How to high-jack a country jukebox with a smartphone.

My older brother and I went on a road trip recently to hunt for a car. While the car search was a dud, we were about to see how deep mobile technology is embedded in small-town America.

We found ourselves in Osceola, Indiana—population 2,456.

Now there isn’t much in Osceola, especially if you’re hungry. We ditched the idea of a quick sandwich from the gas station and dinner at either of the questionable sports bars nearby. We picked Trevi’s Italian Restaurant expecting some decent red sauce and cheap Chianti.

It turned out that Trevi’s was instead an exceptionally smokey dive bar that served pizza. It’s the kind of place where regulars enjoy cheap cigarettes, even cheaper beer, and lots of 1980's heavy metal music. And like most small-town bars, they don’t favor fancy, Volvo-driving, out-of-towners like my brother and I.

Despite the PTSD that I was getting from an endless medley of Guns-n-Roses, directly commandeering that jukebox wasn’t an option. When you’re a stranger, dive-bar jukeboxes are like cute bear cubs—best approached cautiously, if at all.

Fortunately, this jukebox was different. It wasn’t a hulking music appliance that would skip if the front door slammed shut. It wasn’t loaded with old vinyl or out-of-circulation CDs. It was a modern, wall-mounted MP3 player with a blue data cable wired up to the ceiling.

Its bright touchscreen invited me to download its mobile app. That app showed me thousands of songs that could be piped remotely into Osceola, Indiana. And it inspired me to piss off these heavy-metal-loving hicks from the safe anonymity of my smartphone.

So after a white-trash trifecta of Megadeath, Ratt and Slayer, I put my plot into action.

I eased the crowd with a little Adele, threw them off with some Pink and confused them with Florence & the Machines. Scowls started appearing as my brother and I snickered like a couple of boys who just smoke-bombed the teachers’ bathroom.

By the time we paid our tab, I had successfully shifted the music from heavy metal to tween pop. Regulars started interrogating each other and the bartender said she didn’t know how to turn off the jukebox .

As we opened the door to leave, a beer-laden big fella with feathered hair barked:

Who the hell played this music?!?

While many consultants—like myself—frequently highlight mobile’s dramatic changes to American consumer behavior, most are in ways we never would have expected.

So if you find yourself in Osceola, drop by Trevi’s, and play a medley of One Direction on their jukebox for me. It will be the best $5 you’ll spend.


Curt Prins is a mobile strategist based in Minneapolis. You can follow him @curtprins.

[Photo Credit: Emma Rammone]

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