Rok Blok inventor Logan Riley hopes to resurrect the golden age of vinyl when he pitches his portable record player in Shark Tank's Holiday themed episode 910. Unlike record players of old, Rok Blok is smaller than the records it plays. Essentially, it's a block that rides around on top of a record. Simply lay an album or 45 RPM “single” (check your age if you know that term) on a flat surface and place the Rok Blok on top. It “rides” around the record, playing it on its built-in speaker; it also connects to external speakers via blue tooth.
Riley, a San Francisco based designer who makes “things that we love and want to share with others,” got overwhelming support from the Kickstarter community when the project raised $351,816 in December 2016. Unfortunately, nothing shipped and delays occurred throughout 2017. Four days before the episode was scheduled to air, Riley announced “we should be receiving our shipment from China within the next week…ready some space under your trees.”
While backers can hopefully enjoy their Rok Bloks by Christmas, it's unclear when the product goes on sale to the general public. As of the date of this post, the website simply says “future home of something quite cool.” Clearly, the company is just getting started. A Shark could accelerate growth, but will Riley get an investment?
My Take on Rok Blok
Growing up in the 1970's, I collected hundreds of albums and singles. When I sold my collection nearly 20 years ago, I had 763 albums and 92 singles. Since then, I duplicated much of my collection on CDs and other digital media. Today, I get most of my music from my smart phone through various apps. While most millennials don't even know what an album is, there's a small, hardcore group that still collects, listens to, and buys albums.
Last year, vinyl did $13.1 million in sales. That's a tiny fraction of the $7.8 billion in digital music sales from 2016. While there are surely many people who still have large record collections, albums are more of a curiosity than anything else. Obviously, vinyl aficionados are willing to pay to play their albums on the go, but it's a niche market. Since I don't own any more albums, I'm not a customer.
Will Sharks Play Records?
The biggest objection Riley has to overcome is the niche aspect of this product. Sharks want BIG markets, not niche products. That said, the timing of shipping leaves me thinking maybe a Shark did invest. Sharks have a way of accelerating shipping and the Holiday episode always has some surprises. If this business appeared in any other episode, I'd say it doesn't get funded, but perhaps a Shark plays Santa so folks can put a Rok Blok under the tree.