Karaoke has been enjoyed by nearly everyone at one point of time, or another. While some go in the bar and sing badly for a group of strangers, others enjoy singing along to their favorite song in the privacy of their own home. For that reason, no one should have been surprised when karaoke took a leap into a new medium – the internet!
Originally launched in Spain last spring, Red Karaoke has taken the country by storm. Now they’re looking to do the same in the US. Having just launched their newest version over the summer, they are looking to attract English speaking karaoke fans with this new style of social networking.
I’ve recently had the opportunity to ask Justin D. Abbott and the founder of Red Karaoke, Miguel A. Diez Ferreira, a few questions about this innovative new music social network.
What inspired you to create Red Karaoke?
The inspiration came to me during a party with friends and family at my house in 2005. We started to play a karaoke game on the PlayStation, and I immediately thought about two improvements for the game: first, the possibility to access a bigger karaoke database (the PlayStation game had only 30 songs); second, the possibility to record the performances and enjoy them in the future.
The next day, I thought that the Internet could be the perfect solution, and I started to search for a website that offered these possibilities, thinking that I’d use it at the next party. But I didn’t find anything similar, not one website that let you sing online! So, I started to think about the possibility of launching a website with these kinds of services for karaoke lovers. I asked my brother Richard, who is a programming wizard, about the technical challenges in creating the website, and he replied to me that it was possible. And after 2 years of hard work during free hours, holidays and weekends, we launched the site in April 2008.
Why karaoke? Did you consider any other possibilities?
Because we found an empty space on the Web, a huge offline market (karaoke and singing) that was not occupied by any Internet company. We didn’t consider other possibilities because we were not searching for ideas to create a business. In fact, my brother and I had then very good jobs in big companies. We didn’t want to create a company. But once we had the idea, we decided to go for it.
What has been the response to your social network in Spain? What kind of feedback have you seen among individuals in the US?
We have been growing really quickly in Spain, and our users have responded really positively to the site, encouraging us to make certain changes, add new content and a video section, etc. Other companies and advertisers have also raved about Red Karaoke. We have partnerships with some of the leading Spanish companies. Advertising campaigns with Telefonica, a television partnership with Telecinco, and we are doing the casting for the Spanish version of ‘American Idol’ online!
Users in the US have joined very quickly in making suggestions since our launch, and making a lot of karaoke recordings. In fact, they have been making so many recordings on Red Karaoke that they were the impulse for the recent redesign of our front page, in order to put more of their content front and center.
Obviously you’re about karaoke online, but what other options have you implemented into the network for your users?
We have a very active forum where our users talk with each other, and give feedback about their songs. There is also a big video section that features karaoke recordings and the music videos that users update, and a brand new blog section on the website.
What have you learned from your start in Spain that has helped you get started here in the US?
The importance of being in contact with people, to listen what our users have to say about Red Karaoke. We talk with members of the community every day, and they tell us what new improvements they want, what are the problems of the website, etc. That kind of relationship generates a stronger product, and a better relation between the company and the brand with their users. They feel like Red Karaoke is their own project, and we are trying to make the same in the US.
Have you come across any stumbling blocks during your launch of either version of Red Karaoke? What have you learned from those experiences?
We found different problems along the way and in the different markets. In Spain, with our first version, we had many problems with the way we generate the rankings for the best singers. We worked for a long time to solve it, because many people try to manipulate it to get a better position, searching for recognition and listeners for their songs. Now we know how to manage that, but at the beginning it was impossible to know what kind of problems the ranking can generate.
In the US our main concern was to find a good PR agency. It is not easy to find one that can fit our needs, our strategy, our ideas and our limited budgets.
What did your work at Blogads teach you that you were able to apply with this social network?
It was very helpful to me to have formed relationships with so many bloggers and advertisers over the past couple years. But even more than that was the really good understanding that I gained of how people act on the Internet, and how companies need to listen to their users. They have to make changes and respect the will of the users. That idea is really a core part of Red Karaoke.
If you were to go back and start over, is there anything you might have done differently?
Every once in a while we try to add in a new feature, and the programming takes longer than expected because of a decision that was made a year and a half ago. For example, in order to add Japanese language capability we had to change the character set of the whole site, something that could have been avoided had we just clicked a different box when originally setting up the site. We try to learn from these stumbling blocks, and to listen closely to our users, so that we’re working on what they want.
Can we expect any new projects from you in the future?
Sure!! We are working to launch our Japanese version before the end of this year. And of course we will continue improving the possibilities around the music on Red Karaoke. At the end, this is a social network for people who love singing, and who love music. So, we must integrate more contents and services around music.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of running a social network as large as Red Karaoke has gotten?
The relation with our users! They send to us a lot of messages talking about how Red Karaoke helped them in their lives, to have a better life, to solve depression or personal problems, to find a job as singer thanks to our website, etc.. We think perhaps we help some people to be a little more happy. And that is the best prize for us!