The idea being to show off some of the innovative music apps that have been released in 2012, and explain how they may be useful for dance labels, DJs, producers and promoters – as well as how music fans are using tablets and smartphones to play, discover and even create their own music.
With a lot to get through, we’ve decided to publish the guts of the presentation – the app links and a bit of descriptive text, anyway – on The Appside’s site for later reference.
Some of the apps being used to play music, either from people’s devices or from the web.
SpotOn Radio and Soundrop.fm
SpotOn is personal radio app built on top of Spotify: you tell it an artist and it’ll make you a station, which you can then alter by skipping, liking and disliking songs. Soundrop.fm is also built on Spotify – a social jukebox with virtual listening rooms, like Turntable.fm without the avatars.
Continuing the radio theme, this iPad app is “curated radio”: you use it to listen to traditional radio stations via their online streams, but it also recommends stations you might like from around the world based on your music library, listening habits and Facebook friends.
This is brand new, and US-only for now. It takes out the location aspect from Wahwah.fm: you create playlists from your own iTunes collection or Spotify Premium, then share them with other users, who can play them on their own iPhones. Playground.fm plays artists whenever songs are streamed but not owned by the listener.
Mixcloud / Awdio / Frisky
Three apps based on services where DJs act as the curators, making their own mixes available for people to stream. Mixcloud is pretty well known, and based on uploads. Awdio focuses more on live streams from clubs and venues. Frisky is also focused on DJ’s shows, with an emphasis on big names.
This is a brand new iPad app based on a website that’s been filming artists playing live sets for some time, and the app looks like a virtual venue that you wander around. More focused on indie bands than dance, but there are a lot of sites filming their own content and using apps to distribute it.
This is big and famous: a joint venture by three of the majors to offer an alternative to YouTube for streaming music videos. Its iPad app was relaunched in September, and there’s evidence that usage is shifting towards tablet and mobile. 18m app downloads so far, and in the UK the apps accounted for nearly 30m video streams in June – 19% of all usage.
Ministry of Sound did this: a fitness app that tracks your runs, keeps record times, and offers run mixes based on its compilation series of the same name. Good example of app functionality being welded onto a compilations brand.
FlockedUp / Seedio
FlockedUp is on Android – a ‘social music player’ that “plays on all your your phones at the same time perfectly in sync, turning your phones into one giant boombox”. Everyone can vote songs on the playlist and change the order. Seedio also does the “one perfectly synchronised loudspeaker” thing, pulling songs from a Music Library or YouTube.
This is a curveball: an app by a company called Portable Genomics that taps into a US company called 23andMe, which sequences people’s genomes. The idea: make and remix music based on your own DNA. You need to have spent the $100 to get 23andMe to analyse your data first though.
Moving on to some of the apps helping people discover music, although the boundaries with players are becoming blurred – people will soon expect their music players to also recommend stuff to them.
This service (and app) started off in Amsterdam as a way for local DJs to curate streaming playlists for people to listen to, but it’s since expanded to Brussels, London and Paris – always with local DJs. The company works with brands to cover its licensing costs, and is building a strong reputation.
This iPad app – there is a separate iPhone version – focuses on brand new dance music (house, trance, dubstep etc). The idea being that you quickly flip through new releases, listen to samples, and buy from stores around the world.
Again, this site shouldn’t need much introduction: a big database of 150,000 tracks and samples/remixes. Its iPhone app came out in June, and is excellent: you can listen to tracks, buy them if available, tap your way through lots of information and post comments.
Styles itself as ‘Twitter for music discovery’ – ‘the musical equivalent of a tweet or like’. The idea being you mark songs that you like – or ‘splash’ them – and follow other users, artists and celebrities to see what they’re liking. And you get ranked for how influential you are, which can be deflating.
Back in 2000 there was a website in the UK called Popex, which was like a virtual stock exchange for bands – you bought and sold shares in them and tried to make money. This is basically that as an iPhone app – a social game where you succeed by spotting songs before they’re big. But the idea is it also helps you discover new stuff.
