by Adam Douglas | 4,2 / 5,0 | Approximate reading time: 6 Minutes
Pocket Audio HiChord lead

Pocket Audio HiChord  ·  Source: Pocket Audio


Pocket Audio’s HiChord chord synth went viral on TikTok and hit its Kickstarter goal in just two minutes. They told us how they did it – and it was surprisingly simple.


Pocket Audio HiChord

There are a lot of musical instrument releases every year. Thanks to crowd-sourcing platforms like Kickstarter, it’s easier than ever to go from idea to finished product. However, there’s a knack to running a successful Kickstarter campaign. For every runaway hit, there are many that never make it – and that’s not always to do with the usefulness of the product itself. You have to leverage social media as well. And that’s the tricky part.

Pocket Audio HiChord
Pocket Audio HiChord · Source: Pocket Audio

One recent prototype to hit it big on Kickstarter is HiChord, a portable chord synthesizer from new outfit, Pocket Audio. Thanks to a gangbusters social media campaign – plus the product itself, of course – Pocket Audio was able to hit its campaign goal of CA $30,000 in an astonishing two minutes. At the time of writing, it’s been backed to the tune of CA $234,248 and there’s still two weeks left on the campaign. It’s had more than 15 million views on TikTok and support from artists like Ty Dolla Sign, Jay Electronica and more. It’s even in a song that’s already been released: “Pull Up” by Internet Girl.

How did Pocket Audio do it? We spoke with Andrew Oliver, the force behind Pocket Audio and HiChord, to find out.

What Is HiChord?

According to Andrew, HiChord is a powerful, pocket-sized chord synthesizer. “Its unique interface makes it incredibly easy for anyone to play chords instantly, with no wrong notes,” he said. “It is meant for songwriters, producers, and hobbyists to play music and write songs anywhere. 

Pocket Audio HiChord
Pocket Audio HiChord · Source: Pocket Audio

It’s more than just a chord generator though – and this is part of why it’s been so popular, in my opinion. It has a full-on synthesizer engine inside, with 10 digital oscillators with multiple waveforms and effects. It has an arpeggiator plus MIDI out via USB-C. It’s also portable, with a built-in speaker and rechargeable battery.


What Sparked the Idea to Make HiChord?

“I have been touring and recording with my band Wild Rivers for nearly a decade,” Andrew told me when I asked about how he got the idea for HiChord. “I realized there were so many moments in the van, green room, hotels, coffee shops, park, etc., where I wanted to play or work on music, but couldn’t pull out a big guitar or piano. This got me thinking about the need for a portable chord-based instrument.”

Realizing that no instruments used a diatonic chord system as an interface, he thought this would be the perfect way to make “playable, portable chords.”

Kicking Off on Kickstarter

With how successful the Kickstarter campaign has been, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was not Andrew’s first rodeo. However, it is.

Pocket Audio HiChord
Pocket Audio HiChord retro-style ad · Source: Pocket Audio

“This is my first Kickstarter,” he explained. “I have watched Kickstarter for years on the sideline and always thought it was a great way to launch a company. When I saw the success of Chompi … I was further inspired to set the plan in motion.”

Here’s how he did it:

Once he had the basic idea and design, he decided to build the device quickly. Rather than develop it behind closed doors, he created an Instagram page and updated it regularly with his designs. “This allowed me to build an audience of fellow synth nerds before the product was even functional,” he said.

This early support validated his concept and gave him the confidence to continue. “I was receiving fantastic feedback and feature requests which made their way into the design of the HiChord,” he explained. All the while his audience kept growing. This translated into a large email list, which also made a solid starting point for the Kickstarter campaign.

How to Go Viral in 5 Easy Steps

What happened next was pretty incredible. HiChord went viral. Crazy viral.

“Once the product became functional,” he explained, “I started posting short, simple videos playing different chord progressions on the HiChord. This is when the videos began going viral and the audience grew exponentially.”

Pocket Audio HiChord
Pocket Audio HiChord · Source: Pocket Audio

Incredibly, he wasn’t following any plan – but he did begin to see commonalities in the most popular videos. This is what he noticed.

  1. Instantly engaging: “The goal is to grab people who are scrolling through an endless feed of interesting content,” he said. Forget logos and intros. Start things right away.  
  2. Musically pleasing: “With each video,” he said, “I tried to make a chord progression/melody/loop that I would actually use in a song.” This resulted in viewers sampling and duetting with his content. “I think this is very important and surprisingly rare in synth/gear content. A lot of synth demonstrations seem to be coming from a technical/engineering perspective, showing off the breadth of features, rather than usable musical examples.” Synthfluencers, are you listening?
  3. Musically looping: Andrew made a point to set the length of the short videos so that they looped in a musical way. This encouraged engagement, such as sampling by beatmakers.
  4. Scarcity: The HiChord is unique and – so far – unavailable. “People lean in when they see something they haven’t seen before, or can’t see anywhere else,” he said.
  5. Consistency:Momentum seems to play a factor in virality,” Andrew noticed. “I think finding a simple format that was quick and easy to shoot allowed me to make content consistently.” Amazingly, he never spent more than 20 minutes making and uploading the videos. 

Advice for Launching a Successful Kickstarter

Andrew did everything right in his Kickstarter campaign too. I asked him what advice he had for engineers and entrepreneurs to replicate his success.

Pocket Audio HiChord
Pocket Audio HiChord · Source: Pocket Audio

“Be action-oriented,” he answered. “Do at least one thing a day that pushes development forward: send an email, write some code, order some samples, shoot a video, etc. This will snowball and you will start to feel the momentum and see the idea come to life.”

He also recommended making the process public as he did on Instagram. That way you are “accountable, can start validating the idea and can start building your community,” he explained.

Lastly, he suggested finding people who have already done it and pick their brains. ChatGPT is a great resource too, he said. “Holy moly I learned so much just by asking questions and feeding it code.”

What’s Next for Pocket Audio HiChord

Andrew is currently busy getting HiChord built. With his Kickstarter funds, he’s been able to hire design and manufacturing consultants, ones who have worked on well-known synths and products.

Pocket Audio HiChord Aluminum Edition
Pocket Audio HiChord Aluminum Edition · Source: Pocket Audio

“I want the HiChord to be a classic instrument that will be around for decades, being bought and sold on Reverb in 2070,” he said. “I am taking a long-term view, reinvesting all of the funds back into product design and materials rather than attempting to profit off the Kickstarter.”

HiChord’s Kickstarter campaign runs until June 14. The basic unit sells for US $250. There’s also an aluminium edition for US $320.

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Pocket Audio HiChord lead

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3 responses to “Pocket Audio HiChord: How to go viral in 5 easy steps”

    Richard says:

    Or you can just play any chord you like on a free piano app on your phone…

    Jakub Zeman says:

    Got my Woovebox like a month ago and god damn that thing is minuscule but its logically designed a can do a TON. I wish him all the luck but the chord only thing aint for me.

    spon says:

    A “chord device” has little to no interest used alone.
    With a DAW the interest is very limited since you have better tools and plugins to do this.

    Would be cool with a poly synth I guess.

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