relate to your credit union operations? Perfect question. Because you deserve to sound your best! Ok, not just that. It’s about how you frame the value of being a member.

I deliberately skipped the most important part of the Apple Music announcement:

They’re providing all these new capabilities for every existing subscriber. Even with this new stuff, the subscription price will remain the same.

They added value to the experience. Just like you do all the time at your credit union. Think back over the past year:

  • How many things did you set up to make your members feel safe, connected, and empowered?
  • Did you raise fees or interest rates to provide these new services and capabilities?
  • Would you say your credit union in 2021 is a better place to achieve your financial goals than your credit union in early 2020? Or 2019?

I can guess the answers to that last bullet. Would your members say the same? Have you communicated these improvements so they understand the value you deliver?

Just Doing It May Not Be Enough

Idea Bulbs and Strategy Gears Equal Growth
Take your ideas, add a strategy, assess the results.

Your credit union made a lot of adaptations and improvements to weather the pandemic. It also has a history of continuous service across all offerings. I know because I checked your CU history page. Yes, for your credit union.

Creating a better place for your members to save, borrow, learn, and protect is your mission. But it’s not how you make those things happen. That requires some sort of marketing or outreach.

If you improve various credit union services, but your members don’t know, did they really get better? It’s a strange question, yet so much of your ongoing success is bundled into perceptions (what have you done for me lately).

Say you have a great new platform for automating savings day to day. That’s wonderful, and is a direct answer to the seamless ability of many fintech apps and big banks. But there’s one problem: No one knows it exists. Is it still so impressive?

Enhancing Value & Marketing…Together

Turntable and Laptop
Let’s learn about marketing on vinyl. It always sounds better, right?

Here’s one place Apple has a leg up on you. Ok, on all of us. They don’t need to market (though they still do, quite a bit). Others are happy to talk up their latest actions (I recognize the irony here).

If you don’t have major media, bloggers (hello), YouTubers, and specialist sites writing about your services, this section is important. Because it means your marketing needs to be a source of information.

You create value for members. That’s perfect. Now, you need to tell your members about that new (or existing) value. How you do that depends. Maybe an app notification. Perhaps a home page mention. Could even be a physical letter.

I’m a fan of combined marketing outreach to engage across a variety of mediums. That way, your physical connects to your social feed and more.

Whatever channels you choose, the message needs to directly address one of two things:

  • Pain
  • Pleasure

The first is overcoming a member pain. In other words, something they don’t enjoy or want. Your value is in replacing that pain with, well, not pain. The second is creating immediate or anticipatory pleasure. I’m giddy with excitement!

As an example, making it easy for members to avoid fees is addressing a pain, the pain of paying. Offering a savings tool that runs automatically is addressing a (future) pleasure, where members are looking forward to what they can do with that money.

Create Your Own Hi-Res Value

From car buying services to new app features, you have a wide range of ways to deliver value. Look at your own data to see what valuable capabilities are going unused. Then, show members how they can further enhance their relationship.

And where it makes sense, partner or build your next great value-add. I look forward to hearing (get it?) about your credit union’s newest hi-res value!