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 






Discography, links to iTunes, music videos (powered by the Kyte mobile channel), news feeds, photos, discography, biography, links to official website. 

Unique Features:

The Akon app’s unique feature lies in its partnership with Kyte mobile.  Akon posts mobile shows and exclusive content via the network.  Kyte also has some social features such as chat and friend lists. 

The Black Lips


Black Lips


 The Black Lips mobile app offers, streaming of all tracks, fan wall, news, photos, videos, discography, biography, shows, ticket purchasing, feedback and about sections. 

Unique Features:

 The Black Lips mobile app offers the standard features of a music iPhone application.  The app does allow the user to stream all complete tracks through the app, a feature which many if not most applications lack. 

Death Cab for Cutie


Death Cab for Cutie


App offers, news, shows, discography, video, photos, history/bio, access to Twitter, links to webpage store, links to iTunes, and the ability to join the mailing list. The app allows users to stream music via a tab at the top of the application.  Users can browse the application while listening to selected entire tracks posted by Death Cab. 

Unique Features:  

The tour tab uses GPS technology found in the iPhone to locate the users location and provide maps and directions to any of the tour dates.  

Dave Mathews Band




Dave Mathews App offers news, listings of all setlists, tour dates, photos, video, discography, music samples, links to iTunes, fan chat, fan photos, band twitter feeds, and friend lists.  

Unique Features:  

DMB has an entire tab labeled interaction.   The app has a large focus on user generated content such as the ability to upload any fan photos.  Users can also participate in a group chat or read Twitter feeds from members in the band. The DMB app is also the only app on this list that prompted a a sign up screen.  The user interface was easy to use asking for an email address and a twitter account login.  Users can interact on Twitter via the DMB app.   

The Dead




The Dead app is a paid application listed in the iTunes store for $9.99.  The app contains a photo mosaic, access to stream every live show of the 2009 tour, exclusive interviews and videos of the Dead on tour, links to iTunes and links to the Dead store. 

Unique Features:  

The band actively posts to blogs and Twitter feeds during the tour creating exclusive content only found within the paid app.  Live Twitter feeds are also streamed during the show directly to the Dead application.  Access to all 22 of the live shows of the 2009 tour also provides some innovative content and is well worth the $9.99 download.

Lady Gaga




The Lady Gaga app features extensive video with social features such as comments and ratings, a general chat room for community members, news updates, and a downloads section which links to iTunes.  The app also accesses Lady Gaga’s Twitter account, contains tour info with a locator to find shows close by, and allows users to see the number of users currently using the app.  

Unique Features:

Lady Gaga’s app really functions as a community platform with chat, rating/reviews for videos, news and Twitter aggregators.  The app contains tons of exclusive video content and behind the scene footage providing a good value to Lady Gaga super fans. The app is powered by Kyte. 

Jonas Brothers




The Jonas Brothers iPhone app is a branded app partnered with Walmart’s Soundcheck and Degree Girl.   The app features videos, photos, links to iTunes, a static advertisement for Degree Girl, and information about the band.  

Unique Features:

The Jonas Brothers app lacks any stand-out features or community capabilities. 





The Santana app offers music samples, links to iTunes, music videos, some behind the scene footage, news, tour date schedule, biography discography, links to the official website, and charities founded by Carlos Santana. 

Unique Features:  

The Santana app contains a guitar lessons tab.  The tab contains multiple videos on guitar technique, insight into writing inspiration, and how-to-play lessons taught by Santana.  

Soulja Boy (Tell ‘Em TV) 


Soulja Boy


The Soulja Boy app resembles that of the Lady Gaga app featuring extensive mobile video with ratings/reviews, live chat, twitter updates, downloads section linking to iTunes, tour information, and information.  

Unique Features:

The Soulja Boy app exists as a community platform hosting live chat, video rating/review, and a Soulja Boy Twitter aggregator. There is a paid version of the Tell ‘Em TV app powered by Romplr which allows users to remix Soulja Boy tracks. The Soulja Boy app is powered by Kyte. 





The Wilco app offers news, tour information with links to by tickets, the entire Wilco discography available to stream, podcasts, tour posters, an in-app store, photos, video, and free promo content for their new DVD and live CD.  

Unique Features:

The Wilco app offers unique features such as the ability to stream the entire Wilco discography, exclusive podcasts, and an in-app store.



4 responses

30 07 2009
Anurag Jain

Good article, although I think that by the time the user has an artist app, she is already a fan. The biggest problem (and reason) why newer artists want to make an iphone app is to gain new fans, not only sell value-added items to their existing fans.

30 07 2009
Lee Jarvis // US Music Jobs

A great run down, of inventive and fun apps, thanks! The mobile music industry is a huge opening and it’s great to see some artists and labels investing resources to create exciting interactive apps. A good piece of marketing to add new and retain current loyal fans.

US Music Jobs

30 07 2009
Five Ways to Create an Engaging Artist/Musician iPhone App « Interactive:Incite

[…] Create an Engaging Artist/Musician iPhone App 30 07 2009 Yesterday, 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 […]

12 08 2009

iJigg is a social music website much like the popular Digg. Users post songs to iJigg and everyone else may vote for the songs and comment on it, if you want to download go to http://www.freeloadmp3.net , search and download them all.

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