Ex-Beats Music CEO’s New App “Chosen” Is A Mobile-First American Idol

Sing, yodel, or shred guitar into your phone, and get famous. That’s the idea behind performance competition platform Chosen, founded by former Gracenote, MOG, and Beats Music CEO David Hyman. The startup’s been in stealth since its formation late last year, but Hyman agreed to give me the first details about what Chosen’s actually up to. First off, Chosen’s just raised $5 million led by DCM to reimagine American Idol, X-Factor, and The Voice for a mobile generation with a launch in Q1 2015.

The problem with those shows is that they only produce pop music because TV waters things down for the mainstream. Hyman tells me “We aim to free the genre from the constraints of linear based television, which is forced to focus solely on the lowest common denominator, and as a result, provide one singular type of vocal music to an audience.”

Teasing Chosen

Hyman wouldn’t tell me exactly how the Chosen app works, but he says “We as a species love competition, and music competition didn’t start with American Idol. It started with the dawn of mankind.” But he won’t deny the popularity of the TV format. “We think that there’s a lot of proof that people love watching performers compete because it’s #1 in 50 countries.” But because it has to appeal to the widest possible audience, everyone ends up singing in the same vocal style.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 12.34.50 PM

With Chosen, “We want to see guitar solo competitions, Swiss yodeling competitions, and violin concerto competitions,” Hyman tells me. “There’s a long tail of content that is unbelievably popular. An insane amount of content is consumed through YouTube that would never be on TV.”

This teaser video gives a few hints about how the app will create a performance outlet for musicians, and still be interactive for those who don’t want to show off their talents.

Be An AmeriPhone Idol

Chosen CEO David Hyman

Chosen CEO David Hyman

While he’s the head honcho, Chosen actually started without Hyman, born out of a seed round from Rhodium Capital in Tel Aviv, Israel. The VC tapped Hyman to lead the company because of his hallowed pedigree in the music industry, including stints at MTV and building up MOG until it was acquired by HTC and turned into Beats Music. When he first talked with the team, Hyman tells me, “I said ‘Wow, I can’t believe what a good idea this is, and I’m jaded.”

With Hyman’s help, Chosen raised $5 million from DCM, CrunchFund [TechCrunch’s founder’s fund], Rhodium Capital, Broadway Angels and Ethan Beard. DCM and its partner David Chao were picked as the lead for their connections in Asia through limited partner Tencent and other Chinese corporations. Karaoke apps are amongst the most popular in China, and Chosen wants an inroad there when it’s ready.

Chosen’s engineering team is based in Tel Aviv, led by co-founder Eyal Moshe, while former product lead for Yahoo News, MOG, and Beats Music TJay Fowler is running the Chosen product team state-side. The $5 million should help Chosen grow these squads and market its app to aspiring stars.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 12.35.15 PM

While Chosen won’t launch until early next year, it’s trying to get a head start on filling its app with pleasing sights and sounds. Chosen is now accepting YouTube video submissions of one-take musical performances. There are plenty of places to upload and listen to home-made music, and several online music competition apps like Starmaker and b*famous, so Chosen will have to battle for the bands.

Unless you’re one of the lucky few who make it on TV, music competitions are mostly just a spectator sport. But by putting the stage and spotlight in your pocket, Chosen could illuminate the superstar in all of us.