Stuart explains how upcoming bands can find inexpensive ways of making the most of this burgeoning medium, and offers tips on what makes the best music content.
M : What do you think of the Biophilia app suite ?
Stuart : The app suite is really interesting. It’s been done with creativity in mind, it’s not ‘how do we make money from apps ?’ It feels like it’s a genuinely creative music app, which has stretched the form of what apps can do. And she’s the perfect artist to be doing it. She’s always played around with sound and video. So from that point of view, I really like it.
M : Do you think it really pushes the app format along or do you think it’s a really clever and engaging piece of marketing ?
S : Weirdly, because it is really creative and interesting, I think it probably is the best kind of marketing. A lot of acts have them, and it’s about them saying ‘hey, buy my songs on iTunes, buy my gig tickets’ – a lot of apps are built on that premise. But ironically, with Biophilia, because it’s so good creatively, it’s going to make you want to buy each song at £1.49 – so it’s the ideal way really – make money while being interesting. I don’t know how much it cost to make these apps but I’m guessing it was a pretty big expensive project. It’s probably out of the reach of a lot of artists who can’t sink money into something like this.
M : Do you think apps are the domain of established acts and major record labels, or do you think the platform is open to smaller acts too ?
S : It’s becoming one of the boxes you have to tick : you’ve got a website, you’ve got a Twitter feed, a Facebook profile and the app is the fourth thing that’s becoming standard. There are a few companies out there who will make it cheap and easy for you to get an app up and running for your band, with information of when you’re playing, updates, music samples and things. In that sense, I think we’re there now really, where any band that wants an app can have one. It doesn’t cost that much really.
M : When you say ‘not that much’, how much money would an app cost a band ?
S : There are things that claim to be free but I think you can get one for under a couple of hundred quid, which might be a stretch for the real cash-strapped, but its coming down all the time. Prices have been coming down really fast in the past year or so.
M : So how about music fans then ? Are they interested ? Is it worth bands investing in apps ?
S : It depends. I think the key is whether there is a real reason for you to have the app on your phone. The Pixies have just launched an app and it gives you streams of loads of their gigs going back to 1988 and you can download one of their demo tapes. It’s actually got all this music on it that is hard to get elsewhere but available instantly through the app. It gives you a genuine reason to want to download it. People are using apps like crazy, but a lot of us – 250 million of us – have the Facebook app on our phone, so a lot of people will be interacting with new bands that way. They will see their updates in there. So, if you have a Facebook profile as a band, you are already interacting with fans on their phones, just not through your app. So there’s always that question ‘Why do I need an app ?’
As time goes on, I think there will need to be a pretty good reason for people to download your app, rather than interact with you through Facebook and Twitter apps.
M : Do you think apps can enhance the musical experience ?
S : They are mostly a marketing tool. Biophilia has taken so long to do and its not going to make Björk any money, but its been done in such an interesting way and I can see a bunch of big projects coming along that will be that interesting. A lot of the time – and I’m always wary of saying it because I think apps are great – I think of a lot of my favourite bands and wonder whether I’d buy an app from them because I get all the updates already. I follow them on Twitter, I read their news. So you’ve got to think ‘Why would fans want this ?’ and it has got to be more than ‘Because they like the band.’
I can imagine some people will be thinking, ‘Can we do a think a bit like Björk ?’ and there will be a lot of copycat apps. It’s also going to make a lot more artists, managers and labels think about it when they’re planning an app. Björk doing it, and getting so much publicity, will push it all along and maybe bring the budgets. It’s like a big flag in the ground.
It’s such a new area. I’m really excited about it as a wider trend in apps. I’ve seen a lot of remix apps along and I’ve struggled to see the appeal in that. With interactivity, if it’s done well it’s amazing, if it’s done badly it’s boring, and I think we’ll start seeing both !