Traditional jukeboxes used to be thoughtfully curated and were once integral to the identity of a bar or restaurant. Now, nearly every song in existence is just a few clicks away. (Courtesy photo)

Traditional jukeboxes used to be thoughtfully curated and were once integral to the identity of a bar or restaurant. Now, nearly every song in existence is just a few clicks away. (Courtesy photo)

Internet jukeboxes are killing the art of curation

http://sfexaminer.com/category/the-city/sf-news-columns/broke-ass-city/

Internet jukeboxes are the ruiners of worlds.

OK, that’s a little hyperbolic. To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a single internet jukebox that has lifted off from Earth, traveled at light speed to another galaxy and destroyed a planet. (I’m sure Alex Jones believes it’s happened — or pretends to — but I suppose internet jukeboxes are not literally ruiners of worlds.)

They are, however, ruiners of bar ambiance.

Back before the these evil machines began popping up in drinking establishments, a jukebox was viewed as an integral part of what made a bar special. Owners and managers curated the feeling of their watering holes by putting thought and effort into what the place sounded like. Patrons knew that some bar jukeboxes were full of metal albums, others filled with hip-hop records, and some had a wide variety of musical genres. A jukebox was even something that you’d rate a place on, like, “We should go to the Homestead, they’ve got a great jukebox.”

But the internet jukebox has ruined all of that. Sure, there still are a handful of places that have actual jukeboxes full of curated music. But over the past 10 years, more and more places that do have a box choose to make it an internet one.

The problem with the internet jukebox is that a patron can play almost any song that exists — and that’s terrifying.

Imagine you’re in a nice dark dive, chatting in the corner with some friends, and some jerk decides to put $50 in the machine and play “Who Let the Dogs Out” on repeat 50 times. It’s an extreme example, but certainly a real possibility. I know we can all agree that the perpetrator of such a crime should be immediately abducted, dressed-up in a pancake costume and fired from a catapult into the side of a building, but it’s just too hard to find a good catapult these days. Plus, I can’t let internet jukeboxes ruin pancakes, too.

With certain brands of internet jukes, you can even add songs to the queue from an app on your phone. This means you can terrorize a bar with nonstop Kenny G — and you don’t even have to step through the door. It’s like a goddamn drone strike.

Another insidious aspect of the internet jukebox is that people can pay extra to skip their song ahead to the front of the line. Maybe you’ve been jonesing to hear Tom Waits growl that “The Piano Has Been Drinking.” You pay and wait patiently to hear it cascade from the bar speakers. And then, you keep waiting and waiting and waiting … You may never actually hear it because people who come after you keep paying extra money to hear their songs.

It’s actually a perfect analogy for American Democracy: Every dollar deposited in the jukebox represents a single person’s vote, but those who are willing to spend more money not only get more votes, but their votes are also prioritized.

Unfortunately, we may be past the point of no-return. A bar owner recently told me Rainbow Novelties, the local company that installs jukeboxes, is phasing out the old-school style due to demand for ones with internet capabilities.

We’ve created our own hell and now we’re forced to live in it.

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in the San Francisco Examiner.

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A view of Science Hall at the City College of San Francisco Ocean campus on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
CCSF begins search for next chancellor amid new challenges

‘It’s arguably the biggest single responsibility the board has,’ trustee says

Some people are concerned that University of California, San Francisco’s expansion at its Parnassus campus could cause an undesirable increase in the number of riders on Muni’s N-Judah line.<ins></ins>
Will UCSF’s $20 million pledge to SFMTA offset traffic woes?

An even more crowded N-Judah plus increased congestion ahead cause concern

(Robert Greene/Tribune News Service)
As tensions grow over vaccinations and politics, California lawmakers face threats from public

Anti-vaccine speakers hint at gun violence during routine budget hearing at state Capitol

Dr. Martin Luther King in Sam Pollard’s ‘MLK/FBI’. (Courtesy of IFC Films/TNS)
The superb documentary ‘MLK/FBI’ clearly connects the past to our troubling present

Justin Chang Los Angeles Times Among the many archival materials excerpted in… Continue reading

Toni Isabella, a counselor at Ohlhoff Recovery Programs, finds helpful assistance from service dog Barker Posey.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Toni Isabella: Helping people indoors and out recover from addiction’s dark side

Counselor supports holistic, progressive approach to healing

Most Read