Revenge of the Jukebox
Tired of hearing boring, generic background music when you’re out with friends? That could be a thing of the past if the Blicko “digital jukebox” service takes off in bars and cafes.
“We call Blicko a democratic music service, because it allows listeners to choose the songs,” says Jesper Ahlberg, one of the three KTH students behind the new venture. “It's a digital jukebox where you submit suggestions and vote for what songs to play.” The KTH business development incubator Student Inc. is supporting Ahlberg and his partners, Andreas Andrén and Theodor Zettersten, in their hopes of getting Blicko off the ground.
Ahlberg goes on to say that while Blicko is mainly aimed at bars, cafes and restaurants, the service could work just as well at conferences, or to keep the crowd entertained while waiting for the start of a concert.
The service works by connecting the music system at a venue to a computer which in turn is connected to Blicko. Customers can use their smartphones or tablets to surf into the café’s Blicko station and vote for the songs they’d like to hear.
“Visitors who connect to the station can see who else is connected, and they can take part in real time, voting for songs in the playlist. The votes affect the order that the songs are played in. And they can also suggest additions to the list,” Ahlberg says.
The only technology users need to connect to Blicko is a device that connects to the Internet. Smartphones, laptops, or iPads all work. Blicko intends to sell subscriptions primarily to companies that serve the public, letting those subscribers decide whether or not to charge listeners.
“The big advantage over a regular music player is that a crowd controls what’s playing. It’s like a jukebox, but nobody has to put coins in a machine,” Ahlberg says.
The Blicko technology is based on Microsoft’s .NET framework and runs from the Windows Azure cloud computing platform. Listeners log in with Twitter or Facebook, and songs are downloaded from music libraries such as YouTube and Spotify.
“We’ve constructed Blicko so that the music service is dynamic, and over time we can connect other music libraries to the service. We’re having listeners log in with Twitter or Facebook to curb abuse,” Ahlberg says, adding that there doesn’t need to be live activity all the time. The station owner can configure “fallback tracks” for times when listeners just want to listen.
Blicko is currently in an alpha version, but a beta release is just around the corner. Launch of a final version is slated for late summer.
Private users will also be encouraged to start their own Blicko stations.
“We’re generous with invitations. All you have to do is go to the website and sign up,” Ahlberg says.
By Peter Larsson. Edited by Kevin Billinghurst