Five Ways to Create an Engaging Artist/Musician iPhone App

30 07 2009

AppsYesterday, I posted my analysis on 10 iPhone artist/musician applications and their content strategies. After analyzing my findings and thinking about what is currently available in the music app world,  I came up with five content strategy suggestions for musicians, marketers, app developers, and labels to create more engaging and value-oriented artist/musician apps. Each of these strategies offers some sort of value to the music fan that will always keep them coming back and may one day create a valuable revenue stream for some artists. 


1. Use OpenID technology such as Facebook Connect and utilize existing social networks to create a community.

The problem I found with most of these apps is that their community platforms exist only within the application itself.  This means that you can only communicate with other people logged onto the app, normally strangers, without any sort of identification or profile. This creates chat-rooms full of spam, wingdings (smiley faces and what not), and fragmented conversation that is really more annoying than interesting. The solution to this problem lies in OpenID technology such as Facebook Connect, which may soon proliferate the web.  Allowing users to log-in to the app using an existing profile, such as their Facebook account, would open the app up to a world of possibilities.  Social gaming companies such as Zyng and Playfish are perfect examples of app developers harnessing the power of Facebook’s word-of-mouth/viral capabilities.  Facebook Connect might be the easiest solution to creating an engaged community, because lets face, when you fall in love with a band/musician/artist, the first person you to tell “You gotta hear this!” is a good friend. 

2. Provide lots of content ranging from photos, videos, artist information, podcasts, FREE music etc. and make sure its quality content.  

Every should have the ability to stream FULL tracks from the artist.  Why would I download a musicians iPhone app if I can’t even listen to their music?  This seems like the most basic value that a music application can offer to a consumer. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have all your music streamed for free (although I strongly believe that it should be), but a music app that doesn’t offer any sort of music seems counter intuitive.   It’s also possible to post content directly to the applications photo and video portals, but this can also become very troublesome.  If you want to see what I mean, download the Lady Gaga app and watch an episode of her mobile show and compare it to the mobile show on the Soulja Boy app.  The difference is good quality produced content compared to a shaky iPhone video camera taking poor quality video of the every-day life of Soulja Boy.  While there’s a case for approaching video content in both of these ways, at least make sure its meets some quality standards. 

3. Allow and encourage user generated content

The only app that offered access to some type of user generated content was the Dave Mathews Band mobile app with photo sharing capabilities. Allowing fans to upload content to the app creates an interactive and immersive experience while also providing tons of unique content for the app. The apps could also link to existing social sites focused on user generated content such as Youtube and Flickr. Really, the mobile music app could be utilized to access an the artist’s entire cohesive web-presence with the touch of a button – I think there’s value in that. 

4. Create or enable the artist radio

When I heard about Irving Azoff’s partnership with Clear Channel to create a.p.e. (Artists Personal Experience) I thought “Brialliant!”  Who else would be the perfect tastemaker for new music other than your favorite artists themselves.  Not only that but if you love an artist’s music, your bound to be interested in their musical influences, experiences, and idols.  So why not integrate something that provides this entertainment in the artist’s mobile app? An artist specific radio station playing a similar type of genre, or music that influenced an album, or the band’s monthly new music picks…. the possibility of creating interesting and engaging content is practically limitless.  Another way to approach this would be to just include podcasts on the app – but I feel like this concept could be stretched to create something pretty unique. 

5. Offer interactive content such as mixing, re-mixing, social games etc. etc.

Make the content interactive.  This can be achieved in a number of ways such as allowing users to remix, mix, or interact with the audio content itself.  An approach that many major brands have been using within mobile apps is integrating interactive games into the applications.  This is where you have to get creative and come up with some a game that is relevant to the music, artist, and associated content. It could be something as simple as a trivia game, but allowing users to interact with the content will create a fun, unique, valuable experience for fans that will have them coming back for more.

What other ideas do you have to improve the current artist/musician app?

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Ten Most Popular Artist/Musician iPhone App Strategies Reviewed

29 07 2009


Akon Death Cab for Cutie  Wilco DMB       

When thinking about the future of music and artist content, one must now consider the myriad of possible distribution platforms now available to musicians.  Whether it be iTunes, a subscription service, P2p file-sharing, or services like Soundcloud, one thing is certain, the idea of bundled content (like the album) is slowly becoming something of the past.  Now record companies, entrepreneurs, and technology providers are scrambling to find the next best thing to the once lucrative physical album.  

