Rejess Marshall is the founder/CEO of Karaoke Noir. She holds a BBA and MBA from GSU.
Her experiences as a frustrated karaoke user and professional DJ has led her to the creation of Karaoke Noir.
Follow Karaoke Noir on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Tech startups
- About Karaoke Noir
- Advice to entrepreneurs
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Atlanta Business Radio brought to you by onpay built in Atlanta. On Pay is the top rated payroll and HR software anywhere. Get one month free at Onpay. Now here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:31] Lee Kantor here, another episode of GSU ENI radio, and this is going to be a good one today on the show, we have Regess Marshall with karaoke noir. Welcome.
Rejess Marshall: [00:00:42] Hi, Lee. Thank you for having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:44] Well, I’m excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us about karaoke noir.
Rejess Marshall: [00:00:48] So, yeah, karaoke noir is really just started. And as a out of a frustration that I had, I was doing karaoke a lot with my friends and I just couldn’t find songs that really were reflective of my musical choices and the choices that I saw my family and friends wanted to do. And so I had this idea, and during my usual social media scroll, I saw that a e and I had a Main Street Entrepreneurship Fund and they were taking ideas as applications, so I decided to apply.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:18] So what exactly is the idea? So does it? Do you go into a karaoke area with this device or this special device sold to karaoke places?
Rejess Marshall: [00:01:30] No. So what we are as an AI powered app and web based application where you can actually have a subscription based account where you can log in and do your favorite songs? We specialize in music of the African Diaspora, so gospel, hip hop, R&B trap, Afrobeats, reggae, reggaeton and those type of genres.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:49] So how does it work for the user?
Rejess Marshall: [00:01:52] So for the user, once we are fully launched, you’ll be able to sign up for a subscription or get a two to three day party pass and then sign in and enjoy your favorite karaoke tunes.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:03] And then how will it be played like if if I’m at a location that has karaoke and they don’t have any songs I like and I want to use this, can I use this there?
Rejess Marshall: [00:02:13] No. So the only way to experience karaoke you are will be in your home with our subscription based plans or with the karaoke to our DJ. So you could hire karaoke to our DJ that will be licensed to use our service.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:25] So it’s meant for kind of like parties, private parties, right?
Rejess Marshall: [00:02:31] And then an in-home
Lee Kantor: [00:02:32] Use, right? In-home use and that could be just by yourself or with friends. Just kind of casual, having fun with your friends, but not like I’m going to a place and it’s a work party and we’re all doing karaoke. That’s not how it’s going to go.
Rejess Marshall: [00:02:48] No. Yeah, that would be that individual locations choice on what vendor they decided to use at some point. We plan to grow and scale to where locations could decide to contract with us to use our service.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:01] So now what equipment does that individual user need in order to use the service?
Rejess Marshall: [00:03:08] Really, all you need is a laptop or mobile device, laptop, cell phone or a tablet. You’ll be able to log in and sign up and then you can get the singing. If you have microphones, that’s great. One of our plans down the roadmap is to offer all in one karaoke machines along with speakers and microphones.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:27] And then, have you tested this? Do you have kind of a minimum viable product right now or is this still at the idea stage?
Rejess Marshall: [00:03:35] We’re probably like in between I did in VP. So that’s what we’ve been able to do with the Main Street Entrepreneurship Fund was really learn a lot about some of the legal aspects of the business and what it really takes to build an application. So we’ve been able to set a solid foundation to continue to raise funds and go forward with building the app.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:54] And then did you have a technical background to build apps or is this something that you had to find kind of a technical help?
Rejess Marshall: [00:04:03] No, I don’t have a technical background in building apps, so I was able to find a technical co-founder and then I also have a legal co-founder who’s really legal savvy to help us with the music licensing. So one of the key terms or key items that we’ll need to tackle in order to have a successful product is obtaining all the music licenses to use current music that’s out there. And of course, that is quite expensive. So that’s another reason why we were able to use our funds to really brand ourselves and get started so that we can go on other pitch competitions and seek other investment funds.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:37] And yeah, so I would imagine that that’s going to take up a big part of the budget, right? Is the licensing the music now? So when you first had the idea and you started kind of going through the steps to solve the problem? And it seems like there were problems everywhere. How did you kind of get through each one of them that it seems like that would be a pretty daunting challenge?
Rejess Marshall: [00:05:01] Yeah. I mean, we really spent a lot of time learning and researching what karaoke looks like in America and what the licenses that are required to have karaoke services here in the United States. And so we really learned a lot about the mechanical license and the synchronization licenses and all these terms that we need in order to move forward. We also spent a lot of time archetype and understanding what technologies were available to us to help build our ideal product.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:29] Now what about the market? Is there a big market for in-home karaoke use?
Rejess Marshall: [00:05:34] Overall, karaoke is a $10 trillion global industry. Unfortunately, it’s so new to the United States it doesn’t have its own necessary lane or market quite yet in the United States that you can kind of carve out. And there are actually only two major competitors that have karaoke apps, and none of them are American based companies. So we kind of have a wide open market to try to come in and get a piece of that market share and also create and cultivate a karaoke culture.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:01] Now what efforts are you doing to kind of develop that karaoke culture?
