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Roqbot Raises $1.2M From Google Ventures And Detroit VP; Positions Mobile App To Compete In Jukebox And Background Music Markets

Posted On: 6/13/2012

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Roqbot Mobile App

OAKLAND, CA -- Music technology startup Roqbot has raised a $1.2 million seed round led by Google Ventures and Detroit Venture Partners, with participation from Penny Black, T5 Capita, Accelerator Ventures and some angel investors.

Roqbot offers a free social music app with same name that is designed to deliver music to bar locations traditionally served by jukeboxes, and to retail and other venues that use background music services. Roqbot won the SXSW accelerator contest last year. | SEE STORY

Customers in a Roqbot-enabled location request whatever they'd like to hear using the Roqbot smartphone app. The location gets final approval on music choices. "Patrons use the iPhone or Android music app to check in, discover what's playing, request songs, vote on the queue and see the venue's specials," explained the company, which claims more than a million songs streamed and over two times the average check-ins of Foursquare.

"Ultimately, customers crowdsource the music experience at that location," the company said. Roqbot asserts that it can deliver better music experiences by providing venues with full control over what can be requested, continuous streaming -- unlike traditional jukeboxes -- and full customization to match the venue's vibe.

Over the past few months, Roqbot said it has been working with businesses and brands in San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles and Austin, TX, and recently collaborated with Miller Lite, Gap, Samsung and rock band Motley Crue to bring its mobile jukebox product to larger audiences.

The cash infusion will enable Roqbot to grow its sales and marketing team, which is currently staffed by only five people.

Finnish startup PlayMySong is also competing in the emerging mobile jukebox space. Not unlike Roqbot, it lets location patrons remotely program the sound system. In January, PlayMySong closed a round of seed funding totaling $350,000, and went live in its first location in New York City.

To use PlayMySong, a location connects its iOS device running a special app to its sound system using a standard audio cable with 3.5mm. plug. Patrons then connect to that device over a Wi-Fi network or 3G connection, and choose songs from the venue's playlist. A premium service runs ads and messages.

Roqbot is introducing a service that creates a custom playlist for a business based on both customer and venue preferences. Called Roqbot Mix Machine, the music tech company says the new service is a first for out-of-home music.

According to Roqbot cofounder and chief executive Garrett Dodge, Roqbot Mix Machine will allow a bar to create a playlist that dynamically adjusts to customer feedback, and the bar owner can still maintain control. "This way, the music engages all of a business's customers, not just the person putting dollars into the jukebox," he said.

Roqbot is launching the Jukebox Reborn Facebook campaign to rally music fans to suggest the Roqbot app to their favorite public venues.

However, the traditional jukebox industry described by Roqbot is anything but "traditional" -- unless the assertion infers a long-established practice of innovation. For starters, today's touchscreen digital jukeboxes offer full customization for any venue. They possess a rich set of filters, scheduling capabilities and other features that can be used to match patrons' music tastes, or restrict content according to a wide range of parameters. And the music libraries that jukeboxes connect to offer millions of songs for instant downloading.

Additionally, today's jukebox software already enables crowdsourcing to some degree. On the AMI Entertainment Network, for example, the jukebox interface presents content based on popularity -- both locally (within one location) or network-wide. And popularity lists can be viewed within genres, and so on.

"Part of the appeal of a 'jukebox' is that one person gets to select the songs for the crowd to hear -- just like a disk jockey," observed AMI Entertainment president and chief executive Mike Maas. "The idea that you would somehow 'vote' to get songs played seems like a nonstarter; crowdsourcing is meant to accomplish big things by harnessing the power of a group to do what an individual can't easily do alone. I think we've already proven that most bar patrons are capable of selecting a song without help from others."

Nor has the traditional jukebox ignored the smartphone and social media generation. Both AMI and TouchTunes Interactive Networks, which boasts the largest number of jukeboxes in the U.S., have their own mobile apps that attempt to engage on-the-go consumers.

In March, AMI released the first version of its mobile app for iPhones. AMI Bar Link allows music fans to interact with AMI jukeboxes and Megatouch videogame terminals. Users can make music selections at a location right from the palms of their hands, or view their Megatouch videogame rankings. | SEE STORY

At TouchTunes, uniting smartphones and jukeboxes is a top priority. The company, which has now offered a mobile app for more than a year, released its advance myTouchTunes Mobile 2.0 in April. The new app is expected to generate $1 million in weekly incremental revenue by the end of 2012. | SEE STORY

Because it offers continuously streaming content, Roqbot says it can deliver a better music solution to locations. Streaming jukeboxes have appeared over the past decade, but the jukebox industry still views them with caution. "Why risk music interruption when you can have locally stored content?" AMI's Maas said.

"It's an ever-changing world we live in," the AMI Entertainment chief noted.