JNB Music hits the right note with modern take on jukebox
Dublin-based start-up’s app allows users to change music in bars and restaurants
There is nothing more irritating than having a nice meal or a quiet drink ruined by dire music pounding away in the background. Requests to turn it down or off are usually met with raised eyebrows so most people grin and bear it – but not for much longer if the cofounders of Dublin-based start-up JNB Music, Deborah Sass and Jesus Iglesias, get their way.
JNB Music has developed an app that allows customers interact with music in public spaces. What this means in practice is that customers can choose the music they want to hear in participating venues. It is very like how jukeboxes used to work, only now you don’t even have to get up from your seat to select your track from the vinyl stack and pay your money. You can control the playlist from your smartphone or tablet and the process is free.
“You go into any restaurant, bar, coffee shop, gym, or public space where music is being played and if you see a sign that says, “choose the music in this venue, download this app for free,” you download the app, find the venue, view their playlist and select whatever track you want. Once you have clicked on the track the system converts that into a vote and the track with the most votes plays next. If no one is voting then the track plays in the presented order,” Sass explains.
JNB Music was set up in August 2016 and is based at the Guinness Enterprise Centre in Dublin. Neither Sass nor Iglesias are Irish, but they chose to base their company here mainly because of the State supports offered to start-ups.
“Enterprise Ireland in particular were excellent,” Sass says. “They were fully engaged from the beginning and over a two-week period set up all of the different meetings we needed to put the business together.”
Clinched the deal
Ireland had not been the founders’ automatic choice when they started looking at locations – they also considered the United States, the United Kingdom and Andorra, but Sass says the combination of funding and practical help available clinched the deal.
“We had spoken to a number of tech-friendly start-up locations and Ireland was way ahead of them,” she says. “The rate of corporation tax is also a bonus but not the deciding factor. All of our IP will be based here and by the end of the year we will have a team comprising software developers, business development, marketing and social media professionals.” The company currently employs six people.
Iglesias first had the idea for JNB Music five years ago while living in Bali. Born in Spain, he left school at the age of 12 but had an entrepreneurial zeal that drove him to set up three businesses by the time he was 20. “While living on Bali Jesus went out a lot to restaurants and bars and couldn’t understand why it was not easy to change the music,” Sass says.
“This is where the idea originally came from but he was unfamiliar with the music tech app space where as media, music, and digital entertainment have been my life for the last 20 years. I have spent over a decade advising music tech startups and setting up strategic partnerships for them with major media brands.
“We don’t provide music or playlists to any venues,” Sass adds. “We are agnostic as to the source of the music, to the device used to access the app, to language and to time zone. We are also completely cloud based. Venues just need to have music and access to the internet.”
Being able to change a venue’s playlist is the customer facing side of JNB Music’s business, but there is a lot more going on in the background. For example, the company is collecting data about music choices that could be of potential advertising value to brands, record labels and musicians.
“We collect all the track level data – what track is played, how many times it’s played, what time of the day it’s played and where it was played,” Sass says. “This is invaluable information for many industry stakeholders including the collecting societies that distribute royalties to thousands of artists in their respective countries. As of now there is no meaningful data available to ensure this happens fairly and comprehensively.
“By bridging the physical and digital social worlds we are opening up infinite possibilities for venues, consumers and brands to engage and communicate with each other,” she adds.
“Brands in particular are always looking to become part of the consumer ecosystem and music is a key way of doing this. We can pinpoint exactly what’s being played in a venue so they know whether it’s predominantly rock or reggae for example and can target their marketing and advertising accordingly.”
JNB plans to launch in 40 countries over the next 36 months. The company’s first market is Romania where it launched in November 2016 in partnership with Roton, a large music and entertainment company there.
Spain and Indonesia are next. JNB has a number of routes to market including working with a country partner, doing licensing deals with international brands and working with collecting societies to ensure venues playing music are paying appropriate royalties. The company will also sell data and advertising/merchandising space in app.
For the romantics in the audience there will be a pay-to-play function where a user can select a track with personal significance and have it played at a venue – think a marriage proposal or an anniversary song for example. In this case, the small but yet to be determined fee, will be split with the venue.
Investment in the business to date has been about €800,000 with roughly €100,000 of that spent recently on set-up costs. As a high-potential start-up, the company will get access to up to €250,00 from Enterprise Ireland but it must have a lead investor in place before this funding is released. JNB expects to be revenue generating by the end of 2017.
In June, the company will progress its goal of raising €1 million when it joins 20 other companies from around the world (hand-picked from more than 460 applications) to take part in the Menorca Millennials, a laid-back seaside gathering led by seasoned tech industry entrepreneurs that describes itself as a “decellerator” rather than the more familiar accelerator.
The “retreat” or “mentoring in flip-flops” as the event has also been called, includes participation by venture capitalists keen to put their money into “happening” start-ups.
However, the main aim is to encourage the 20 newbies to take a hard look at the future of their companies by slowing down rather than speeding up. For time-pressed entrepreneurs the opportunity to wriggle their toes in the hot sand while discussing business strategy with potential investors must surely seem like a dream come true.