Ah, music! But not just any music – music with history. Music with weight. Specifically, music that you store in a milk crate because it weighs a million pounds. Some call it wax, some call it vinyl, some call it licorice pizza. Whatever you call it, there’s no denying that old-fashioned records have made a massive comeback in recent years – introducing entire generations to fantastic music they might never have otherwise heard, bringing artistic craftsmanship back into music production, and making it approximately one thousand times harder to move into a new apartment. (Thanks, hipsters!)
Logan Riley, a former Creative Education Lead at Apple in San Francisco, designed a unique way to play records that offers portability and eliminates the need to purchase the components traditionally needed to play records: turntable, amplifier, and a pair of speakers. These components are not only expensive, but they take up a lot of space – a precious commodity for many young people living in urban areas (which would also likely make up Riley’s target audience).
The device, called RokBlok, sits on top of a vinyl record and spins around the disc while the music amplifies through its internal speaker. But RokBlok can also use Bluetooth technology to pair with a wireless speaker for a better sound experience.
RokBlok was the second product Logan created at his start-up called Pink Donut. He had wanted more freedom and control over his career, so he set out to invent and design unique and innovative products. He learned to engineer by watching YouTube videos and spent $2,000 of his own money to create the prototype. When he realized he needed more funding, he launched a Kickstarter campaign in December 2016. By the time it had ended, he had earned more than $350,000 for his RokBlok project. He made his appearance on Shark Tank on December 3, 2017, the show’s ninth season. He was prepared to ask the Sharks for $300,000 in exchange for a 15% stake in RokBlok.
RokBlok on Shark Tank
Shark Tank Season 9 Episode 13
Logan began by introducing himself and his company and then held up a record as he slowly removed it from its cover. He asked the Sharks if they remember what it is he was holding, as he lovingly spoke about the history of the analog disc and its unique sound quality. Up until now, he said, you needed to purchase a lot of equipment to enjoy this kind of musical experience. What if you had neither the money nor the room to store them in your home? And what if you wanted to listen to records on the go? You couldn’t conveniently pack up your equipment and transport it.
That’s when Logan pulled his invention out of his jacket and introduced RokBlok as the world’s first wireless record player. He then demonstrated how easy it was to start playing a record with his device. Just flip a switch on the bottom, place the RokBlok on a record that is set on a flat surface, and lift the lever.
After he took those few steps, the RokBlok began to circle the disc, and music started playing. When he wanted to stop the music, he only had to place his hand in the air over the speaker, and the RokBlok came to an immediate halt. The Sharks looked absolutely giddy, with a number of them saying, “That’s so cool!” But Logan wasn’t finished. He wanted to demonstrate RokBlok’s Bluetooth capability by pairing it with a small wireless speaker. The music started playing more loudly, and the Sharks were even more impressed. Emphasizing its utility as a portable item, Logan let the Sharks know that a single charge allowed the battery to work for several hours. Another excellent selling point.
The Sharks did think it was cool, but were any of them willing to invest in RokBlok?
Logan let the Sharks handle the product, and they had some questions. Lori asked if it would play any type of record, and Logan admitted it wouldn’t play 78’s. That shouldn’t pose a problem since it’s mostly ancient records that play at that speed. Kevin wanted to know about the sound quality, and Logan told him there is a slight loss of quality versus playing records the traditional way, but that the difference is negligible. Mark didn’t understand why anyone would want to take their records with them, and he claimed the market was shrinking. Logan disagreed, and said the market was growing. He believed his RokBlok could be an excellent way for those who are just learning about vinyl to expose themselves to records at a lower cost than investing in a complete sound system.
And that led Barbara to ask how much Logan was charging for his record-player. He revealed that each RokBlok retails at $99 and costs $23 to produce. But had he delivered any of them to date? Well, no. That was a concern for Kevin. But Logan showed how much he really believed in the product. He created it because he is such a music fan and knew he didn’t have space in his apartment for a traditional stereo setup. Lori asked if he had a patent for the product, and Logan reported that he did have a one for the Bluetooth delivery system.
Even though they liked Logan and his product, most of the Sharks backed out quickly. Barbara believed it was too early to invest, Mark thought the market was limited, and Lori expressed a similar sentiment, stating it was a niche product. That left Kevin and Mark as potential partners for Logan.
Kevin thought the investment was risky, but he liked it, so he was willing to offer $300,000 for 50%. But Logan wanted to hear from the remaining Shark. Robert made an unconventional offer: $500,000 to buy the product outright, a 2-year contract (with a six-figure salary) to help him work out the kinks and bring it to market, and a $2 royalty for every RokBlok sold. Logan hesitated for only a few seconds before jumping on that offer.
RokBlok Today – Do Things Still Sound Good?
As of 2020, RokBlok seems to be playing smooth as a jazz record. Their website is live and well-maintained, featuring glowing reviews from Business Insider and legions of social media fans. But their success didn’t come without a few needle scratches.
It’s not surprising that orders for RokBlok surged after the Shark Tank episode aired. While an average daily order tally was only 3-4 units, after the episode, RokBlok was selling 100-200 units daily.
But all it took was one negative review on YouTube and one Reddit user to destroy RokBlok’s momentum. The video uploaded on Reddit demonstrated the portable record player spewing ear pollution rather than sounds associated with the Supertramp album Breakfast in America. Comments came in calling the gadget “abysmal” and “unlistenable.” For some time, RokBlok was dubbed the “Vinyl Killer” on social media (actually, it was the second generation of Vinyl Killer).
It turns out there was a defect in the mold during the company’s rush to get out holiday orders, and, unfortunately, it happened right as the product launched. It’s tough to get negative reviews from the self-proclaimed geeks that end up influencing future buyers.
As of mid-2019, RokBlok was still selling, and the reviews were pretty good. However, it is nearly invisible on social media, which doesn’t seem to bode well for attracting a young, new market. It seems Logan Riley was smart to sell off the product. Now he can work on inventing the next big thing.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is strictly informational; INSIGNIA SEO is not affiliated with RokBlok, SharkTank, or any of its subsidiaries.