November 21, 2011 at 11:20 am

Roqbot Crowdsources In-Store Music for The Gap with Android, iPhone Apps

At one San Francisco store, shoppers decide what music plays using mobile apps for iPhone or Android — or simply by checking in to the store and allowing their musical preferences to color the soundtrack.

Roqbot, whose ingenious method for crowdsourced music selection in venues (bars, clubs, bowling alleys, etc.) we first profiled at SXSW, partnered with The Gap to put a customized subset of its six-million-song catalog into the chain’s Chestnut St. location. The system changes the music based on the time of day, the musical taste of shoppers who check in to the store using the Roqbot iPhone or Android app, and customers’ song requests.

Every person who checks in using the Roqbot app alters the music programming with their Facebook Likes and Profile listings, scrobbles, Pandora bookmarks, and/or the music on their smartphone. (The company plans to add the ability to reflect shoppers’ listening on Facebook-compatible music services too.)

Alternatively, shoppers can request specific songs from the approved pool — “approved,” we assume, to avoid the tedium of rickrolls – and add them to the queue.

For The Gap and other retailers apparently to come, customizing music based on customers’ taste is an easy way to keep shoppers happy, and possibly to make them shopping longer. Roqbot is working with Cisco on its Digital Media Player, which powers The Gap’s three displays, and could put this crowdsourced music app into “stadiums, retailers, and other big venues,” according to what Roqbot co-founder and CEO Garrett Dodge told

“Music has always been a reason for people to stay in a venue for longer,” he added. “Bars want to have great music so you stay longer and have another beer, and the gym wants to have music so you’re entertained if you don’t have your iPod with you. We see Roqbot as taking that to the next level by letting customers actually engage with the music that’s playing — discovering what’s playing, and also influencing it.”

Displays like the one pictured above let shoppers see what’s playing; monitor how their presence is influencing what plays; and see the Up and Down voting score by other customers with the app installed — so even if you don’t have a smartphone, you might want one by the time you leave the store. In addition, customers can follow The Gap on Facebook or Twitter from within the standard Roqbot app, once they’ve checked in, as well as seeing whatever specials are available.

To sway the playlist or pick specific songs to play, customers will need the Android or iPhone app — and it helps if they’re generous with their musical habits on and Facebook, because that gives the system more to go on.

This is precisely why the world will shape itself to social butterflies: They are the ones who don’t mind sharing their predelictions to power services like this. However, privacy enthusiasts can also get in on the fun by simply using the app to select songs.

In addition to The Gap, which plans to run this pilot program throughout the holiday shopping season, Roqbot has been pretty busy since March; Roqbot powers music in barbershops, gyms, and college campuses, in addition to this, its first retailer.