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:
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