Recently talked about this idea with a friend. I hope he doesn't mind me sharing it.
The idea is simple: offer a service where people can queue songs into a playlist of an internet radio or audio stream by sending an SMS to some number. This could be used as a Jukebox in bars and restaurants.
The thought is not new, I remember pondering related ideas years ago, when Bluetooth was coming up. However, by now the conditions make it easier than ever to create such a service. I think making it based on a website would be best, because clients could easily put up a computer display somewhere to display the jukebox options. It is easy to sign up for SMS services, so that customers could pay small amounts of money to play a song. SMS is much more reliable and easier to use than bluetooth.
A fun side effect could be to create a playlist of "music you might like", like last.fm, that would automatically adapt to the taste of the venues customers.
A problem could be that random people could send SMS and make the jukebox play nasty music, even if they are not at the venue. Probably there would have to be a feature where the owner of the bar creates a selection of appropriate music that people could choose from.
Another question would be if a website would be enough (customers would have to use the terminal to see what music is available), or if a mobile website would be called for that customers could browse on their phones.
The biggest problem is getting rights to the audio files, and paying appropriate taxes for playing music in public places. I know nothing about this. Maybe for a simple version music from Seeqpod or Skreemr could be used, or an online radio like Last.fm. It would be cool if there already was a service where people can create their own internet radio streams, that could be controlled from the service. Probably there is - if so, I estimate the SMS Jukebox could be programmed within weekends time
It is too bad that there is no wholesale for online music (that I know of anyway), so that people could create interesting services around music. As it stands, probably a lot of money has to be paid to lawyers to make deals with the music industry. Apple and Amazon could do it, but for smaller businesses, it is hard (I think). Or they just scrape by in the grey areas of unclear legitimacy, like the aforementioned seeqpod and skreemr. Not something I would recommend, although I applaud their chutzpah.
By internet search I found only one existing SMS Jukebox project, which seems to be provided by the mobile phones operator Orange in France. This is also a reason that I think my friend will not mind me sharing the idea.
Another caveat of the idea is that I have no idea how to market it to bar and cafe owners. Anyway, that is why I file it under "throwaway ideas", because it is unlikely that I'll tackle it myself for the time being. Older throwaway ideas of mine can be found at Cambrian House.
On the other hand, maybe I should just go around and ask in bars in my city if they would be interested. I am still looking for a nice project for the summer.