Last week, husband and wife duo Us was the first musical act to be signed to a record label (Republic) after being discovered on six-second video app Vine. The duo's six-second covers were a cute tactic that got them the notice they needed after building a strong YouTube following. But Gregory Lowe, founder of the SongBooth "karaoke selfie" iPhone app, is taking a more active approach to artist development. "We really hope to be the first app to create a star," he says. "Vine is just six seconds. We really want to pull artists up by the bootstraps."
SongBooth lets users download backing tracks from iTunes or use their own library, apply effects, and a create 30-second music video, which is easily shareable with the SongBooth community or on YouTube and other social media. Today Lowe announced the winner of the second Project SongBooth competition, a collaboration with producer, songwriter, and artist Ryan Leslie, who chose the finalists and winner. Canadian singer-songwriter Mazen, who submitted his cover of Justin Bieber's "Heartbreaker," beat out 5,000 other entrants for the grand prize of a 10-show international tour with Leslie.
"Ryan is also signing him to his label and will help him with distribution, and teach him about the life," says Lowe. The idea of the contest, he says, is to give aspiring artists a direct, no-barriers opportunity to be heard—"no manager, no label, straight off the iPhone."
Since launching just over a year ago, SongBooth has hit almost 8 million downloads, and scored partnerships with artists including Miguel and Elle Varner. Lowe is most excited about the upcoming launch of Songbooth 3.0, which includes the Green Lit program, where users will be able to gift artists they like with virtual green microphones—the microphones will cost $1.29, 50 cents of which goes to the gifted artist.
"If people see a video they really like, they can show their appreciation," says Lowe. "We've seen a lot of programs coming out of China supporting artists through virtual currency, like YY.com. We want to bring that to the U.S. to see how our users will support other users through a social platforms."