Roqbot, a company that was funded with $1.2 million in seed financing this summer, led by Google Ventures, announced Tuesday morning that it's released its mobile app for businesses. The new app allows small businesses, like a local bar or coffee shop, to play music from their mobile phones.
OK. You're probably asking: "Why can't they play music from their mobile phones today?"
They can. But businesses are required to pay performance rights organizations, or PRO's, (ASCAP, BMI & SESAC), to play music publicly. Businesses can pay directly to the PROs, but often they use a business music service, which includes the PRO licenses in a monthly fee, said Garrett Dodge, founder and CEO, in an interview.
These music services, such as Muzak, XM for Business and Music Choice, traditionally deliver the music by CDs or satellite. But clearly, these services don't provide much customization (enabling a business to create playlists), especially if they're shipping CDs.
You might be asking why then won't a small business just turn on Pandora or Spotify. They can. But those services don't have business licenses to allow other businesses to play music in public, said Dodge. Those services are strictly focused on the consumer.
So if your local coffee shop owner decides to play Pandora from his iPhone for his 10 seated customers sipping lattes and reading newspapers, he would actually be breaking the law, unless he was also paying a PRO about $300 a year to play that music publicly.
Now with Roqbot, which was founded in 2010, Mr. local coffee shop proprietor can download the app, and for $24.95 or $39.95, he has a license to play seven million songs. He can also create playlists, or select from pre-made playlists, and allow people to vote on the songs, making the music a social experience.
The new mobile offering is part of Roqbot's way to get into small businesses.
"The mobile app is a great way for any sized business to sign up for a trial," said Dodge. "I like to compare it to Square (the gadget that turns your phone into a point of sale device). In the old days, people used these bulky systems for point of purchase sales. This is what we’re doing from the business music side.”
Today, Roqbot has targeted bars and restaurants, like Burger King. Roqbot customers either use Roqbot's hardware for a dedicated music system, or software they can upload to their computers. Dodge wouldn't disclose how many customers the company has today.