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Who’s on Aux? Student-Created App MCEE to Launch on Wednesday

The reign of aux cord tyrants may reach an end this Wednesday when MCEE, an app created by three Boston College students to allow communal control of the music played in group settings, launches in the Apple App Store.

“MCEE is an app that is trying to crowdsource music at social gatherings,” said Jack Russell, co-founder and CEO of the app and CSOM ’23. “So everyone can join a ‘party’ that a host creates, and you can request songs on a common cue. Then, you can upvote and downvote songs so that the most liked songs of everyone are played at the party.”

MCEE—pronounced “emcee”—was co-founded by Russell; Rhett Somers, CSOM ’23; and Gianna Jarmain, chief technology officer of the app and MCAS ’23. Russell first developed the concept in the fall of 2021, when he noticed the difficulties of crafting an all-pleasing party playlist.

“I would always get berated with song requests from people ranging from, you know, Drake to Kesha, and I always felt like there was a better way to have everyone’s songs that they wanted to be played at a party be heard,” Russell said.

When Russell told Somers his idea for the app, Somers asked to flesh out the idea in his Entrepreneurial Management class, which was taught by Doug Shaw. Working with his team in class in addition to Russell, Somers said they refined the app and further understood its potential.

“Towards the end of that class, we had to give a whole presentation, and [Shaw] came up to me afterwards and said, ‘Hey, I’m not sure if you’re planning on continuing to pursue this, but I would definitely recommend you do,’” Somers said.

Recognizing their need for someone to then develop the app, Russell and Somers originally enlisted their friend Jarmain to recruit someone savvy in iOS development who could code MCEE.

“I kind of got in touch with the [computer science] department, since I’m a CS major, and kinda helped run newsletters out, or like emails,” Jarmain said. “I was trying to see if we had anyone interested to come in.”

When this search churned out few viable candidates, Russell and Somers realized they had overlooked an obvious option.

“Jack and I kind of looked at each other at one point and were like, ‘Wait, why don’t we just have [Jarmain] come on board?’” Somers said. “‘She’s already doing all this work.’”

Though Jarmain was not yet fluent in Swift, a programming language primarily used for creating apps for iOS, she said it was less expensive for her to learn it than to outsource another coder to develop MCEE’s software.

“We kind of came down to the decision of either spending, like, tens of thousands of dollars to outsource someone, or I would kind of just spend the summer learning Swift and iOS development,” Jarmain said.

The co-founders also participated in two accelerator programs to develop the app, including Accelerate@Shea, an on-campus program at Boston College’s Edmund H. Shea Jr. Center for Entrepreneurship, and the Soaring Startup Circle (SSC) Venture Partners, a summer accelerator program founded by BC students and alumni.

“We got a substantial amount of money through the SSC, our summer accelerator, and then some of our closest mentors came from that program, too,” Russell said.

Russell explained that the app is only compatible with Spotify, and users need Spotify Premium to add songs to the common queue. But, Somers clarified that users will not need a Spotify account to join a ‘party’ on MCEE and vote on songs.

“It still kind of gives people a way to contribute even though they may not have a Spotify Premium account,” Somers said.

Though the app only incorporates Spotify now, the co-founders hope to eventually include Apple Music in the future, according to Jarmain.

In preparation for the app’s launch on Wednesday, Russell said the MCEE team will be specifically marketing the app toward BC students throughout the week.

“We have eight MCEE ambassadors throughout different grade levels who represent us,” he said. “They’re gonna host parties, you’re going to get to see us tabling around campus, and then we’re having a launch party next Thursday for it as well.”

Somers added that the utility of the app is highly impacted by the number of users who engage with it. 

“We really want to emphasize the fact that this app becomes exponentially more valuable the more people that are on it,” he said.

As for MCEE’s future after its three co-founders graduate from BC this spring, Russell said much depends on its success following Wednesday’s launch.

“We have representatives on campus that will continue marketing it, so it’s definitely going to be something that continues on Boston College campus and with us after our graduation, but it might turn into a part-time thing for some of us,” he said.

March 26, 2023