Though the jukebox was once an essential piece of entertainment equipment in several bars and eateries across the United States, the industry, as Vending Times managing editor Nick Montano put it, “has been living from hand to mouth for the last decade.” According to the trade magazine, there are 90,000 jukeboxes in America today, as opposed to 150,000 during the mid to late 1990s. Moreover, these machines are becoming less valuable – the average weekly income per box in 2010 was $113, a significant drop from $148 just five years before.
If you consider how fast technology has advanced in recent years, it's really not that big a surprise that the jukebox industry has taken a hit. After all, why would people feed change into a machine to hear their favorite tunes when those songs are already on their smartphones and MP3 players?
One New York-based company is hoping to save and revive the dwindling industry, however. Introduced last year at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, the Virtuo SmartJuke is sort of like the teenage, tech savvy grandson of the classic jukebox. Developed by TouchTunes CEO Charles Goldstuck, the sleek device resembles a giant iPad and features a broadband connection that allows music lovers to choose from 400,000 songs. (Some old machines offer about 20,000.) Users who download the Virtuo app on their phones can control the jukebox remotely.
Earlier this year, TouchTunes unveiled more products and services to enhance the SmartJuke, including Virtuo PhotoBooth and Virtuo Karaoke. PhotoBooth allows users to take photos of themselves and instantly print and/or upload them to social networks, while Karaoke lets customers sing their hearts out.
South African-born Goldstuck, who used to serve as COO at BMG, says that his company is “revolutionizing the original social experience, which is going out and drinking in a tavern.”