Acknowledging evidence to the contrary, he continues, "We wanted to free the genre from the constraints of linear-based TV. Watching performers compete didn’t start with [American] Idol. People have been doing this since the dawn of mankind, so how can we do something native for the mobile environment that’s much more meaningful?"
Designed by Cormac Russell, the architect behind Magic: The Gathering, Chosen offers the option to play as a performer or as a judge. As the former, users upload videos of themselves singing, doing karaoke, or lip-syncing (for the latter two, they can choose from up to 75 songs from an 8,000-song library licensed from Sony/ATV and EMI, which Hyman partnered with for the launch).
They then pick the best 15 seconds to present with sonic effects like reverb and delay and the appropriate filters. Hyman and his team discovered through preliminary research that viewers don't have the patience to watch a longer video, and they feel more comfortable judging than performing.
"The preliminary call to action is to judge," he explains, citing the skewed ratio of content creators to their consumers on video platforms like YouTube. "Most people are not comfortable performing in front of others."
Judges have several sub-genres of games to play. There's Star Spotting, which entails watching three clips and choosing the best one; Talent Scout, which encourages betting how a performer will do over a period of time; and Judge the Judge ("This one's very meta," he says), which allows users to critique their peers. In both categories, users are encouraged to move up the ranks by sharing via social networks like Twitter and Facebook -- clicking on a video link takes first-time visitors directly into the app -- in addition to how well they perform, either with their musical skills or their critiques. Users can also pursue badges, which range from bottles of Cristal and gold rims to "The Only One Awake at 3 a.m." "There's an art to badging," says Hyman.
"We’ve spent close to two years designing these games that are short, casual, highly engaging, attention-deficit-friendly games for your mobile phone that prove your expertise," he adds. "It's the gamification of the music experience through a combination of leaderboard positioning, badging, experience points, and classic game mechanics that we’re applying to music consumption."
Following a $6.5 million round of funding, Chosen will not be monetized for the first year, but Hyman aims to take advantage of in-game currency like buying a rose for your favorite performer or even a form of payola in which performers can pay to improve their chances by having a judge pick from two videos instead of three. These prospective hustlers are incentivized by a very tempting inaugural prize, indeed: a winning performer will be able to perform for an audience in the flesh at Bonnaroo, while the winning judge will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the music festival.
A full list of rules for entry and on how to play the game can be found on Chosen's official website, and the app is available for free download upon approval of invitation requests on the iOS App Store. The first 500 Billboard readers, however, can download it with the promotional code 222.