Sometimes finding a solution to those little annoyances in life can turn into a big business. Take Roqbot, a virtual jukebox solution that lets users crowdsource music in bars, cafes and stores. Frustrated by losing turns every time they went to pick a song at the jukebox at their local bowling alley, Roqbot co-founders Garrett Dodge and Ketu Patel developed a mobile solution. The app, which runs on any internet-enabled device connected to a venue’s local sound system, allows users to personalize their music experience at their local hangout spots.
The app took off, and Roqbot is now working with businesses in San Francisco, New York, and LA and has collaborated with brands like Miller Lite, Gap, and Samsung, and even bands like Motley Crue to bring public, crowdsourced song-selecting to the masses. And today, Roqbot is kicking its national expansion up a notch with a round of seed funding led by Google Ventures and Detroit Venture Partners. Accelerator Ventures, T5 Capital, and Penny Black also contributed to the startup’s $1.2 million seed raise.
Simply put, the Roqbot co-founders say that they want to put an end to boring background music. If you’re shopping in a local store and you hear yet another Bieber song come shrieking over the sound system, you should be able to play maestro. At least, that’s the vision. Currently, Rogbot’s iPhone and Android apps allow you to take our your smartphone and deejay in certain select stores, like the aforementioned partnership with Gap.
With over one million songs streamed and a library of over six million songs, has seen some encouraging early traction, especially considering that this kind of public crowdsourcing of music selection has largely been avoided by the big social music apps. It’s been able to get over the hump, but it will have to continue to attract big-name retailers and chains if it’s going to take that next step.
It’s employing a smart approach by allowing users at participating location to use their smartphones to check-in at their local bar, see what’s playing, request songs, upvote tracks in the queue, and view the venue’s specials. The ability to crowdsource their music experience is appealing, it’s social and interactive.
On the flip side, merchants dig the experience because they get to control what songs can be requested, tailoring the collective playlist to fit their venue’s vibe. That means no death metal at flower shops, and no classical at dive bars. Maybe instead, some nice string metal. Plus, Roqbot offers continuous streaming, so that employees don’t go crazy listening to the same iPod playlist over and over again, or Kenny G’s greatest hits.
To push this idea forward, the startup is also today announcing a new feature called “Mix Machine,” which combines both user and venue musical preferences to create a custom playlist for each business. The idea, Dodge says, is to give a local bar a playlist that adjust to customer feedback, while letting the business maintain overall control. The intended result: Customers, being happy with the bar’s sound track, hang out longer and keep coming back.
Of course, again, you’re probably only going to be interested in Roqbot if your favorite local hangouts offer the service. Although Roqbot will be adding to its staff thanks to its seed round, its sales team is still small, and it can’t hit all the local nightlife spots. So, for customers that don’t have a Roqbot venue in their area, its new “Jukebox Reborn” campaign lets users recommend Roqbot directly to their favorite places by posting on those venues’ Facebook pages.
The team believes that the future of music in public venues will be social and mobile, so they’ve started by enabling users to publish their check-ins and music picks to Twitter, Foursquare, Last.fm and Facebook. If you want to add a song that’s not in the queue, you can use the app’s credits to buy on Amazon or Paypal, or use your credit card. And that’s where the startup’s monetization aspirations come in.
Roqbot is not alone in the belief that consumption is going social and mobile, as we’re hearing the same from eCommerce companies talking about the future of shopping. But when it comes to socially crowdsourced music, Roqbot wants to be at the front of the pack.