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Mobile Applications and the Music Industry: A Very ‘Appy Couple, from Kumulos (Backend as a Service)

In a recent article posted on Drowned in Sound, it was revealed that Damon Albarn, the frontman of the British band Blur and member of Gorillaz, has taken to the app generation like a banker to bailouts. Today at Kumulos (Backend as a Service), we want to explore how mobile technology is helping musicians across the world create new, richer sounds.

At the time of writing he’s had a hand in making seven different apps for both Blur and Gorillaz (including the awesome Gorillaz Korg App for iPad), and what’s more all of these apps are good. They’re well made, pretty to look at and serve their functions properly. For example, one of the Blur apps for iPhone and iPad walks the user through the band’s 21 year history from beginning to present, all the while including soundbytes, video clips and interesting trivia, all laid out in an easy to navigate interface.

Albarn may be potentially the “appiest” showbiz personality out there at the moment, but he’s most definitely not alone in having artist apps out there. Katy Perry, Bjork, Jason Mraz, Taylor Swift, Drake, Britney Spears, Pitbull and more have all got their own apps out there for fans to play with. Most have info on the artist, tour dates, links to their website, maybe some video and usually access to a track or two and most are free to download (with the exception of Britney Spears).

A point to note though, is that most of these apps, despite the fame of the artists who they represent, have not done well in the appstore. Bjork released a very pretty and extremely well made interactive app to go along with her most recent album, Biophilia. The app invoked the days of flicking through the card insert of an album and you could also listen to the whole album as you were doing it, but it just didn’t catch on, and it’s been the same with most of these artist apps.

So why are they failing?

That one is harder to work out exactly. It would be fair to assume that they would do well due to the artist’s fame alone, but that hasn’t been the case. The most frequently put forward reason is that these apps are just not flexible enough.

Each artist’s app only focuses on them and their music, and if they have music as part of the app, it’s only likely to be a track or two rather than a whole album.  Even rarer is something entire discography included, the only real case of note being alternative rock band Presidents of the United States of America, who offered their entire back catalogue in app form for the small price of $2.99.

Even with an entire discography though, fans are unlikely to download these apps because in this day and age, people like entire swathes of musical genres and artists. If everyone had apps for every artist they liked, their phones would become a cluttered mess in no time.

This is why things like Spotify and Pandora have become so popular as they’re apps that let you listen to damn near any artist you like, and also have it on your phone.
The problem there though is that fans lose the sense of connection to their favourite artists, at least with an artist’s app you get to feel like you’re part of their fan community.

So where can these artist apps go to become popular?

There are two paths really; one is they use their apps for promotion only. In all fairness, this is where most are headed anyway. They’re used to plug new songs, albums, artist memorabilia and upcoming shows to fans (exhibit A, the Blur app promoting their album boxset release).
The second is through artist Spotify apps. At the moment there are only a few artist apps on Spotify, but there are reportedly many more on the way.

Quincy Jones, Rancid, Tiesto, Disturbed and of course Blur have all got their own Spotify apps, and each is unique to the artist. Qunicy Jones has playlists of songs that inspired him, tracks from movies he’s worked on and another of his own hits. Tiesto’s pulls together the best of the dance music on Spotify, Blur’s acts as a correlation of the band’s best music, and features playlists made by the band and Disturbed’s, in the band’s words, “curates the past, present and future of rock and metal music.”

The real benefit of these Spotify apps is that fans get to find out, in a very tangible way, what their favourite artists like to listen to. It lets them into the creative and musical world of these artists and bands and creates a sense of connection with them.

By doing this, it means that users are much more likely to repeatedly come back to these apps and are more likely to download other artist’s apps when they become available. Through using Spotify, it also means that the user doesn’t need to have anything more on their phone than the original Spotify app as the artist apps run inside it.

The app age is pushing the boundaries of interaction once again with these artist apps, and is helping people connect with each other even more easily than ever before, but there is always a demand for more. That’s where you, the app developer, can step in. It’s a relatively untapped market still, but it’s just waiting for someone to create the right app for the right artist and it is likely to take off with a bang.

What if you have an idea but aren’t sure where to start? Or what if you’re already making that killer app, but you need a stable backend database for iOS or Android? Look no further than Kumulos. Sign up today and you’ll have access to our online development environment, our amazing mobile backend and full technical support for your app, all for free.

So why not see what Kumulos can do for you?

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