This is also an established site. Turns music blogs into streaming radio stations, aggregating the good stuff in genres so you don’t have to be digging around dozens of blogs at once. Very very good on tablets.
A social TV app: you use it while watching TV to say what you’re watching, browse tweets and see things called Zeetags about people and topics mentioned on-screen. But it also tells you songs playing in the background, with iTunes links. Labels are using it too – Decca promoted a souvenir album during the Queen’s Jubilee concert, and EMI branded zeetags for Emeli Sande and Richard Hawley when they played on TV shows.
This is an electronic music discovery app from Belgium, focusing on the last 25 years – but with ambitions to go further back. 30-second samples, artist profiles, articles and links, as well as a nifty bubble-constellation navigation. It ties into Amazon’s MP3 store to actually buy.
This app promises to create playlists to match your mood – upbeat pop groove, dark techno odyssey etc – either picking them from your collection, or from the global catalogue. In the latter case, there are buy links. But as I’ll show, the results can raise a smile sometimes.
We all remember the heyday of music games on consoles: Guitar Hero and Rock Band, then DJ Hero, and nowadays it’s more about dancing and singing. But what about mobile games? There’s lots happening here.
Lords of Acid: Deep Chills
Released in April, this was promoting Praga Khan’s band’s new album Deep Chills. “Part game, part interactive comic book, part concept album”. Quite raunchy, too, but very imaginative and interesting. 10 mini-games, each based on a different song.
David Guetta Life
Even little-known DJs are getting their own mobile games. David Guetta had this Facebook game, working with a startup called MXP4, and then in February he put it in his official mobile app – so it wasn’t just news, tweets, promotions, but something to play. He sold the game part as an in-app purchase for £2.49, but not sure how it’s done.
This was an iPad ‘finger-dancing’ game, so you’re breakdancing with your fingers. Jennifer Lopez was on board to promote it, but other dance acts too – Blaqstarr, The Bangerz, Saint Motel and more. Social features, and they encouraged people to post videos to YouTube.
Tap Tap Revenge Tour
Tap Tap Revenge was the first big mobile music game – hundreds of millions of downloads, and its developer Tapulous was bought by Disney. It relaunched this year, with similar gameplay – you tap on a screen – and lots of licensed songs. They’re doing promotional deal with artists and labels too – in a week they did 1.5m Carly Rae Jepsen downloads in the game. And look what happened to her next…
Another big name in the music apps space, this was a musical equivalent to another craze, Draw Something. You have to guess five songs as quickly as possible, and challenge friends to beat you. It’s currently got 17m monthly active users, and 3.4m daily active users – and this has potential as a music discovery app.
A social mobile game with a social conscience, this gets you to hum a song in 10 seconds or less, then send it to a friend who has to guess what you’re humming (or whistling, singing). Made by a UK company called Digital Giving, with HMV, Ticketmaster and O2 as partners, and charity beneficiaries Nordoff Robbins and War Child.
ARTISTS / MARKETING
Now on to the area that’s seeing most activity – official apps for artists, or other music companies.
Dan’s an artist from the US, and his app is designed to be used at his gigs: “synchronises all the phones in the room, turning you and the rest of the audience into the light show and sound system for the concert”
Released in February, this is Tiesto’s official app, and has full-length albums and mixes, photos, videos and social features. But if you pay a £3.99 subscription, you get InTheBooth VIP membership – stream his entire back catalogue, create playlists, get exclusive stuff, pre-order tickets. One of the first artists to try their own in-app subscription.
