In addition to posting the video of last year’s Reeperbahn Festival Campus’ panel on music releated mobile apps we asked session host Steve Mayall for some updated statements. Steve Mayall is founder and director of MusicAlly, UK’s „leading digital music business information and strategy company“. Steve is also a consultant on the British Technology Strategy Board.
RFC: German BitKom (the „Federal Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media“) has just released some interesting figures: 962 million app-downloads have been registered in 2011 (+249% compared to 2010), 88% were free and only 12% were paid downloads.
Shouldn´t we just be realistic and reduce the value of music apps to a promotional one ?
SM: Standard music apps which promote an artist and provide general information: yes. They should be free to the fan. And they’re more or less free to the artist too, with companies like Mobile Backstage, Mobile Roadie and HTML5 developers offering very low cost template app platforms to artists. But free doesn’t mean reduced value. Artists should in many cases give away the app but then look to drive in app purchases of the songs, merch, tickets or whatever. Making money from free apps should be the objective. One other point: there is still plenty of scope for developing the app as a work of art in its own right, and then charging for it. It may not work but the idea that all music apps should be free is wrong.
RFC: One other perspective was mentioned related to the development prices. These were said to decrease further, making apps a mainstream music marketing tool. Yet there are only very few services (e.g. Songpier) offering app developments for less than a couple of thousand euro. And there is hardly any service offering app development on a ‘we-make-money-when-you-make-money’ basis.
Given that apps still seem to be a substantial investment for artists & bands, where will the growth in music app development come from ?
SM: I don’t think that apps are a substantial investment. A template app costs around 500,- euro plus around 40,- euro a month and they scale up according to the number of users you have, which is – in a way – offering artists a ‘we make money when you make money’ option as long as the artist is offering in app purchases. But there are free options too. Songpier is one or HTML5 companies like BandApp just charge on a monthly basis. If your fanbase is really small then you probably don’t need an app anyway; but if, for example, you’re a hot band with great prospects lining up a string of gigs and hitting loads of fans then you should speak to the app companies and let them know. They might cut you or your management a deal.
RFC: “Gamification” and “augmented reality” were mentioned in the session as two major trends.
Do you already see any concrete developments in these directions coming this year ?
SM: There are quite a few start-ups focusing on augmented reality at the moment – in the UK we have Blippar and Aurasma and in Germany there’s Metaio. And there are also quite a few brands experimenting with AR like Cadbury’s and Universal Pictures. Specifically in music: Blippar made an augmented reality tour guide with the band The Wanted, but it didn’t blow us away. Still – AR is definitely interesting and with brands and music companies showing the will to experiment with dedicated AR specialists it’s something which could crossover from a gimicky niche to something genuinely creative and interesting.
Gamification is a bit less sexy. The idea that you can make all experiences into a game is insulting to genuine games. Gamification has been referred to a ‘pointsification’ – in other words awarding people points (usually irrelevant points) for their normal behaviour.
RFC: Final question: Are apps all there is, when speaking about mobile music marketing, or will we see other new developments in 2012 ?
SM: Definitely not! In fact you should probably be putting at least some of your marketing money into making sure that your normal website looks good on a phone – that’s where fans will be coming from first. Also don’t forget mobile location. Today’s Foursquare announcement – that concerts can feature check in special offers – could help to make it a very relevant tool for marketers.