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Electric Jukebox wants to help CD fans understand all the fuss over streaming music

Remember when music was a social experience, rather than an insular one, dominated by headphones and smartphones? The Electric Jukebox Company does, and it wants modern audiences to experience the pleasures of listening to music together in the living room, with family and friends, but with all the convenience and choice provided by streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music.

To do this, it has made the Electric Jukebox, a Chromecast-like dongle that’s part Sonos box, part Spotify-style streamer with a remote that’s a lot like the Nintendo Wii’s wand. The intention is to put music back into people’s homes at a fraction of the cost of today’s complex systems, inside a device that’s ten times easier to use.

“The mobile music fan is well catered for, the home user isn’t.”

The Electric Jukebox has two parts to it: A plug-in Wi-Fi dongle which connects to the HDMI port on your TV, and a wand-like remote used to control the system. Once logged in, there are no apps to download, no complex UI, no credit card details to enter, and no monthly subscription package agreement to wade through. You turn it on, wave the wand, and the music plays.

When we talk about social music, we often think of sharing music through Twitter, SoundCloud, or something else. The Electric Jukebox is about making music and the discovery of new music more social in the home. The wand is the heart of the Electric Jukebox, and it can even be taken round to a friends house and your own music and playlists will appear on their system, becoming a modern version of the vinyl LP in a bag. Rob Lewis, CEO of The Electric Company, stressed this social point heavily, along with how simple the Jukebox is to use.To ensure it’s all very easy to use, the main screen has just three icons — discover, search, and on demand — and the gesture controlled wand moves the onscreen pointer around, and has a button to select your options. Alternatively, you can talk into the wand and tell it the artist you’d like to view. Other screens are designed to look like CD track listings, and Getty Images provides the visualisations when the music’s playing. All this keeps eyes away from a smartphone screen, and the remote can be passed around the room, or left on the table ready for someone else to pick up later.

He came up with the concept after trying to buy a connected music system for his parents, and stopped short when he was about to be be put in charge of the ongoing maintenance, subscription management, and tech support of the system. The result is something simple, inclusive, and free of ongoing management. Even the software updates are performed in the background.

Strong music selection is promised

Streaming music services rely on a rich library of content to attract and keep users, so how does the Electric Jukebox stack up? We’re not sure yet, because the company isn’t ready to make any announcements regarding licensing, but Lewis said it’s working with both major and independent labels to create a comprehensive catalog of music. “You’ll have all the music you want,” he said at the launch.

In addition to the on-demand catalog, The Electric Jukebox is collaborating with artists and celebrities to provide not only their own music, but also specially curated playlists and mixtapes. Sheryl Crow, Robbie Williams, Ayda Williams, Alesha Dixon, and Stephen Fry have all been announced so far. If you’re wondering about quality and bitrate, it has only been described so far as ‘CD quality.’

The Electric Jukebox will be released in the U.S. and the UK before Christmas, and it’ll cost $230 or £180, which includes 12-months of access to the on-demand music service. After the first year, a single payment of $60/£60 will see the on-demand service continue for another year. If you don’t pay, only playlists and curated content will still be accessible, and you’ll get to enjoy a selection of ads. If you pre-order the device in the very near future, you’ll save a little bit of money, as it’s $200/£150 for a limited time.

Related: Yamaha’s MusicCast is a bit like Sonos, but for any source or Bluetooth speaker

Speaking about the potential for the Electric Jukebox, Rob Lewis quoted new research showing that 42% of people who listen to music at home do so on CD, and said, “The mobile music fan is well catered for, the home user isn’t. The Electric Jukebox is for the person who wants to get rid of the CD and join the streaming revolution.”