Museums Embrace Beacon-Based Audio Tours

Muzze provides hardware and a mobile app that make it easy for museums large and small to offer digital content based on a museumgoer's location.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Aug 26, 2015

At many museums around the world, visitors' smartphones are starting to become as central to the cultural experience as the art hanging on the walls, thanks to beacon-based interpretive programming that turns old-school placards into dynamic audio tours. After launching beta tests at four museums last summer, Muzze, a beacon-based audio tour provider based in the Netherlands, quickly grew, and the company has now deployed its system at 40 museums across Europe (mostly in the Netherlands). What makes Muzze (pronounced "muse E" in Dutch) unique, according to co-founder Richard Lagrand, are its software platform, its revenue models and its use of artists to record the tours of their own work.

Users can access audio tours for a multitude of museums from a single application, saving them the hassle of downloading a different app for each museum. Plus, the Muzze app supports five languages: English, French, German, Spanish and Dutch. A museum that would like to develop an audio tour on Muzze's platform has two financial models from which to choose.

Richard Lagrand holding a beacon
The subscription option starts at €39 ($60) per month for a starter kit with three beacons and a microphone, which either a museum staffer or the artist whose work is being described can then use to record the tour narration.

Museums that want to charge guests to download the guides can choose Muzze's 50/50 revenue-sharing option. The revenue is split after subtracting the administrative costs that Muzze is charged when the user pays for access to the audio tour via his or her Apple or Android phone. (Apple's fees are roughly 30 percent of the purchase price, Lagrand says, while Google charges around 25 percent.)

The system relies on signals received by beacons installed in the space. These signals trigger audio tours, based on a user's proximity to each beacon, through a mobile app running on the visitor's cellular phone or tablet. Muzze has thus far only deployed beacons made by, but is not contractually obliged to do so. "We have a strong preference for Kontakt," Lagrand states, "because we like their [commissioning] software and they're a good partner."

Muzze is also beginning to beta-test the use of push notifications that its clients, regardless of which payment option they've chosen, could use to send a user special offers or alerts. Under this scenario, a location-based marketing company would provide the service, with Muzze acting as a broker, and would send location-based advertisements to Muzze app users who have opted in to receive notifications.

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