Social music app Roqbot raises $1.2M for streaming music and jukebox service

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By Kathleen De Vere Comments

Startup music streaming platform Roqbot has raised raised $1.2 million in seed funding from Google Ventures and Detroit Venture Partners to expand its mobile jukebox service across the U.S.

The Oakland-based service allows customers in participating bars, restaurants, gyms and stores to check-in using Roqbot’s mobile app, and then learn about what’s playing, make requests from Roqbot’s 6 million song library, vote on songs already in the venue’s queue, and learn about in-store specials and deals.

While users do have to download a mobile app in order to interact with the service, CEO and co-founder Garrett Dodge tells us the requirement hasn’t proven to be a significant barrier.

Since the service’s client roster is still mostly concentrated in Austin, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, once a user downloads the Roqbot app they realize they can use it in several places. This in turn fuels engagement with both the business and the app, says Dodge, who tells us customers are far more likely to come back to venues where they can control the music they hear. “Right now on average on a location by location basis, we’re seeing two to three times more check-ins than social services like Foursquare or Facebook,” he says.

Roqbot is also designed to be social, allowing users to share their picks on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Last.fm. This has lead to some interesting emergent behavior. “We’ve had a lot of people that want to be able to request a song for their friends who are at the bar,” says Dodge. “There’s been some really interesting dynamics between people and their friends at home interacting through the service.

The first Roqbot venue came online at the beginning of 2011 and service is now streaming music in more than 40 businesses, including major retail chain The Gap.

Roqbot currently monetizes either through the business owner, who pays Roqbot a fee to license the service, or individual users, who purchase in-app credits to request songs and bump their picks up a venue’s playlist.

The end goal, according to Dodge, it to shift most of Roqbot’s monetization to the user side, making it either free or extremely cheap for venue owners. This will not only help Roqbot undercut the license fees charged by more traditional streaming music services, but also help the company expand its client base.  However, since not every location will be able to monetize effectively through a user-pay system — users are far more likely to pay to hear a song of their choice in a bar than they are a clothing store — the company still pursuing mixed price model that is flexible to a venue’s needs.

Roqbot will be using the seed funding to hire more employees at its head office in Detroit, and expand its presence in Austin and San Francisco. The company is hard at work on a round of product updates and refinements, which are scheduled to be out by the summer.

Roqbot’s seed round was lead by Google Ventures and Detroit Venture Partners, with participation from Accelerator Ventures, T5 Capital and Penny Black.