December 4, 2012 at 2:58 pm

RoqBot Launches ‘First Business Music App’ for Bars, Restaurants, More

roqbot business music appOur favorite music app ever to have been invented in a bowling alley is undoubtedly RoqBot, a social music game of sorts that lets the patrons pick the music that plays anywhere — within the guidelines of what the venue owner has in mind. Not only does that prevent ceaseless rickrolling, but it lets venue owners retain a certain tone, even as they grant DJ freedom to the crowd.

Roqbot started out as the winning idea at SXSW Accelerator 2011, then began experimenting with playing music in retail environments including The Gap.

Now, the Google Ventures-funded start-up has launched what it’s calling “the world’s first business music app for restaurants, bars, retail stores, gyms, events, and other businesses across the U.S.” The previous version worked along the same lines, so what’s different about this new version? We put that question to RoqBot co-founder and CEO Garrett Dodge by phone.

“We’ve had the app for consumers,” said Dodge. “What we’ve really done here is create a whole new app for the businesses.”

By that, he means that the new app allows a venue owner to register for the service on their phones (iOS or Android).

“Usually we work with small business, although we have customers of all different sizes, and typically those businesses are not sitting at their computer all day.”

The new business app version lets the business owner (or bartender, or maitre d’, or whoever) control the music box (or a computer) remotely, from their own phone, in case a customer plays an incredibly lame song, or it’s time to shift manually from the “songs we play during our lunch shift” to the “songs we play for the afternoon coffee crowd” playlist. (Roqbot can also control those shifts automatically.)

The Roqbot concept makes lots of sense, as we have been saying all along, because why wouldn’t any business want to make their clientele happier? People are happy when they get to play with a new toy, and also when they get to hear the music they like.

If you own a business and are thinking about getting it, there’s only one major sticking point we can spot: Roqbot only has seven million songs. If you go with something like Spotify instead, you might not be able to let your customers control the music, but you’d have access to much more music. To that, Dodge answers that the point here isn’t to pick any song you might want to hear, but to create an atmosphere for customers. But what if they want a song that’s not in the catalog?

There’s no way to weave songs from another source into the Roqbot system in case a customer wants something that’s not in the system, but:

  • Roqbot is currently ingesting new content and should have around 12.5 million songs in January, and will try to keep expanding beyond that.
  • Dodge says Roqbot is cheaper for a business than playing whatever they want on Spotify etc. and then paying direct fees to ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC — or waiting until a rep shows up to fine them for playing music in a business without a license.
  • Other “business music” services exist, such as DMX or Sirius XM. However, neither of those lets customers vote on what plays next with their phones.