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Out of Tune Wants to Be the HQ Trivia of Music

Ever since HQ Trivia burst onto the scene last year, countless startups have tried to jump on the mobile quiz show bandwagon. Last week, Out of Tune launched with a new spin on this idea: an app with a twice-daily show that has DJs play ten songs out of tune, giving players just a few seconds to guess the correct title.

Out of Tune is being hosted by Melody Alanna, an aspiring singer from Brooklyn, as well as New York-based stand-up comedian Ian Lara. On each episode, one of them teams up with one of the show’s two resident DJs, New York’s DJ Mary Mac and DJ 8pm. Every episode consists of a 10 minute DJ set and around 14 minutes of quiz, complete with a lot banter and impromptu dance sessions.

Players who get all 10 songs correct can win their share of a cash price. And anyone who doesn’t closely follow the current charts likely will have a hard time making it beyond the second or third question.

“It’s not for everyone,” admitted Avner Ronen, CEO of FTW Studios. The New York-based startup has been working since late last year on Out of Tune, and refining the concept in a beta test over the past few months before the show’s official launch last week. 50% of the show’s current audience is 24 years old or younger, and another 25% fall into the 25-34 year-old-demographic, according to Ronen.

FTW Studios took a lot of time getting the show right for that audience. The company hired a booking agent specialized on Hip Hop / DJ talent, and had around 100 performers come in for casting calls.

The staff includes stand-up comedian Khalid Rahmaan as a full-time writer as well as director Michelle Markowitz, who recently co-authored the book “Hey Ladies.” There are six cameras in the company’s Times Square studio, and each show features behind-the-scenes shots of the team dancing along to the music. “We make a lot of adjustments to how we write the show and evolve the format,” Ronen said.

It’s admittedly early to gauge the result — a week after its official launch, Out of Tune draws simultaneous audiences ranging from 1500 to 2000 people. That’s a far shy from the hundreds of thousands of people who regularly tune in to HQ Trivia. But Ronen said that early engagement stats are encouraging: More than 50% of the players stay around for the entire show, even after most of them inevitably get one of the answers wrong.

Ronen admitted that most of the audience still come from the East Coast, which he attributed as much to the show’s schedule as to the talent. But FTW is already thinking about a West Coast-friendly time slot, and Ronen said that the company may eventually open up a studio in Los Angeles as well.

The company is also already thinking about other shows. This may include Out of Tune spin-offs for other music genres, but FTW wants to also move beyond the quiz show format. “We are not in the game show business,” he said. “We are in the shared experience business.”

That’s also why Ronen doesn’t necessarily view HQ Trivia as a direct competitor, or threat to FTW’s business. “HQ deserves a lot of respect,” he said, adding that even in the quiz genre, there would likely be multiple competitors. He argued that the same as true on traditional TV, where “Wheel of Fortune” didn’t kill “The Price Is Right.”

Ronen said that the ultimate goal of FTW Studios was to reinvent shared experiences on a device that often led to people being less engaged with others. “Almost all of the experiences you have on your phone are kind of lonely,” he said.

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