With Chosen, ‘American Idol’ Meets YouTube Meets Mobile Devices
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- March 26th, 2015
Eventually, it seems, every successful form of entertainment gets its own app. Now it may be time for the mobile version of the TV talent show.
Chosen, an app that will make its public debut on Thursday, is an attempt to combine the competitive spirit of shows like “American Idol” with the homemade intimacy of YouTube, and turn it all into a game for mobile devices.
On Chosen, would-be stars upload videos of themselves performing a song, which armchair judges then critique with their own response videos. Users scan through both kinds of videos and select their favorites, with the most popular moving up a scorecard and racking up various reward icons. (Taking a page from the popular dating app Tinder, Chosen lets impatient viewers move on with a quick swipe.)
The app picks up on the popularity of both professionally produced shows like “The Voice” and “The X Factor,” and the explosion of amateur music-making on YouTube. But Chosen’s main insight is that people want to compete not only as the stars, but also as self-appointed critics.
“The idea is that we can’t all perform, but we all want to believe that we have taste,” said David Hyman, Chosen’s chief executive.
On a recent test-drive, the performances ranged from young man with a James Dean look doing a slick, multicamera take on John Legend’s “All of Me,” to a schoolhouse version of “Jingle Bells” on clarinet and trombone that was endearingly not ready for Carnegie Hall. So far, much of the judging is of the “good work, keep it up!” variety, but the app’s backers hope that the audience will eventually take on the spirit of ornery and idiosyncratic TV judges who become celebrities in their own right.
“At the end of the day we probably watched ‘Idol’ to see Simon Cowell say some crazy stuff,” said David Chao, a general partner in DCM Ventures, which has led the $6.5 million in investment in Chosen.
Mr. Hyman is a familiar figure in digital music circles as the founder of Mog, a subscription streaming service that was bought by Beats in 2012 as the foundation of its Beats Music service — now owned by Apple. He was also the chief executive of Gracenote, a music data company now owned by Tribune Media Company.
Chosen has a deal with Bonnaroo, the pop festival in Manchester, Tenn., to have one winning performer from the app take the stage, and also for a top judge to get an all-access pass to the festival, which will be held from June 11 to 14. Mr. Hyman said there were ambitions to eventually add more kinds of talent competitions to Chosen and perhaps, if the app takes off, an online show of some kind. For now, the company is betting that for users, the thrills of performing — and judging — on the app will be their own reward.
“It’s all about that guy in Oklahoma who thinks he’s a punk rock expert and has his sense of identity in that genre,” Mr. Hyman said. “Now he can prove he’s the top punk-rock judge, and get the fame and accolades that go with it.”