Rockbot, a virtual jukebox solution for businesses, has closed strategic investment from Universal Music Group, which is the largest of the major music labels. That funding will be used as Rockbot seeks to expand its business across a wide range of bars, restaurants and other brick-and-mortar locations throughout the U.S.
Rockbot offers a system for enabling business owners to affordably play licensed music in their venues, while also enabling customers to check in and interact with those tunes. By providing a mobile app for checking in and connecting to a virtual jukebox, users are able to select and vote for the music that will be played in their favorite local businesses.
Just a few years old, Rockbot has seen impressive growth as it’s expanded beyond sole-proprietor bars and restaurants to multi-location chains. The company actually got its start in SOMA’s Bar Basic, which has been adopted by many TechCrunch staffers as our go-to after-work hangout due to its proximity to our office. But now Rockbot is being used by a number of different restaurant franchises.
Some of its more recent wins include JetBlue, Lucky Strike, Station Casinos of Fertitta Entertainment, and a wide range of other chains. Franchises of Buffalo Wild Wings, Harrah’s Casino, Burger King, and Pinkberry are also using its streaming services for their background music.
With that in mind, Rockbot is growing its number of active locations by 20 percent month-over-month. As a result, it’s seen 300 percent growth in the first half of this year alone.
There are more than 2 million brick-and-mortar locations with more than 100 million smartphone users visiting them every day. Rockbot hopes to provide a way for businesses to connect with those customers through social check-ins using its app, along with enabling them to control what’s being played on the sound system.
At the core of Rockbot’s value prop for users is the ability to pay to play songs on the virtual jukebox, and also to allow others to vote on which songs get to be played next. That type of interaction is leading users to engage with the app an average of 22 minutes when in one of Rockbot’s customer’s venues.
Of course, not every venue is going to want to make an interactive jukebox available to its users. Some just want to be able to play music. With Rockbot, they get a high degree of control over the types of music that get played in their venues, which is important — especially for larger, multi-chain venues.
As Rockbot captures more of that market, it hopes having one of the labels as a strategic investor will help. According to Rockbot CEO Garrett Dodge, UMG is not just the largest music label today, but it’s also the most innovative.
While UMG has done some strategic investing, it’s generally been pretty picky about the companies it backs. On that front, Rockbot joins some elite company, as previous UMG investments include companies like Beats, Spotify and Shazam. Those were all consumer-facing businesses, but Rockbot gives it a hook into the B2B market.
Due to the strategic nature of UMG’s investment, the amount was undisclosed. However, other investors in the round include Detroit Venture Partners, XG Ventures, Susa Ventures and an AngelList syndicate led by Sundeep Ahuja.