Blue Note by Groovebug
This is an app made by a US startup called Groovebug, as part of EMI’s OpenEMI scheme – which aims to get developers digging into its catalogue and making cool stuff. It’s an iPad app based on the jazz label with biographies, samples etc – but if you pay £1.49 a month you get full streaming access. Another early attempt at a subscription system based on one label
Size Matters Augmented Reality
There’s a lot of experimentation going on with augmented reality – where you point your phone at something (a CD, printed symbol, building etc) and see digital content – animation, videos and so on. Size Records is a dance label, and you had to print out a marker, point your phone at it, then you got artist profiles, samples and 3D animation.
uView / Kiss Monster
This is another level of bigness – an augmented reality campaign for Kiss by Universal Music which just went live this week. Point Universal’s own uView app at the band’s new album’s artwork, and little bobble-head versions of the band members jump out and play a song – with links to iTunes, YouTube etc.
RCO Meets Fink
Here’s a local app from Amsterdam, which was a really interesting idea. The RCO orchestra teamed up with artist Fink for a concert in April, and this was an app for livestreaming it. But there’s now lots of content around that, including interviews – it’s more like a DVD product, and costs £5.49.
Now we’re moving onto albums-as-apps – something that’s been making headlines since Bjork did it with Biophilia in 2011. Ecclesia is an album from Forss – electronica artist and also a co-founder of SoundCloud. It’s an ‘audiovisual iPad app’, like a 40-minute video really, but on a tablet.
Simian Mobile Disco – Unpatterns
This was Simian Mobile Disco, and it came out before their last album. Fans could listen to the album in full, while playing with a bunch of eye-frazzling ‘moire’ patterns. So a fun way to offer an album preview, and it was a collaboration with a visual artist called Kate Moross.
Passion Pit Gossamer
This was an app for indie band Passion Pit by Scott Snibbe, who was the chap who worked on Biophilia with Bjork. It took two songs from the band’s new album, and let fans interact with them. Each got one music video that you can tap to change, and one remixing kit.
The Dark Knight Rises Z+
This is an app by Reality Jockey, who did RjDj, which was recently retired. It’s described as an “augmented soundtrack experience” for the last Batman film – it mixes the soundtrack and other Gotham City noises into what you’re hearing in the real world.
This is an “open outcome record” by Adam Jansch, a British singer songwriter who’s the son of folk guitarist Bert Jansch. Its two tracks, and they’re different every time you play it: 35 trillion possible outcomes for one track.
Taylor Swift’s app uses the Mobile Roadie platform, which is the company that’s most established in helping artists and labels make apps. But here’s why it’s interesting – she uses push notifications very well to ping messages to her fans, without being spammy. She recently sold 623k downloads of her new single in its debut week in the US – and it’s no co-incidence that she’d sent out 1m push notifications about the release that week.
Now I’m going to talk about three social video apps that help people share their clips with friends – but which are also being used by artists. Viddy is like an Instagram for videos – shoot and share. T-Pain worked with the company on a Production Pack. It’s basically a video filter – ‘signature steam punk TV effect’ – for Viddy users’ own clips.
Ptch isn’t quite video, it’s more about creating animated slideshows from photos, which can then be shared. The company behind it (er, Hollywood studio DreamWorks animation) licenses music that people can then put in their Ptchs – so it’s an opportunity for artists there. But it’s also being used by DJ Kaskade to share backstage clips from his current tour – and fans can then remix them.
This is my favourite app of the three – an app that lets people in the same place all shoot videos, then it automatically edits them together into multi-camera clips. So if four of us are at a gig or club and film, we’ll end up with a professional-looking clip. They’re working with musicians too – at Ed Sheeran’s five London gigs this week, fans were encouraged to download Vyclone and use it to shoot a particular song. The edited footage will become his next video.
This is the promoter that puts on the Electric Daisy Carnival and other big dance events in the US. It’s got its own app, covering all its events, with set times, venue maps, line up announcements, photos and videos all included. And they have their own streaming radio, a merchandise shop and ticket sales on the phone itself.
Camp Bestival – Finger Paints
Something more light-hearted from Rob da Bank’s UK festival, which is famously child-friendly. They launched a lovely finger paints app for iPad, with the twist that you could submit your child’s colouring to try to win tickets.
