One of the most promising startups to come out of the LaunchBox incubator is JamLegend, a music site with mass appeal. JamLegend takes the familiar anyone-can-be-a-rockstar model made popular by videogames like Guitar Hero and Rock Band and puts it on the Web. The site is in private beta, but we have 1,000 invites for the first people to sign up at the site with the invite code “TechCrunch.”
Once you sign up, you pick a song from a variety of genres (although right now there are only songs in rock, alternative, and acoustic) and a difficulty level. Once the song starts playing, notes come down as dots on a guitar fret, and you have to press the right buttons on your keyboard and “enter” as they pass by. You can play “Jam Style,” holding your keyboard like an air guitar, or “chill style” (see illustration.). I’d recommend chill style—you never know who might walk into the room and catch you geek rocking with your keyboard. The game will will also support game guitars plugged into our computer for serious faux fretters.
JamLegend is not connected to any video console, it’s free on the Web, and you can play against any of your friends in turn-based duels or simultaneously in showdowns (which can support thousands of simultaneous players). A small green dot at the top right of the screen alerts you when your friends are online and what they are playing. The startup is working on Facebook and MySpace apps as well.
Music artists are invited to upload their songs to the site. The biggest drawback right now is the absence of a full catalog. There are only 20 songs from three indie artists (Blue Judy, Double Stamp, and the Stolen cars), but that should grow to about 30 artists within the next few weeks. That’s about how many songs you get with Guitar Hero, and these are free. The company is still figuring out how to make money in the future, but options include some combination of charging for major-label songs just like Guitar Hero and Rock Band do, affiliate MP3 sales, advertising on the site, or a freemium subscription service to gain access to all the songs on the service.