Ever worried you’re awful at karaoke? Yes, you’re the same as almost everyone else. Thankfully SingOn, a Finland-headquartered startup, has the answer. The game, which launched this April on PlayStation, allows each ‘singer’ (the inverted commas are important if you’re ever experienced karaoke) to alter their voice using Autotune. Lyrics move up and down depending on the pitch of the song being played. SingOn also has a ‘Roboon’ feature, which distorts the sound of the singing voice to make one sound like a robot. Or, as SingOn’s website describes, a “party monster”. You might not sound like Celine Dion, but you might not come off as Bai Ling, either.
SingOn began in the ‘living lab’ city of Oulu in 2009 and is headed up by Samu Keränen, who splits his time between the Finland and Brighton, U.K. It first began in 2009 as a purely web-based karaoke platform. But, after having accrued 100,000 users, he decided to move his idea across to consoles, where the popular SingStar game provided Keränen with the inspiration to shift his business plan. “SingStar has an outdated business model,” he argues. “Users do not get the content as fast as they should and it is limited to Playstation.”
Instead of offering downloadable content, as is offered by Rock Band, for example, SingOn offers a three-tiered subscription model, with a Spotify-styled ability to gather most pop tunes. For around $5 you get three hours of music – enough for, say, a dinner party. $10 bags the user 48 hours, while a year’s subscription can be purchased for just over $80.
“An important point for us is to make sure SingOn’s always current,” says Keränen. “Our dynamic streaming services allow us to launch with thousands of songs and to update the game every week with new tracks. Even within the company, we have widely varying music tastes so we know how important it is to offer something for everyone.”
Music videos are not enabled by the service, but experts have speculated that this will ensure better streaming functionality. However, a mobile app has been created that makes the device act as a remote control, so that music can be searched for, and teed up, while someone is making a star/idiot of themselves.
The total karaoke market is, according to Keränen, worth $13.5 billion. And that’s not just Scarlett Johansson in Tokyo: karaoke is a worldwide industry. And with SingOn, Keränen believes he and his company has created the movement’s ‘Third Generation Karaoke Service’, where the first was traditional karaoke machines, and the second was SingStar.
Last year SingOn raised $2.43 million from over ten angels and also includes ELY money. The private proportion of the round was $2.03 million. That, combined with a previous $677,000 injection from Finnish investor Vision+, brings the total funding for SingOn to $2.8m. But for Keränen, it isn’t enough. Following April’s PS3 launch he wants to expand the operation. And by the end of 2014, he expects to have broken into the U.S., New Zealand, and Australian markets.
SingOn may not have been the most conventional startup at this year’s Red Herring Top 100 Europe Awards in Amsterdam. But, it might just be the loudest.