Bands and musicians who consider themselves at the forefront of technology are beginning to use app software as a way to engage with a now almost entirely digital orientated audience.
Bjork’s beautifully immersive Biophilia app, released in 2011 to tie into her album of the same name, paved the way for new technology to enhance the listening experience, however it’s taken a couple of years for fellow pioneers to use the same technology to a similarly high standard.
With a few artists recently announcing new apps to accompany their forthcoming releases, lets take a look at some of the more interesting examples, beginning with the trendsetter:
Biophilia is a multimedia exploration of music, nature and technology, that ties in to the themes of Bjork’s album.
Comprising 10 individual in-app experiences, the album tracks are accessed as you fly through a three-dimensional galaxy.
This being Bjork you can understand that the accompanying blurb is almost impossible to paraphrase, so:
Each in-app experience is inspired by and explores the relationships between musical structures and natural phenomena, from the atomic to the cosmic.
This app is brilliant because you can use stems from the original tracks to make new music, learn a bit about natural phenomena thanks to a David Attenborough provided narration, or you can just enjoy the 10 new Bjork tracks as they are.
There are also essays, lyrics and music scores with karaoke style playback.
At £8.99 this is priced very competitively as the extra content only costs you £1 more than a standard MP3 album download.
Biophilia works because the app was created concurrently with the music. This technology is at the core of Biophilia; tying into the lofty themes of nature integrating with digital. It’s not a tacked-on afterthought or gimmick.
This week the electropop quartet Metronomy, whose album The English Riviera was nominated for a Mercury Music Prize in 2011, announced their new single ‘I’m Aquarius‘ would be released via The Night Sky app on Android and iOS devices.
On Monday 11 November at 7pm, users will be able to point the app towards the sky and when they find the constellation of Aquarius, a stream of the song will become available.
The app costs 99p to download, and the stream is free. The app itself is a fun investment. Here’s the view from the Econsultancy office…
Look! Mars and a dragon!
Metronomy have piggy-backed on existing technology rather than building their own app, but this is entirely in-keeping with the theme of the song and is an effective piece of cross-promotion.
Slightly less successful is millionaire rapper Jay Z’s attempt at an app-led album release with July’s Magna Carta Holy Grail.
Samsung purchased 1m ‘copies’ of the album and made it available for free to the first 1m Samsung Galaxy owners who downloaded the Magna Carta Holy Grail app.
At 12:01am on 4 July the album became available to Samsung customers, while the rest of us had to wait three days. Except in the end those Samsung owners still had to wait thanks to app freezes and server outages.
They also experienced an unstable and poorly designed app once the album downloaded. Even more controversially was the amount of private information needed to download the app including location, phone number, phone call data and email address.
The users were then asked to sign into the app via Facebook or Twitter and post a status update or tweet about the download if they wanted to unlock lyrics to a song.
This is a bafflingly unfriendly user experience and one that you would struggle to justify knowing that you can access the album in just a few days anyway.
Polarising pop genius Lady Gaga has been having some issues surrounding the release of her new album ARTPOP, mainly tied into the app developed alongside it.
Initially the accompanying app would be a multimedia experience, described by Lady Gaga as a “musical and visual engineering system”. She has now back-peddled somewhat from that statement, taking to Twitter to announce that “the app is in essence, an interactive jewel case”; an interactive advert similar to Jay Z’s effort.
On the plus side, once the album is released on November 11 users will be able to socialise via the app, which incidentally is free, and download the album through it.
London based creators of moody soundscapes The xx developed their own app last year to complement their second album Coexist.
The free piece of software enabled the user to interact with the album artwork, which changed based on movement or touch. They also provided exclusive visuals to accompany each track on the album and exclusive notifications and messages delivered direct from the band via the app.
The app also provided accessibility to music videos and tour dates, which are readily available online anyway, however it’s the exclusive content listed above that made the app an essential download.
It’s not just the youngsters playing around with app technology, the elder statesmen of innovative music are pushing things further too.
David Gilmour of Pink Floyd had two of his performances at Royal Festival Hall captured in HD some years ago, and thanks to a new technique developed by The Pavement, this live concert DVD has been converted into a mobile app.
The app has interactive motion, menu navigation and bonus features, much like the original DVD. This process of converting a product from DVD to app is a surprisingly effective and simple idea, and may provide a longer shelf life for concert footage and music documentaries.
For more information on mobile apps from the Econsultancy blog, check out these recent posts: 85% of consumers favour apps over mobile sites and How to win at driving app downloads, or download our Mobile Websites and Apps Optimisation Best Practice Guide