Rejess Marshall: [00:06:07] I mean, really, a lot of it’s already been done right. So there’s all kinds of karaoke events, so we know that people love to do karaoke, there’s trap karaoke, there’s afro karaoke, there’s always a bar or an establishment having karaoke night. But what we noticed was the DJs. One couldn’t find the song, so they would have to go on established platforms so they would have to go on YouTube. When we did a lot of our customer discovery with the DJs and with individual consumers, we found that a lot of people had to go to YouTube to find songs that they like. And so for us, we saw that really as an opportunity to seize that market and just to open up something new and introduce a new product.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:44] Now is this your first entrepreneurial venture? It is. So how’s it been?
Rejess Marshall: [00:06:50] It’s definitely been interesting, right? So I had to learn a lot. These aren’t skills that they really teach you in school. And so just did a lot of self learning and listening to podcasts, reading and really spending time in this Main Street program has really helped me learn all that kind of goes into starting a business.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:09] So what are some of the kind of the benefits you see of being part of the Main Street Entrepreneurship Seed Fund?
Rejess Marshall: [00:07:16] Well, I would first say the relationships that we’ve built, having an entrepreneur in residence that we can text or call it any time, it’s been really helpful. The classes and workshops that they provided have been really, really helpful just from the learning aspect. Like I said, we started with an idea, so we didn’t go into this knowing how to run a startup or start a business. But we just kind of had an idea and a hunch that this was something that kind of needed to exist in the world. So this program has really helped us develop that idea into a real strategy so that we can continue to go forth and build it.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:51] Now, when did you kind of get a sense that this could be something big?
Rejess Marshall: [00:07:56] Um, usually it’s just when I asked people during the customer discovery finding out that either people didn’t know of existing karaoke platforms available to them, or that when they did do karaoke, they used YouTube because YouTube would have the songs that they wanted. And then three, I asked, you know, when they went out to do karaoke? Were they able ever to find their songs that they liked? And a lot of people said they couldn’t find songs that they liked, you know, especially in the African Diaspora genres. You just don’t see that representation there.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:28] And then when you were building your team, how did you find each of your co-founders?
Rejess Marshall: [00:08:34] I really just started asking around, so I asked some lawyers that I knew if anybody knew what entertainment lawyer. And that’s how we got our co-founder, Devin, who handles the legal aspects and then my sister’s husband is actually our chief technical officer. So that was a pretty easy fine.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:53] And then how has GSU helped? Because with their emphasis on entrepreneurship permeating kind of the whole school, it’s it’s unique compared to other universities. Have you found that to be helpful?
Rejess Marshall: [00:09:09] Absolutely. Like I said, just the vast network. The fact that they’re able to provide us funding was really amazing. So we were able to really make leaps and bounds with that funding that had we did, if we didn’t have it, you know, we’d probably still be stuck somewhere around the ideation phase trying to figure out, where do we spend money? How do we allocate money, what resources were worth us allocating to? But because of Main Street, you know, we’ve been able to really get a good, solid foundation. We were able to afford systems and processes to last us for at least the next 12 months and keep us afloat while we continue to try to build this product and and bring more awareness to the karaoke industry.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:46] Now any advice for that budding entrepreneur that maybe just has an idea that’s just kind of bugging him. They see a problem that’s kind of bugging them, but they don’t they haven’t taken that leap to be an entrepreneur. You know, it’s just one of those things that are back burner.
Rejess Marshall: [00:10:00] I mean, I feel like you just have to go for it if there’s a something burning inside you and a problem that you just know needs to be solved. You just got to try. And that’s kind of really the first step is not being afraid to see what, see what’s possible.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:15] And then what’s been the most fun part so far for you?
Rejess Marshall: [00:10:20] The entire experience, I mean, every every time we do something with this business, it’s a learning experience, right? And so every day we’re learning, every day we’re getting better, every day we’re discovering new things. So that’s really been the best part that it never gets old, it never gets dull. It’s just an exciting adventure, and I’m really excited to see what happens.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:37] So what do you need more of?
Rejess Marshall: [00:10:40] Uh, definitely, we need more resources, right? And that could be financial resources, it could be technical resources or people with technical skills, and it could also be advisers and mentors within the Atlanta music industry.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:54] Good stuff. Well, congratulations on all the success if somebody wants to learn more. Is there a website?
Rejess Marshall: [00:11:00] Absolutely. You can visit a site karaoke, NORTHCOM or karaoke noire on all social platforms. And if you want to email us, if you’re interested in being a beta tester one day, feel free to do that at info at karaoke NORTHCOM.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:13] And that’s KUAR, Aoki and OIRA.
Rejess Marshall: [00:11:19] That’s correct.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:20] Well, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing important work, and we appreciate you. Thank you. All right, this is Lee Kantor. We will see you all next time on GSU. Any radio.
About Our Sponsor
OnPay’s payroll services and HR software give you more time to focus on what’s most important. Rated “Excellent” by PC Magazine, we make it easy to pay employees fast, we automate all payroll taxes, and we even keep all your HR and benefits organized and compliant.
Our award-winning customer service includes an accuracy guarantee, deep integrations with popular accounting software, and we’ll even enter all your employee information for you — whether you have five employees or 500. Take a closer look to see all the ways we can save you time and money in the back office.