Mobile applications seem to offer some very unique features for musicians from direct-to-fan contact, in-app mobile stores, and music streaming capabilities. Many artist’s apps are offered for free and grant access to a bundle of content in hopes that the app serves as a promotional tool and drive sales. The problem is that most of these artists apps do not provide any sort of real value to the user.  This is a major problem seeing as though the majority of the top 25 apps in the iTunes app store consist of practical applications that provide services or benefits.   Therefore, I decided to review 10 of the most popular free apps available in the iTunes store to understand how labels and artists are approaching the application concept.  Here are some of the best practices, as well as an overview of all 10 apps reviewed: 

Best Practices

The apps that I consider to be best in class offer a value to the user that would encourage continuous use over time in terms of community, content, and direct artist contact. 


The Akon, Lady Gaga, and Soulja Boy apps are all powered by Kyte ( an online video-streaming community).  This allows for some really great things such as user rated videos, live chat rooms, and exclusive mobile video streamed directly from the artists.

The DMB app allows users to sign in with their Twitter account allowing for easy communication with band and the fan community.  The app also allows users to upload user-generated-content such as photos from concerts and contains a fan chat room.  


The Wilco, Death Cab for Cutie, and Black Lips apps provide streaming of full tracks and albums on the app.  The app will also function while audio is streamed (a feature that is not found with the iTunes 30sec samples). 

Santana offers guitar lessons via the mobile app provide something of true value to Santana fans. 

The Wilco application has an extensive selection of podcasts from the band. 


The Dead and DMB applications offer exclusive content from the band such as Tweets during live shows.

Update:  Here are 5 ways to create a killer music app based on this research 

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Crowdsourcing Video Game Development May Save The Gaming Industry

24 07 2009

The video game industry recently announced its fourth consecutive monthly decline, posting a 31% drop in sales on video games and video game consoles in June of 2009. The decline in revenue may create a major set back for video game developers seeking large amounts of invested capital for development. While most game developers feel the crunch, some companies believe that community crowd sourcing might help generate the pool of capital needed to create new game titles.

Publisher, Roundhouse Interactive, has teamed up with Frima Studio to create the first community-designed video game, The Game Cartel, by December of 2010. The community will function as a democratic voting system in which developers will place ideas out to the cartel members and they will decide the direction of the game from genre and story-line to even the name. To join the cartel, members are charged an upfront fee of $50 which gaurantees them a copy of the game and covers incentives that will be offered to keep members active in every step of the process. Roundhouse and Frima hope to attract up to 100,000 community members in order to generate an investment pool of $5 million for the development of the new title. 

The Game Cartel

Crowdsourcing game development seems to be a hot topic in the gaming world as revenues continue to slump. Gabe Newell of Valve, has also eluded to a strong interest in community financing. Gabe stated in a recent interview, “What I think would be much better would be if the community could finance the games. In other words, ‘Hey, I really like this idea you have. I’ll be an early investor in that and, as a result, at a later point I may make a return on that product, but I’ll also get a copy of that game.”

There are many trends influencing developers seek this community outreach, such as the recent surge in use of social media and participation in gaming communities, the popularity of highly customized game experiences (such as Little Big Planet and XNA Creators Club, and unescapable economic pressures. If The Game Cartel proves successful, expect to see a lot more developers using crowd sourcing as a means to end. What I question is whether or not creative integrity is lost in the process of crowd source development for an entertainment product. Most games are created by a group of developers that have become experts in user experience, creative game-play, and design. These crowdsourced games may lack the innovation and dynamic game play that most gamers now expect.  It will be an interesting experiment none the less.

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Will Mass Media Still Exist within Decade?

22 07 2009

Mass Media of the PastWill traditional mass-media still have its place in society 10 years from now?  This is a question I began asking myself after the death of what many consider the last true worldwide pop-icon Michael Jackson.  MJ could have only reached such super-stardom through mass-media, utilizing a limited set of media channels aimed at massive nationwide audiences. Clearly with the rapid growth of the internet, digital technologies, and social media, the so called long-tail of media is in effect.  The clout that mass media companies once had with traditional media is withering away as people continue to interact on the web through blogs, social bookmarking sites, message boards, micro-blogs, social networks etc. searching for more customized, niche based sources of media.   This leaves us with a very fragmented and highly targeted consumer culture online.

What I come to question then is what happens when this sort of consumer niche seeking activity carries over into offline social interaction in the real world.   Ten-Twenty years from now, will each individual become so niche focused and spread across such a diverse set networks that some basic commonality is lost?  If we take this long tail effect to the extreme, we would end up with a society that seems to lack a broad set of common interests. This is why I believe that traditional media or mass media may never completely disappear. Lets face it, in many cases people want to be told what to like.  They need common interest to relate and share with strangers. They want to join the crowd and share in large-scale community experiences.  In some cases push-based marketing may still prove to be successful.

Then again, millions of people are joining social networks each month.  Will Facebook become the next form of mass-media?  What are your thoughts?

