Pure Solo: Karaoke 2.0?
Real music, fake musicians
My friend Tan is both a Guitar Hero video game enthusiast and a student of the real guitar. Sometimes she hosts guitar lessons at her place — there’s real sheet music, and chord-learning, and pitch-whistles, and strings to cut.
When I come over, though, I always reach for the plastic toy guitar for some video game time. My friend Alexa asserts, “We Asians don’t want to learn to play a real instrument, we just want to play a game of it.” This is true for a lot of people, not just Asians! (Though we do love shortcuts.) Heck, some people dispense with the guitar altogether and go for 100% showmanship.
The cult of performance
Communal showmanship also drives an older performance-based phenomenon, karaoke. It’s so simple, there’s no “learning” how to be a singer. You have a mic, you’re in the room with friends (strangers too, if you’re brave), the background music is automated, and the lyrics spoon-fed to you. Everything’s in place, you just have to warble out a tune as best you can.
Pure Solo is a new company that wants to take karaoke to the next level. Their beta application has 10,000 legally licensed “backtracks” for songs. You can record yourself singing over these tracks (using their free audio software), download the finished product for a few dollars, and email the finished track to your friends.
In an interview with the Guardian, CEO David Kaplan explains the biz model: “We have a straightforward pay-per download model for the backing track and accompaniment and give the software away for free.”
David sees personalization and recommendation as key elements to his biz strategy too. “The core of our business is a personalized musical experience. Everyone loves to hear themselves play or sing – we take that a step further and make the process quick & easy and allow users to legally share the end results. The viral effect of this sharing should not only spread the word but also drive content requests and recommendations.”
Smart “social entrepreneurship” move
Pure Solo partnered with Take It Away, a division of Arts Council England that encourages people to learn and play music. They even subsidize instruments! You can borrow up to £2000 at 0% APR to purchase any kind of musical instrument. (I recommend an electronic drum kit… on a T-shirt.) In another example of a profit-within-a-nonprofit, this program is operated by ArtCo Trading Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary and registered LLC.
My picks for “Karaoke 1.0”
Pure Solo has a good idea, but it’s not Karaoke 2.0 as much as it is a lower barrier-to-entry for recorded songs and personalized entertainment. A recorded song from a friend is a neat thing to have, but karaoke will always be about the spontaneous, live gathering of tipsy people who want to sing their hearts out. (And the people who, inevitably, want to record them and post the videos to Facebook.)
- Sing Sing (E. Village)– downtown divey, for those gritty rock songs
- Japas 38 (K-town) — flat rate for unlimited songs, sushi, fried foodstuffs, and booze
- Monster KTV (Flushing) — if you really want to go all out (literally, you have to go to Queens) this place has enormous rooms (downright palatial) with multiple small-cinema-sized projection screens and a delicious spicy beef noodle soup.