How the iPhone Killed the Jukebox

July 2013

Broken digital jukeboxRecently, we were pitching a new customer, and as always we were highlighting how Rockbot differs from existing digital jukeboxes. It got us thinking about the definition of a jukebox. We often hear about the "celestial jukebox," which can be everything from Pandora to iTunes to Spotify. There are also "digital jukeboxes," "mobile jukeboxes," and we've even been known to use "social jukebox." What does it all mean? And does it even matter?

Wikipedia says that the jukebox is "partially automated," "coin-operated" and "self-contained." That seems like a pretty good description of the physical attributes but doesn't really capture the essence of the jukebox, which is about the act of paying to play a song and listening to it with the people around you. Over the last 100 years that experience has stayed the same. The technologies and media formats behind it have changed, but for the most part the latest digital jukeboxes aren't much different than the Wurlitzers of old. Your quarter (or dollar) still plays your song.

If you've spent the last few decades in bars and restaurants you probably already know - the iPhone killed the jukebox. There are a dozen reasons why, but we'll focus on the most important one - the experience. Listening to a great song with your friends in the bar is an amazing experience. Getting Rickrolled by the drunk guy with the $20 bill is not. The curation of traditional jukeboxes was replaced by the "unlimited" selection of digital jukeboxes, culminating in the day N-Sync started blaring at our favorite dive bar. That wasn't a great experience for the patrons in the bar or the mis-guided person that made the selection.

Today's customers want a jukebox experience that they can all participate in - and the iPhone created that opportunity. Call it crowdsourced or social music, but either way people have the power - not the drunk guy with the $20. It's an experience that engages everyone in the business from their smartphone, creates a customized mix like the best DJs, and connects people in bar to their friends at home through social networks like Facebook & Twitter.

RIP the jukebox. Welcome to the world of social music. Maybe we need a new name for it, or maybe the latest generation just thinks this was always the jukebox. Either way, the future of out-of-home music is exciting and we're honored to be a part of it.


Topics: Business Tips

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