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Startup Chosen Launches App That Turns Singing Competitions Into Mobile Game

Company founded by David Hyman, former CEO of Beats Music and Gracenote

Silicon Valley startup Chosen is taking a new spin on the talent-competition format of TV shows like “American Idol” and “The Voice,” with a mobile app that turns karaoke and lip-syncing videos into a competitive game — one that will offer both performers and judges prizes for rising to the top of the leader boards.

Chosen was founded by David Hyman, former CEO of Beats Music (now part of Apple) who sold his streaming-music service MOG to Beats in 2012; and ex-chief of metadata provider Gracenote (now part of Tribune Media).

“About 1 billion people watch performers on television around the world,” Hyman said. “Our vision was to reimagine that genre as a mobile game.”

There are two ways to play the game: Users can be performers, uploading existing videos or by creating new ones through the app (in either karaoke or lip-syncing mode); and as judges, who compete based on how well they pick winning singers by watching 15-second clips of the videos and their critique the performances. Both performers and judges earn points on ratings of other users. As judges in the Chosen game are introduced to new performance videos through gameplay, they can opt to follow performers and share direct links to their favorite songs.

Chosen has licensing deals with music publishers for rights to more than 8,000 songs, with about 75 songs available in the app at any given time. For now, Chosen is launching in an invitation-only beta before opening to the public this spring. The app, available free from the iTunes Store, requires an iPhone 5 or 6 and a Facebook account.

For the company’s inaugural prize, Chosen has teamed with Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, which takes place June 11-14 in Manchester, Tenn. One grand-prize winning singer will get the chance to perform live onstage at the fest. In addition, the top Chosen judge will receive an all-expenses paid trip to Bonnaroo. Winners will be announced in mid-May. Bonnaroo’s lineup this year includes Billy Joel, Mumford & Sons, Florence & the Machine, My Morning Jacket and Alabama Shakes.

Down the road, Chosen plans to make money through the sale of in-game currency — which, for example, might let performers purchase advanced editing tools or special effects — as well as video advertising, Hyman said. However, at launch, the app doesn’t include any monetization features.

Another potential revenue opportunity: Chosen may produce a recap show on YouTube that would present highlights of user performances and judges’ videos. “Everything created on Chosen will eventually be populating our own YouTube channel,” Hyman said.

There are other apps that let users create their own music videos and share them. Those include StarMaker, a San Francisco-based startup whose app has 30 million users. Earlier this month, StarMaker raised $6.5 million in Series B financing led by Raine Ventures, with participation from Crosscut Ventures, Three Bridges Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, iGlobe Partners, Gree International, as well as Allen DeBevoise and Tastemade’s Joe Perez. StarMaker said it will use the new round of funding to expand its global platform to discover and promote talent as well as launch new programming initiatives.

But to Hyman, Chosen — with its blend of gameplay and user-generated videos — is a different kind of experience. With Chosen, “Fans and performers are able to get in the game in a way that simply isn’t possible while passively watching TV shows like ‘American Idol’ or ‘The Voice,’ or endlessly surfing online videos,” he said.

Chosen has raised $6.5 million in funding to date from investors including DCM, Rhodium Capital, Fosun and CrunchFund. Chosen’s board of advisers includes Rio Carraeff, former president and CEO of Vevo. The company has 23 employees, half of whom are in Berkeley, Calif., and the rest in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Watch a promo video from Chosen introducing the app:

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