iPod Draws Users Into Friday's iPod Promo Event At Apple Stores

Last Friday, Apple hosted a special event at its chain of Apple Stores to promote the new line of iPods and the iTunes Apple Store. The event was touted as offering limited edition T-shirts, event posters, and a live DJ spinning music on an iPod.

At the Valley Fair Apple Store in Santa Clara, California, the store nearest to Appleis headquarters, the DJ was spinning tracks from two iPods, and the crowds were heavy. A line queued up fairly early, and was still more than a 100 deep twenty minutes after doors opened for the event at 6:00 PM. Thatis fewer than the enormous crowds at the Jaguar event last fall, but not a bad showing for a revision release to the iPod. Considering the fact that Apple didnit promote the event very heavily, it seemed almost an understatement when an Apple representative on hand for the event told TMO, "Weire thrilled with the turnout tonight."

The new iPod box
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Apple had stacks of the new iPods lined up behind the Genius Bar, as well as a cart stacked high with the units directly behind the cash register. In addition, Apple Store employees were walking around with the units showing them to anyone curious. To the seeming gratification of those Apple reps on hand for the event, people were lined up at the register buying both iPods and other Mac peripherals. As has been the case at other in-store events, the crowds were definitely translating into sales, and a large number of iPods walked out with customers while we watched.

The company was also selling limited edition iTunes T-shirts at a table set up near the door, and those, too, were going fast. By 7:30 PM, the shirts were mostly gone, but there were plenty of free event posters on hand for customers as they left the store.

The new iPod box
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Bringing in those crowds has become an important part of the Apple Store retail strategy for the company, and Apple has clearly had success in tying together new product releases with in-store events. Steve Jobs has alluded more than once to the fact that the chain of Apple Stores can bring in more people than an entire Macworld Expo. While that does not count the added (and free) press coverage that an Expo garners, crowds in an Apple Store tend to represent direct sales. That would suggest that getting the crowd in the door, and lined up outside the door, is vital to future success in Appleis mind.

The biggest draw for Fridayis event was specifically Appleis new line of iPods. Smaller, lighter, but with a bigger capacity, many of the people TMO talked to at the event wanted to see or buy one of the new units. Some were considering their first iPod purchase, while others were trying to decide if it was time to eBay their older models and upgrade. Still others merely wanted to look.

With men outnumbering women at the Santa Clara event, it may be no surprise that we heard a common theme of "Iim just trying to figure out how [to convince the wife I need one/to keep the wife from knowing I got it]" from several of the people we talked to. Marital advice aside, the iPod is still clearly a draw to get those crowds in the door.

Jeff Mockus was one of those who attended. Drawn to the event by Appleis .Mac newsletter, he has been looking at getting an iPod since the 1st generation units were introduced in October 2001. Mr. Mockus is a sound designer for the San Jose Repertory Theatre who just recently transitioned to Mac OS X from Classic, and he is serious about sound. He currently works with 160 GB of AIFF files in his work as a sound designer handling sound effects for the Theatre.

Because of his work, Mr. Mockus is also serious about the idea not stealing music. Proudly saying that all 160 GB of his sound archive is legit, he also said "the iTunes Music Store is a great way for artists to get paid for songs" downloaded from the Internet. Still, it was the iPod that drew him into the Apple Store for Fridayis event. Though not expecting to walk away with an iPod that day, Mr. Mockus had recently purchased a 17" PowerBook, and was just waiting for his finances to make the new iPod work for him.

Rayma Salas, a design student from Venezuela in town to visit friends and buy a 17" PowerBook, was at the event after learning about it that week whilst in the Apple Store. We found Ms. Salas working away on her new PowerBook and surfing the Web on the Apple Storeis free AirPort connection. Though she too wasnit planning on buying an iPod that day, she made more than one comment about asking her parents to deposit enough money for a 10 GB unit in her bank account while she was still in the States. "I want one," was her laughing mantra for the day.

Representing the hipper side of Appleis market was Johnny Granado of the 5 Color Cowboy hair salon in San Jose. [Editoris note: check out the salonis Web page, a flash and QuickTime driven affair. The QuickTime movies are particularly interesting.] Mr. Granado heard about the event from a client, and is interested in replacing the two turntables at the salon with iPods. "Iive been hearing about New York City DJs who were using the iPod to spin shows," he said. "I love the idea of using the desktop as a music library."

Though he currently has a 10 GB 2nd generation iPod, battery problems on his unit and the Dock available for the new units makes a new replacement unit likely. Mr. Granado is also excited about the new iTunes Music Store. He says he finds the selection limited now -- "Thereis no Deftones." -- but thinks as Apple adds more songs, the Music Store will become more useful to him.

Apple is clearly getting the word out for the new iPod and the iTunes Music Store, and the crowds were on hand accordingly. The iPod was the biggest draw for the in-store event with the people we spoke to, but there was a direct awareness about the Music Store, as well. With iPods walking out the door while we watched, and more than one million songs sold during the first week of sales at the iTunes Music Store, clearly Apple is striking a chord with consumers.

The new store front for The Apple Store.
(Click the thumbnails for larger images)