Three Co-hosts of Fast Growing Tik Tok Music Trivia Show Find Their Groove in Astor Place

While many social media content creators take their tripods and mini microphones to the ever-popular Washington Square Park to look for interview subjects, one musical game show on Tik Tok has turned to Astor Place to set up camp–and has amassed nearly 200,000 followers in just over a year.

| 28 Dec 2023 | 05:40

“Name the artist win $.”

That’s the sign that the three co-hosts of a music trivia show called “Trackstar*” – two brothers, Jack and Kieran Coyne and a friend Henry Kornaros–erect in the unlikeliest of settings in Astor Place to film their Tik Tok music trivia show.

The show featuring quiz challenges to random participants has attracted nearly 200,000 followers on Tik Tok and has even begun generating some buzz among a small group of celebrity musicians who have dropped by to play, including AJR, Olivia Rodrigo and Ed Sheeran.

The concept of the game is simple—players guess the creator of a song playing in headphones for the chance to win five dollars. The more songs players correctly identify, the greater the cash prize. The co-founders started their fledgling media company, Public Opinion Inc. in 2022 as a commercial production company which is still in operation.

Jack is 32, Kieran is 29 and Henry is 24. The brothers met Henry while on the set of a different video project since they were all in the same industry, and hit it off. They then decided to start working together under Public Opinion in 2022.

When they first ventured beyond a basic production company, the three co-hosts started out making documentary-style content, quizzing New Yorkers on the inner workings of the city—such as where the trash goes after it’s thrown out. But the team said there were some unexpected hurdles with that topic.

“We found it hard to find people who know the answers to questions about New York City because a lot of people are just visiting, just moved here or they just don’t have that knowledge,” said Jack. “Music is universal. It was an easy transition to enable us to reach more people.”

Jack said he wanted to be a storyteller from the moment he discovered YouTube, creating his own channel to document his life. When the pandemic hit, he turned to short-form video content, partnering with his brother Kieran and friend Hnery Kornaros to form Public Opinion in 2021. Along with conducting trivia segments, the team produces commercial products for companies including Nike and Gucci and rent out space for photography projects in their Midtown studio. The three hosts have eclectic musical tastes ranging from classic rock and electronic music to country, making their internal musical encyclopedias vast and wide.

Even before Trackstar*”, music had always been an integral part of the Public Opinion process. The company’s videos do not use royalty-fee tracks; all of their instrumental background songs are created and composed by Kieran himself. “I’m interested in music history because I make music,” he said. “I think that makes me more fascinated than the average person about how a band came up with a sound.”

When an interested challenger approaches, the team doesn’t want to stump them right away. The first few songs of a game are mostly simple and popular. Jack said he turns to popular resources such as Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Artists of all Time” for the early questions, figuring the popular songs will be more likely to be known by contestants.

Before pressing the record button, the hosts ask the player about their specific musical tastes, and they said they try to curate a playlist of possible familiar favorites—saving the harder picks for when the cash prize starts to build up. The highest winning amount so far was $5,120, earned by a firefighter who donated it to the Steven Stiller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

Normally, they find most contestants play as long as possible, usually until they are stumped and wiped out. A few, quit while they’re ahead In a video from Oct. 19, one contestant named Williams stepped away after he won $40 but only identified the tune “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin at the last moment. “I got to,” he says near the end of the clip, of his decision to take the money and run.

When it came to choosing a location for the series, the team wanted a corner that they could consider their own. As Manhattan natives with an office ten minutes away, the Astor Place plaza seemed like the perfect haven to meet a wider range of commuters and locals as their business branched out beyond its commercial production roots.

“It’s helpful for us to carve out a little space where we become recognizable and a fixture in that area,” said Jack. “You could build up an audience that’s centered around the location.”

Some other Tik Tok series take the approach of randomly approaching people in a “man on the street” fashion for their videos— with cameras already rolling, no matter the subject’s reaction. “Trackstar*” does things differently, and with more consent, by sitting with the sign and waiting for interested players to approach them. “We just didn’t really necessarily feel comfortable [doing ambush interviews],” said Jack. “We’ll talk to people first, and say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re up to.’”

Some games are themed around certain sounds, eras or genres. Before stepping away with his winnings, challenger Williams’ playlist was centered around the neo-soul genre after telling Jack that he enjoys those kinds of artists. Singer and bassist Blu De Tiger’s lineup was centered around songs with iconic bass lines including a Red Hot Chili Peppers track and an appearance from electronic funk duo Chromeo. As the show continues to gain traction, even more celebrities have been reaching out—allowing the trio to slowly shift back to interview-based content.”

“It’s been cool to see different musicians reach out to us,” said Jack. “It’s very much what we started to set out to do—create a show that celebrates music and a format where we can talk to people about how it has shaped their lives.

”Even though “Trackstar*” continues to grow in popularity, the show’s mission to connect with the real people of the city remains the priority. The team wants to eventually expand and perhaps take their project on the road, but they say the company’s core remains a self-proclaimed “love letter to New York City.” The next time you feel like earning some quick cash, brush up on your musical knowledge, head over to Astor Place and look for the sign.