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News  18, Apr 2013

PH Satellite winner Duets: Karaoke is a social activity

Duets FeatureKaraoke is a social activity, which is why Duets has built a turn-based karaoke application that lets music lovers from across the globe sing together.

Duets is the world’s first turn-based karaoke application, and it has been beta launched on the iOS platform in the Philippines to much acclaim. Co-founder and CEO Ben Wintle said the app is actually an evolution from the popular messaging apps that have gained popularity today. “We noticed people around us using other voice apps to sing to each other so we decided to make an app that focuses on this behavior and add karaoke to it,” Ben told e27.

“I think we’re actually more akin to the new messaging apps that offer fun social features like drawing and video,” he added. Of course, Duets focuses on music and singing.

The app’s premise is simple. You choose a song to sing with a friend, then you take turns to send your recordings of the song to each other, with the assistance of on-screen lyrics and background music. The first few turns are free, but after that, you have to make an in-app purchase to buy the song and finish it. Duets has actually partnered with the four major music labels, which get a cut of the sales. About 6 percent of users have been paying for the songs at this point.

According to Ben, their target market is biased toward females aged 17 to 35 years old. The song library has everything from the 1990′s onwards, which are quite popular among karaoke users. “I made sure there’s a mixture of fun upbeat tracks together with cheesy love songs,” Ben quipped. He says he even has fun singing cheesy songs like Boys II Men’s “I’ll Make Love to You” to his friends across the globe — even both male and female. “It can get very silly,” he says.

Andrei Navarro (C) and Ben Wintle (R) at Echelon 2013 Philippines Satellite with e27 CEO Mohan Belani

Apart from in-app purchases, Duets is exploring additional sources of income. “Through our beta period we’ve had 6 percent of our users buy songs to sing. After we launch globally (very soon) we may conduct more experiments on this. We’re also exploring opportunities for consumer brands to feature their theme song within the app so users can create a record from their song and possibly share it to their friends.”

Duets is currently on beta release, and the startup is funded by Skype co-founder Toivo Annus. While the company is incorporated in Singapore, the team is based in the Philippines, mostly from co-working space Co.Lab. Duets will be seeking additional funding to support its post-launch scaling. Currently available on iOS, Duets will launch on Android later this year, and the team plans to add more songs to its catalog. “It’s early but we see huge leaps in user growth when we add new songs.”

On the local startup scene, Ben said, “the Philippines has been a great place to build a music app. It’s been easy to find musical resources and get lots of feedback on the app. Internet is terrible but the positive in this is that we’ve had to optimize for bad connections early on.”

Duets emerged as one of the two choices in the Echelon 2013 Philippines Satellite as most promising startup, and the team actually drove the crowd wild as the team members belted out cheesy tunes during the pitch. Duets is a free download from the iTunes App Store. Get the latest updates by following @duetsapp on Twitter.

J. Angelo Racoma

J. Angelo Racoma

A technology and automotive journalist with an interest in emerging standards, J. Angelo Racoma has written extensively about mobile, social media, enterprise apps and startups. Angelo has been active in online media since the early blogging and social networking days, and is co-founder at WorkSmartr, a small outsourcing platform for freelancers.

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