Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

Google Ventures-Backed Roqbot Lets You Rock the Jukebox From Your Phone

We all know that guy, the one who hovers by the jukebox at the bar with wads of dollar bills to make sure he gets “Don’t Stop Believing” and a little Poison into the music rotation.

Fortunately, there’s an app that lets you select and pay for jukebox songs from your smartphone — and allows other people in the venue to vote on the songs, too.

It’s called Roqbot, and it just nabbed $1.2 million in seed funding from Google Ventures and Detroit Venture Partners.

Roqbot, which launched at the SXSW Interactive Festival in 2011, is a free app for iPhone and Android smartphones.

So far, only 40 venues around the U.S. have installed Roqbot-friendly digital devices — a small number compared to the footprint of something like TouchTunes. But Roqbot is not limited to bars: Gyms, barbershops and even a go-kart track have taken advantage of it, too. Roqbot says it has access to about six million music tracks, and that the company covers the licensing costs for the venues.

It can cost anywhere from 50 cents to $2.50 to play a tune on a digital jukebox. Roqbot says, though, that in most of the venues using Roqbot, the plays are sponsored. For example, in a recent promotion, a bar in Austin, Texas, ran beer ads within the app, and music plays were free.

App users can check in to the venue via Foursquare, but a check-in isn’t required. The app queues up music based on order of requests, but it also allows people using the app to give the thumbs-up or thumbs-down to songs in the queue, which could help speed along the play of a popular song.

One element of Roqbot worth noting is that it’s not pulling from a cache of music tracks — bye-bye, CD flipbooks — but streams tracks from the Web, which might not work so well in bars or other places with spotty Internet connections, perhaps resulting in some thumbs-downs from patrons who have just paid to play. Roqbot says there are certain devices that venues can install — like boxes from BrightSign — that will cache some music to aid in uninterrupted playing.

(Image courtesy of Flickr/Studiotre)

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus