Premier European Singing Community RedKaraoke Launches in U.S.

Things have been quiet on the online karaoke front for some time now. Online karaoke is great. It’s like watching all the train wrecks from the first couple weeks of American Idol, sans the stage and pithy British insults. There have been several attempts in the online karaoke scene over the years, and we’re proud to report a newcomer.

RedKaraoke, the most popular European karaoke site, is launching its English language version today. RedKaraoke boasts the largest online karaoke song catalog, with 14,000 songs, and more than 400,000 users worldwide. The site allows you to record your song through either audio or video. Users can compete against other users to appear in the rankings page, or share them with friends. They also are the first site to offer a “Tone Control Tool” which allows users to control the tone of their voice to match the song (one thing you wish you had a karaoke bar). RedKaraoke also has rights agreements with copyright management companies and music publishers, and is affiliated with ASCAP and BMI.

Surprisingly there are a lot of competitors in the online karaoke marketplace. Ksolo, the world’s first web-based karaoke service, was acquired by Fox Interactive Media in April 2006. Two years later, they relaunched it as Myspace Karaoke. Myspace Karaoke has a catalog of about 3,000 songs, requires a Myspace account, and offers no video functionality. Yahoo! acquired Bix, an online contest site that had a karaoke functionality, in November 2006. Electronic Arts acquired SingShot in February 2007, which became Sims on Stage. SingShot/Sims On Stage, was the second ever online karaoke site, offers audio and video capabilities, and a catalog of 4,000 songs. Another newcomer onto the scene is SingSnap, who has a very basic front end, no bells and whistles, but seems to have a good community, with forum posts at around 850,000.

RedKaraoke attempts to set themselves apart in several ways . For example, instead of using MP3 files for their background track, they use MIDI and KAR files. By using this technology, they can convert almost any song into a karaoke track. The other sites mainly use MP3 files, which requires a re-recording of the music, which is both costly and time-consuming, and ultimately leads to their smaller catalog. The MIDI sound quality is very poor, like an old school ringtone, but it does allow for seamless recording, low bandwidth, and a larger catalog. A very unique feature is the “Tone Control Tool,” which allows for users to sing songs that they wouldn’t ever be able to in real life.

With the exception of a few unappealing design features and minor problems, I generally like what RedKaraoke is trying to do. I had originally though that the winner in this space would have been the one to appropriately tie their service into an existing social network through an application. Like Sims on Stage does on Facebook with their application Karaoke Showcase, or like Myspace does with Myspace Karaoke. I especially think that an application would work with RedKaraoke, because the tone control feature would allow people to feel better about posting their videos to their friends.

Red Karaoke was founded by brothers Miguel Angel and Richard Diez Ferreira in 2007. The site has always been free, and generates revenue through the sale of advertising space, strategic sponsorships and special activities. RedKaraoke is also announcing today the expansion of the U.S. offices, with two new executive appointments. Justin D. Abbott has joined as International Sales and Business Development Director, and Fernando Ara as Country Manager for the U.S. RedKaraoke is profitable in Spain, but recently had their expansion funded for €2 million from VC firm Clave Mayor in January 2008.

Red Karaoke plans on extending their reach to Japan by the end of the third quarter, and Germany and France in 2009. They are currently developing a Facebook application, and working on several new features for the site including a video uploading platform, blogging platform, lyrics database and search, and widgets and RSS services. They are also currently gearing up for their partnership with Antena 3’s TV show “Al pie de la letra” – a Spanish equivalent to American Idol – for whom they’ll be hosting all of the auditions for on their site.