Now for a few apps that might help in your business, although some spill over a bit into promotion.
Livestream for Producers / Broadcast for Friends
These are two apps for livestreaming, which can be used for gigs or sets, but might be better for backstage, tourbus, maybe even quick videos from the DJ box. The idea being that you can broadcast live to fans, and chat to them. Broadcast for Friends has the benefit of piping your video straight to your Facebook Page – whenever an artist or DJ feels like broadcasting, they can.
Facebook Pages Manager
This is an official Facebook app – you manage your Page on the go, posting updates and photos, responding to comments and private messages, and digging into your analytics. If you’re an artist or DJ who’s hands-on with Facebook, it’s invaluable.
Denon DJ Engine / Rekordbox
These are two practical apps for working DJS. Denon’s DJ Engine is used with its own line of DJ ‘engine ready’ products, and makes it faster to search through your stored digital music using various filters. Rekordbox is music management for Pioneer’s DJ products – creating playlists, setting cue points etc. Both show that manufacturers of DJ kit are thinking hard about how apps can fit in.
Figure is the work of Propellerhead Software, the team behind Rebirth and Reason. So they know their stuff. But Figure took a different tack, making it beautifully simple to create techno loops in a playful, accessible way. Initially, you couldn’t save loops, but updates have added that feature, as well as the ability to export them into GarageBand.
I’m really looking forward to Coldcut’s Matt Black’s session this week, and vJay for iPad harks back to something he was involved in a long time ago – the vJamm VJing software. This boils that down to an iPad app where you cue up music and video footage, then mix and scratch it using the touchscreen, while adding effects. Beautifully user-friendly.
Cloud DJ is a glimpse at a future where you can rely on Wi-Fi in clubs and DJ your set, yes, from the cloud. It uses SoundCloud as your music collection, streaming songs to mix and scratch in real-time. Not sure how soon anyone will trust their network reception though…
Samplodica is an example of an iPhone music-making tool that uses another sensor – the accelerometer – so you “whip your iPhone in the air, like a rhythm egg or drum stick” to create sounds. Which sounds like a novelty, but in the hands of a musician…
This is an app by Brian Eno and his development partner Peter Chilvers – You place shapes onto the screen in whatever pattern you want, choose the background and mood, and it creates a generative ambient piece. And the more you play with it, the more tools you unlock.
Coca-Cola Olympic Games My Beat Maker
This is just to show that even the biggest brands are interested in music-making apps. This tied in with Mark Ronson’s song for Coke for the Olympics, where he wandered around the world sampling athletes. The app let you trigger your own beats and samples by waving your phone around – actually clever and fun.
This was an app by Liine for Richie Hawtin’s Space residency in Ibiza this summer, and it let people visiting the club play with the audio and visuals in a specific room – so crowdsourcing the audiovisuals in a specific location. Very fun.
Remiix Mixmag: New Horizons
More Hawtin – this time an app from Liine for his New Horizons series, a selection of handpicked tracks from up-and-coming artists. The app was a remix app, and one of the better ones I’ve seen, lots of reverbs and tape-delay type sounds, and the ability to mix and match between song stems.
THE DJS OF 2035
A handful of apps that aren’t for this generation of DJs and producers, but for their sons and daughters – the people who might be making music or playing clubs in 15-20 years time.
Miko and Cola
This is an app from a US company called Gabuduck who make music apps for kids. This is part a story app, and part a music app where your child triggers samples and loops – by tapping on characters and items. Quite a sophisticated thing masquerading as a toy.
Morton Subotnick’s Pitch Painter
This is a “musical finger painting app” for 3-5 year-olds, they’re just painting pictures but they’re also making music. Basically a sequencer for toddlers, in a sense.
This is my favourite children’s app of the year by some distance. You have characters on the bottom of the screen, and you drag them onto circles to make them play or sing – building up the layers of a song. And three year-olds play this – imagine what they’ll be doing with electronic music-making technology in 15 years time…