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The music industry has been in decline for a number of years, with the finger of blame pointed squarely in the direction of the internet and illegal downloads.
Digital revenues from iTunes and Spotify have plugged the gap to some extent, but things certainly aren’t what they used to be.
As part of this shift towards using digital to drive record sales, last week Calvin Harris and The xx both launched mobile apps to promote their new albums.
The apps are available on iOS and Android, but offer very different functionality.
I tried both of them out on Android to see whether they stand a chance of boosting record sales...
The xx - Coexist
This app is comically bad to the point that I can’t imagine anybody will use it more than once.
One of the main problems is that it’s really slow even when using Wi-Fi, which would be less of an issue if the content was worth the wait, but it isn't.
For example, in the News section you can access a number of different YouTube videos of the band performing. But the video player is initially quite small and if you click the ‘Full Screen’ button the video freezes as the app doesn’t have the ability to show content horizontally.
Once the video has frozen the app basically crashes so all you can do is navigate between the clip and the homepage. Even if you click on one of the other tabs on the homepage you are still directed back to the frozen video clip.
Then once you’ve rebooted the app you might choose to navigate to the ‘Videos’ section.
Here you can watch a different selection of YouTube clips, but the page is formatted in such a way that the navigation options cover the video controls.
In practice you probably don’t need to access these controls - particularly as trying to make it go full screen is likely to cause a meltdown – but it still looks extremely sloppy.
I finally lost patience with this app when I clicked on the ‘Store’ tab and was shown an e-commerce page that isn't mobile optimised...
Calvin Harris - 18 Months
The Scottish DJ has packed far less content into his app, but the execution far exceeds the clunky usability of The xx’s effort.
Users are greeted with a track listing for Harris’ new album and a large, pink ‘Buy Album’ CTA that links directly to Amazon.
Amazon has nailed the market for m-commerce so it’s a great idea to send customers there rather than a different music site, such as HMV.
However the app’s functionality is extremely limited. It allows you to listen to all of the tracks but the music stops playing if you aren’t dancing.
What this means is that the app judges your dancing on whether the phone is moving around, so you have to constantly shake your phone to make sure the tune continues playing.
This is quite funny for about two seconds but becomes annoying very quickly, and I can’t imagine many people will get through an entire song.
Users can also access exclusive remixes by snapping a photo of the album cover. This is a good idea as fans generally appreciate being rewarded with special content and it’s extremely easy to do – I managed to unlock the songs using a Google image of the album.
But to listen to the tracks you still have to shake the phone, which means fans probably won’t bother.
Neither app has any longevity, but then The Calvin Harris clearly wasn’t supposed to.
It’s a straightforward promotional tool that looks great and might do well enough in the app charts to attract some additional sales.
The massive CTA makes it clear that people are supposed to download the app and buy the album, so although the functionality is extremely limited and quite annoying it does serve a purpose.
In contrast, The xx’s app is a disaster as it appears to be designed to maintain engagement with fans through the news and video sections, but the usability issues will prevent anyone from using it more than a couple of times.
When executed correctly I think that mobile apps could help to promote song downloads (particularly when linked to iTunes) and drive concert ticket sales, however neither of these are particularly good examples.