If American Idol was mobile-first, it’d be Chosen. Built by ex-CEO of Beats Music, Gracenote, and Mog David Hyman with $6.5 million in funding, Chosen launches the invite-only beta of its battle of the bands app today on iOS. But what’s special about Chosen is you don’t have to be a musician to play. The game puts you in the judge’s seat to record scathing (or supportive) video critiques of performers and rate other judges.
The first 500 TechCrunch readers can score access to Chosen with the code 2233 after downloading the app.
Hyman explains that “the real innovation is turning spectators into participating judges competing to show their expertise in music. The net result could be a global scalable talent filter.”
Most performance competition apps fail because the bar is too high for most to play. Putting gamers in the judges seat could do for music competitions what Instagram did to democratize photography. Chosen could become a battleground just for guitar players, singers, DJs, and rappers, but also the people who love (or hate) them.
How To Play Chosen
The goal is to become either the world’s top performer or judge by playing a series of games. Performers can record an original performance, make a karaoke video, or just lip-sync on camera. Judges watch two performances back-to-back, choose a favorite, and record a critique video. They’ll also be asked to watch the reviews of other judges, and say who makes the best Simon Cowell.
As performers and judges earn music themed badges and rise up the leaderboards, they can qualify for tournaments with big prizes. The first set of winner will get all-expenses-paid trips to this summer’s Bonnaroo Music Festival, where performers will get to play on stage and judges will get backstage passes.
To kick things off, Chosen recorded 3000 songs by over 1000 musicians through connections to top performing arts schools. All musical genres will compete together at first, but soon Chosen hopes to splinter its game for different styles to make it less grating for people who only like country or death metal.
The true test for Chosen will be whether it can lure both talented musicians and entertaining judges. Early spins through the app saw a lot of judges soft-balling their reviews, saying things like “Good try!”. But just like in real-life, sugar-coating the truth doesn’t help. Chosen might not want judges to be so mean that it scares off performers, but they can’t be boring. Hyman tells me “It’s going to be very interesting in to see where judge video critiques go. How crazy will they get? How controversial? How brutally honest will they be?”
Luckily, Hyman has $6.5 million from DCM, CrunchFund [TechCrunch’s founder’s fund], Rhodium Capital, Broadway Angels and Ethan Beard to attract users with marketing and a polished product. Chosen’s games were developed by Cormac Russell, who helped design hit fantasy card game Magic: The Gathering. Every few months, Chosen plans to add new games to keep things lively.
Chosen hopes that performers and judges alike will share their videos to social media to give the app a viral boost. Since getting friends to vote for you helps you win, Chosen has found a smart growth tactic. Still, it’s building a community of loyal players from both sides of the microphone that will determine whether Chosen stays in the spotlight or is booed off stage.
Singing shows like X-Factor and The Voice are crushing it on network television, but viewers can only submit flimsy votes for their favorites. Meanwhile, the fact that there are 966 million mobile gamers show people are itching to participate. Hyman concludes “We wanted to free the genre from the constraints of linear-based television. Performers have always loved competing. It didn’t start with Idol. It started with cavemen.”