Now that iTunes allows for subscriptions, more and more magazines are putting out iPad apps. The best ones offer new experiences beyond what amounts to turning the iPad into a fancy PDF viewer. This week, Spin magazine is releasing its very first iPad app (iTunes link) which production director Dylan Boelte recently demoed for me (see video).
It’s a magazine app in that includes a digital version of the current issue (which you can buy for $1.99 per issue or $7.99 for a year’s subscription), and it includes other bells and whistles such as recent top stories from the Website and exclusive behind the scenes videos from Spin’s rockstar photo shoots. But it’s also a music app. Each issue comes with a playlist of about 60 songs hand-selected by Spin’s music editors. The songs can be fully streamed in the app. You can listen to them while you are flipping through the magazine or send them to your speakers with Airplay. You can also pay extra to download them.
The one thing that always bugged me about music mags is that the writers sing the praises of bands, or alternatively trash them, and it all sounds convincing enough, but you buy an album based on their suggestion and it’s awful. Or they dismiss the songs that speak to you. Music is so subjective anyway. Now you can actually play some of the songs they are writing about, while you read the review. And you can decide immediately which music reviewers share the same musical taste as you and which ones need to clean the wax out of their ears.
Are 60 streaming-only songs a month worth $1.99 when you can get millions of songs on Rdio or Rhapsody for $4.99 or $9.99 a month, respectively? If you get the $7.99 annual subscription, it comes to less than 75 cents per months, but you can’t really compare the two. Spin is offering a highly curated playlist. If it’s editors really do have better music tastes than the rest of us, then it could be like getting the best mixed CD every month from your friend who is in a band. If the music is meh, then people are not going to renew their subscriptions.
And that’s why this app is notable. Spin’s iPad magazine won’t live or die based on the quality of the writing or the photography or even the “behind the scenes” videos (who really cares about those anyway?). It will live or die based on the musical taste of its editors and how good or awful those playlists are. The main reason people read music magazines are for the recommendations anyway. With the iPad app, now you can just listen to the song recommendations and judge for yourself. It’s a music magazine in its purest form.