Here’s a cool new toy, especially if you like to warble pop hits in the shower. You might call it a ‘Musical Selfie’ or ‘Karaoke a La Vid’. This is not like those sing-along apps that feature pop hit cover jobs, which are usually wooden, refurbished versions of hit songs rerecorded by bored studio hacks. No, Hook’d features everything from the original recording except the voice track. Created by a pianist-turned-software-entrepreneur, Robert Taub, this new app allows you to create competently wrought musical selfies where only the voice track sounds like you.
Let’s say you’re a huge New Order fan, like me. Why not recreate ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ as if it’s you in the studio with Barney, Pete, Steve and Gillian. “Every time I look at you/I feel shot inside with a bolt of blue!” You sing your little heart out and it sounds just great. Maybe if Barney Sumner, who’s put on a few pounds of late, tripped over a loose cable and broke his ankle in the midst of the American tour you could just step in and save those merry Mancs from disintegrating as a result of yet another tragedy.
Don’t know the lyrics? The brilliant Hook’d presents you with the lyrics on your desktop, laptop, iPad or iPhone, floating like Ophelia on a lily pad above the image being recorded while you sing. And, naturally, should you want to, you can easily cue up the original, provided you just listen to it, but don’t record.
Things happen fast in the music business these days. Mr. Taub only had permission to use a few songs when he began the business on July 10, 2014. But now his company, Muse Ami, based in Princeton, New Jersey, has made deals with three of the major recording companies, Warner Music Group, Sony and Universal Music Group, for song permissions for his little invention. Taub has also worked out deals with the music publishers who represent the songwriters and composers, according to theGeekparent.com.
Big shot record industry executives who would have turned their noses up at such a small potatoes deal a decade ago now see Taub’s little business as one more alternative possibility for reaching a new audience. With CD sales dying and the digital download business leveling off while social media apps surge and transmogrify, music executives are open to all kinds of newfangled ideas. Hook’d makes for a new way to recycle songs that sit dormant in its catalog and renewed attention from the media in its bands.
As entrepreneurs go, Mr. Taub shows a depth of integrity that is rare. The origin of Hook’d began with a sing-along app, which came into being after Taub put together a focus group session of musically-inclined high school students in New Jersey last October, according to his Hook’d Facebook page. Kids think differently and these students suggested that they could both share criticism about their performances with friends or just use them as one-of-a-kind gifts while sending their ‘original’ versions out as links. This may not sound like anything that’s high concept, but is something, as Mr. Taub puts it, that is so simple it’s very easy to miss.
Additionally, another of Taub’s long-time conceptual sounding boards, Jon Sheldrick, MuseAmi’s principal product manager, came to a conclusion after talking to a variety of folks about the whos, whats, whens and whys of their habits when singing to themselves that the majority do not care about singing along to the full song, only the chorus, for a short while, usually 30 seconds or so. Although access to the choruses turns out to be free, singing along isn’t. Temporary ownership, however, means access to all of the complete songs and is US$3.99 a month.