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The Future of Apps

What you need to know

On this page you will find information about:

  • Apps – what they are and how they work
  • Building an identity
  • Engaging with your audience
  • Things to consider before making your app

What is an app?

An app, at its most basic, is something that you download (usually to your mobile phone or tablet), which adds features and is often interactive.

Artists from Brian Eno to Björk have created apps that work with their music, but apps are not the sole preserve of big names. Other artists have followed suit with apps to meet all fan needs, from interactive performances to providing news.

From mobile to web

Over the last 15 years, websites have changed the way that musicians communicate and allowed a closer relationship between artists and fans. However, with the advent of Facebook and Twitter, popular functionality has been boiled down to key areas such as social networking.

Websites are no longer novel and, in an industry where new ideas are like gold dust, things move quickly. Apps are easily accessible, taking you directly into the heartland of your favourite band whenever it suits you.

Apps enable musicians to interact with fans in a musical way, rather than just via social interaction. Building an artist’s profile still boils down to standard principles of marketing, PR and hard work.

A dedicated artist app will soon be an integral part of that package and brands will be forced to straddle their presence between the open public web and semiwalled gardens, as surfing the web is increasingly replaced by running apps or viewing pages on Facebook.

The reason for apps’ popularity among marketers is that they enable big brands — or artists and bands — to control and simplify consumer interactions. The key is to harness the different ways that people now interact with content. We are moving increasingly towards accessing contextual data drawn from diverse sources through smart applications sitting on a multitude of devices.

Musicians will need to understand that people have a tendency to island hop (moving from platform to platform, application to application), so they need to keep their finger on the pulse.

Building an app identity

Currently, apps are most useful for engaging with an existing fanbase. But apps can encourage new listeners to get on board, through App Store insertion, links from sites and recommendations from other like-minded musicians and fans.

In the mainstream we are already seeing sophisticated apps from major artists, which allow users to direct message other fans and encourages them to sign up as well as watch videos, listen to music and keep up-to-date with band news.

The cost of producing an app for independent artists can appear prohibitively expensive especially when a responsive website is often more appropriate and relatively inexpensive. However experts believe that the costs of app production are likely to fall in the near future and artists will not need mammoth marketing budgets to get one.

Selling the relationship

With revenue from traditional sources dwindling, artists must now sell their relationship with fans as part of the package. As music itself loses value, engaging with your audience and making them feel like part of a club becomes crucial. The days of aloof musicians have come to an end.

Twitter, Facebook and blogs remain the most useful ways to build a community and connect with fans. Not only are these easy-to-maintain channels key to building your brand, but proper use of them enables musicians to mobilise their audience, promote releases and raise funds.

From the start, bands should be collecting email addresses and connecting on social networking sites. You will need to reach an online audience of more than 2,000 before you can realistically start capitalising on it with promotions.

Considering an app?

Before you decide to go down the app route, you may wish to consider whether a fully-responsive website will match your needs and budget more effectively than a customised app.

Plus, to create your own app from scratch you do need to be pretty tech-savvy and conversant in a programming language such as HTML, CSS or JavaScript.

Should you have these skills, however, it is relatively easy to convert an existing site into something more phone-friendly.

You will also need to submit your app to Apple’s App Store for approval. Before you do this you need to sign up to become a Registered iPhone Developer for a small fee. If you are making an app for Android, you will also need to register to distribute your app through Google Play.

To have your own app made by one of the many companies who specialise in building them, you just need some spare cash, an idea of what you want your app to do, who you want it to appeal to and some time to keep it updated.