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. 

Community:

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.  

Content

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. 

Arists-to-Fan: 

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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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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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. 

Profile

 

 

 

GamerDNA

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
GamerDNA

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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Twitter Is Not Killing Blogs, It’s Bringing Them To Life

16 06 2009

Twitter, a new sort of Google As Twitter-mania continues to spread and new social media tools battle for dominance in an already saturated marketplace, a curious debate has arisen pitting Twitter vs. the blogosphere.  Yesterday, Joseph Jaffe, a thought leader in the social media movement, stated that blogging is dying and Twitter is to blame.

Joseph argues that Twitter’s form of micro-blogging is reducing our desire and even our  ability to create and participate in dialogue that is both distributed and extended (something found within traditional blogs). While in many ways I agree that Twitter exploits our society’s “information-junkie” culture, characterized by an increasingly short attention span, I feel that Twitter actually helps me organize and find value in the gobs of information available. 

This leads back to one of the basic uses of social media: organization.  Twitter acts as a filtering system from which I can select from multiple sources of information and determine whether what is being posted is worth a good read.  How do I decide whether its worth my time?  The micro-blog.  These short 140-character summaries serve the same purpose that an abstract might serve on a lengthy research report.  I can evaluate the information and decide whether I will find value by clicking through to access the extensive long-form thought.   

As Fred Wilson stated today at the 140 Characters Conference in New York, the value of Twitter “is in the power of the passed link.”  In many ways the micro-blogging service acts as a portal to generate traffic to pages around the web through the posting of links and summaries of their content, much like Google or Bing. What differentiates Twitter from these search engines, is its innate ability to generate traffic to blogs and personal pages of individuals instead of corporations or news sites.

Before I utilized Twitter, Google was my go-to source for scouring information, most of the time generating search results that led to editorials, news stories, and published information.  While that’s all and good, now I can use Twitter to access information from thought-leaders, industry executives, CEOs, people you would normally pay good money to see speak at a conference or trade show.  So while some may argue that Twitter is killing the traditional blog, I couldn’t disagree more as I continue to delve into my dynamic professional network of people, leaving the static website in the past.

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