‘American Idol’ Final Season to Audition Karaoke-Video Contest Winners (Exclusive)

Fox's long-running singing competition show teams with singing-app startup StarMaker

American Idol,” in its 15th and final season on Fox, is opening a new digital door for aspiring singers to get a shot at appearing on the show.

FremantleMedia North America, which produces “American Idol” with 19 Entertainment, has teamed with startup StarMaker Interactive, whose app lets users record and post karaoke videos of themselves using backing tracks licensed from music publishers. Under the partnership, StarMaker is running a contest inviting users to share their best videos to get a chance to land an “American Idol” audition slot; other members of the service can then vote for their favorite performances through Sept. 30 — and 11 winners will be selected for in-person auditions.

One grand-prize winner from the StarMaker contest will appear at a “last chance” audition in October in San Francisco before “Idol” judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban. The 10 other winners, to be selected by a panel of execs at FMNA and StarMaker out of the top-voted finalists, will be invited to callback auditions in front of producers.

“In our search for the 15th ‘American Idol,’ we have embraced new ways of engaging talented artists,” said JR Griffin, VP of digital brand partnerships for FremantleMedia North America, which distributes the show. “Partnering with StarMaker has further expanded our ability to audition anyone with access to a mobile device and gives us a great platform to be exposed to a wide pool of undiscovered talent.”

StarMaker previously worked with NBC’s “The Voice” last year on a similar audition contest.

“American Idol” also is soliciting submissions for video auditions on its website, and encourages users to post videos on social media with the hashtag #TheNextIdol to get the attention of producers.

But StarMaker is going a step beyond that by guaranteeing that 11 of its members will actually get a live audition for the show, set to premiere in January 2016. Moreover, the app lets users create singing videos using a song’s original instrumental track legally, as the company has obtained those rights from publishers.

“Talent shows like ‘Idol’ have represented a new way to discover talent, but it still requires a lot of time to go audition in person,” said StarMaker CEO and co-founder Jeff Daniel. “We are now truly leveling the playing field, because you can do this from your bedroom.”

No money is changing hands under StarMaker’s pact with FMNA, with both sides seeing the deal as mutually promotional. The winners of the StarMaker “American Idol” contest will have to pay for their own travel and accommodations.

StarMaker lets users record their own vocal tracks for around 1,000 songs at any given time. Current selections include Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball,” Jessie J’s “Flashlight,” Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive,” Bruno Mars’ “Treasure” and Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud.”

The company has licenses for about 3 million songs from music publishers including Universal Music Group, Sony, EMI and Warner/Chappell. The app is free to use; StarMaker sells premium subscriptions that offer enhanced tools and effects.

Founded in 2010, StarMaker claims its app has been downloaded 30 million times to date, with users posting more than 5 billion minutes of videos with themselves singing. In March, the San Francisco-based company raised $6.5 million in Series B financing led by Raine Ventures, with participation from other investors including Allen DeBevoise and Tastemade’s Joe Perez.

“American Idol,” created by Simon Fuller, debuted in 2002 with original judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson.

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