The record industry has approached Apple’s App store with a somewhat amusing amount of hesitation. When the App Store first launched last summer, a few major artists tested the waters with some obnoxiously basic apps, sometimes consisting of little more than a splash screen and a handful of their songs. But things are beginning to change. Leading the charge has been Nine Inch Nails, which partnered with Tapulous last fall to release a special NIN version of Tap Tap Revenge and more recently launched a robust ‘NIN Access’ app that offers fans a library of rich media, news, and social features. The app’s reception has been overwhelmingly positive, with over 75% of reviewers giving it five stars.
Now the major record labels (and countless indie bands) are looking to get in on the action. Enter Mobile Roadie, a new application platform that allows bands to quickly deploy their own custom applications to the App Store. For a relatively small fee, bands can use Mobile Roadie’s mostly-automated system to build their apps and have them posted to Apple’s App Store in as little as a week (and the majority of the wait is from Apple’s still-mysterious approval process).
The application supports a wide range of content, including photo galleries, streaming music (which can be linked to songs for purchase on iTunes), YouTube videos, a list of upcoming shows, and interactive features, like a ‘fan wall’ where users can post comments and photos in real time for all to see. On the backend, bands will have access to an intuitive CMS, where they’ll be able to update photos and video, manage comments, and post news stories. They can also choose what price they’d like their app to sell for on the App Store.
CEO Michael Schneider acknowledges that there are other media platforms available, like Kyte, but says that these can run thousands of dollars apiece. Mobile Roadie is substantially cheaper, running $399 for intitial setup and then $29 a month after that. For larger bands that receive over 1000 installs, there’s an additional 1 cent per month, per install charge. The company is currently in talks with every major record label (some of which are already testing the app), and has forged an exclusive partnership with The Orchard, a leading indie distributor.
I’ve tried out a few of Mobile Roadie’s apps, and for the most part they seem to work quite well (though if a band doesn’t upload many media assets the app feels a bit barren). The company has positioned itself well in a space that is about to really take off, especially once the iPhone 3.0 software hits and users will be able to see updates in realtime from their favorite bands without having to open the application manually.
If you’d like to check out a band’s app built on the Mobile Roadie platform, you can see a directory of their apps here.