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15 Essential Web Tools For The Musician – Say Goodbye to the Record Label

15 07 2009

Here is a short list of 15 useful websites for musicians that I have discovered over the last couple of weeks. Many of these services are still in their beta versions so keep an eye out for them as they continue to grow and offer some pretty awesome products and services. Social media tools have enabled developers to find solutions for almost all facets of the music business, including band & tour management, e-commerce, digital distribution, music promotion, and metrics. Having an arsenal of tools like these may prove to eliminate the need of a record label for the do-it-yourself musician. In the right hands these tools may create some awesome social media success stories for good musicians.

Anyone have any success stories out there yet? 

Band Management

Band Central – Online band management offering some pretty awesome tools that would make any DIY musicians life just a little bit easier. Tools include social media management, gig manager, band finances, easy file sharing, SMS fan alerts, and a centralized message board to help band communication.

Tour Management

Live Music Machine – Connects bands and fans through an online multimedia portal and portable widget. This service makes booking and managing gigs easier than ever, allowing fans, promoters, bar owners etc. to book an artist with the click of a button.

Eventful – Leading events website that enables its community to discover, share, promote, and create events. The Eventful Demand feature allows fans to demand appearances by musicians in their hometowns. Performers are able to use Eventful Demand to make informed decisions about where to appear and can communicate with their Demanders via highly targeted email tool.

Superfan – A social game based on collecting and contributing to all your favorites in order to become a super fan of your favorite musician, actor, comedian etc. This site creates a centralized location for your fan base allowing them to connect, share, and eventually become your #1 superfan.

Digital Distribution

Bandcamp – A free publishing platform for bands, provides artists with the most relevant content management and social marketing tools, with a super clean interface and friendly user management system. Allows visitors to purchase mp3’s in multiple formats – from the lowest quality to the highest – and features some awesome visualizers for streaming music.

Tunecore – Digital distribution across the majority of mainstream digital music channels such as iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, Limewire, etc. with no cut of the royalty percentage

Music Promotion – Discovery Networks

The Sixty-One – Combines the likes of a social network, music portal, and an interactive gaming experience. Members are given different “quests” such as listening to the other users playlists for a set amount of time, or listen to five songs of your favorite new artist. As individuals complete quests, they earn points and credibility, allowing community members to build social capital while also creating a unique, fun, and valuable experience. Excellent for independent artists to gain listeners and build a fan base.

Stereofame – Stereofame is a social music game that brings fans and artists together and empowers artists and listeners to determine what’s hot by creating virtual record labels. Features excellent social networking features, a music store, and monthly contests.

MOGWith thousands of contributions from music lovers and the top 300 music blogs that make up the network, MOG generates over 6,000 music blog posts per week, all hand-curated to deliver the web’s best daily music newspaper. MOG members receive personalized music recommendations and blog posts designed and chosen just for them.

Our Stage – Our Stage is a music discovery network that allows fans to artists to connect. Members are given the opportunity to vote on up and coming artists tracks, allowing the best musicians to be featured on Our Stage charts and streaming radio channels. OurStage also hosts contests and rewards the top artists by connecting them with industry professionals.

Music MogulThe world’s first online music world for independent artists. Musicians are allowed to post video, then promote their music to the online fan community. Every 90 days an artist will be chosen by online peers and a celebrity panel to win a chance to record a three song demo with a Grammy award winning producer. Artists even have the opportunity to preform live through music mogul to the global online audience.

Measuring Success

Band Metrics provides a first-of-its-kind semantic web application for the music industry that collects, analyzes and displays dynamic popularity and trends about musicians and bands from across the web. It’s a great solution for independent artists to understand the drivers of their music’s popularity, and their fans’ sentiments towards their music.

Band Metrics

Echo Nest – Fanylitics – The Echo Nest’s Fanalytics is the web’s first targeted online music promotion system — it acts like a recommendation engine for music marketers. Fanalytics understands the specific tastes of every music writer on the web and helps you find the writers most likely to review your music.

Rock Dex – Powered by Music Arsenal, this tool scours the social web and music sites to judge your bands social buzz, social media presence, fan base, and number of listens. The tool generates grades out of 100 and offers suggestions to help boost your Rock Dex score.

We Are HuntedWe Are Hunted listens to what people are saying about artists and their music on blogs, social networks like Facebook and MySpace, message boards and forums, Twitter and P2P networks to chart the top songs online everyday. Essentially a billboard chart for the social media space.

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Musicians Lead by Example with Innovative Social Media Strategies

14 07 2009

I have been reading a lot of blogs and articles recently about large, well-known corporations who have undertaken social media strategies with really no idea how to utilize social tools to generate, what they consider, a profitable investment. I blame this on a sense of apathy for innovation in exchange for other tried and true business practices such as utilizing mass media and the traditional push marketing strategies. But what happens when an industry is turned upside down, not by choice, but by disruptive technology.

The Crowded Musisphere

Enter Napster of 1999, the iTunes of 2001, and now the almost unlimited number of sources for digital music distribution existing today. With the traditional business model of physical unit sales and terrestrial radio promotion dying, artists and labels are hanging on by adopting digital distribution models, social media strategies, and direct artist-to-fan connections.

Music now thrives on digital and many musicians have led the way with some excellent social media strategies. This shift from mega-distribution to do-it-yourself, has given independent musicians an opportunity to find creative ways to promote themselves as individuals and their music. It is very important for social media marketers to keep an eye on musicians and the music industry — after all we did force them to become early adopters.

Here is a short list of musicians to watch who have used and are currently using some pretty innovative strategies to sell their music:

Umprhey’s McGee:

Using Twitter For a Festival Scavenger Hunt
Innovative CD Release – Word of Mouth Genius

Amanda Palmer:

Using Twitter to Gross 19,000 in 19 hours

Zoe Keating:

Indie Cellist Explodes on Twitter

Josh Freese

$20,000 for Mini-Golf With Rock Stars – Now That’s Engagement

Anyone else to add to the list??

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Communities & Gaming: EA Sports Beta vs. GamerDNA

2 07 2009

Over the last few weeks I have been researching the gaming industry and exploring the use of  social media and communities by developers, entrepreneurs, and major gaming franchises.  What I have found is that many well-known gaming franchises have only begun to scratch the surface of social media, while entrepreneurs are gaining a foothold due to a deeper  understanding of what social media is all about.  I will briefly review two company’s approaches: 

EA Sports

EA’s new beta site is an excellent example of a developer’s attempt to create a social network for fan’s of EA’s Sports titles.  The site has many unique features, most of which a driven by user-generated content.  Members are able to upload photos, screenshots, and video.  Users are even offered a tool to create highlight reals with customizable music and voice commentary. The site’s media lounge allows for a YouTube-like experience, allowing users to rate and comment on posted videos and photos. User profiles also contain leader boards, reputation management tools, and game statistics for EA Sports titles. Clearly, EA has come to understand the importance of user generated content, avatars, statistics, and leader boards, but what about conversation, recommendation, and  personality?  

EA Hompage

Media Lounge

I feel that the beta site truly lacks in these areas. First of all the user experience is less than optimal. It is not easy to login or discern one’s profile page from the already cluttered EA sports site.  Not only that,  but the profile itself is a single page with no tabulation.  Once the user adds multiple widgets to the profile, the page becomes cluttered, disorganized, and hard to navigate.   I also find that creating a unique personality on the site is near impossible with a standardized avatar (although features can be customized) and no opportunity to discuss and display the games I like or dislike, or the type of gamer I am.  This makes it hard to find other community members with whom I would want to connect with and play against.  The beta site also lacks in communication tools such as real-time status feeds (although it allows for status updates), walls, or shout-boxes that are usually displayed on the profile and are useful for understanding an individual’s personality.   Although the beta site might provide an excellent resource for checking out cool user videos, or trying to stay on top of who the best FIFA gamer is, I feel it lacks the humanity I look for in social networks. 






GamerDNA approaches gamers and social media in a completely different way by creating a networkbuilt around gamer personalities, likes/dislikes, reviews, gaming activity, recommendation and discovery.  The site allows gamers to build their personalities by using quizzes, conduct ratings/reviews of games played, and adding their favorite games to their profile.   I can also view  games members are talking about, in real-time, creating a unique experience each time I visit the site.  Games are even ranked by discussion and buzz around them. This doesn’t mean the site is short of reputation management tools for the gamer, in fact it allows users to display their profiles from Xbox (mygamercard), Xfire, and Valve.  The site also allows users to integrate their GamerDNA with Facebook, Friendfeed, and Twitter profiles, creating an all-encompassed social experience with friends, family, community members, and fellow gamers. 


Real-Time Status
Game Reccomendations

When evaluating these two contrasting sites and approaches I asked myself “What kind of value do I get from this site?” and “Is it enough to come back?”  I do find some value with EA Sports, tracking leader boards, checking out the best user videos, and keeping up to date with EA blogs and news. Although,  I feel that after a while, due to a lack of suggestion of new games, experiences, or the ability to share these with others, I will find less and less value in the site.   On the other hand, GamerDNA offers a valuable social experience every time, in which I can find new games specifically recommended for me while connecting and learning from fellow gamers and friends.

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