955 Dreams Plays The iPad Like Jazz

The shallow experience for a user has to be very interesting. The deep experiences have to be profound.” That statement, which is profound itself, is how 955 Dreams co-founder Kiran Bellubbi approaches app creation. And so far, that approach is working — very well. The companies hit app, The History of Jazz, has been earning rave reviews and selling like crazy.

And it’s not a $0.99 app selling like crazy — The History of Jazz is priced at $9.99. In the age of cheap apps, that may seem like a lot. But the model is working for 955 Dreams because they feel they’ve hit on a deeper experience that the iPad can offer. “I think it could have been $12.99. We always tell people it’s on sale,” Bellubbi jokes. “It’s tough to price chewing gum.”

The History of Jazz is an iPad app that provides a visual and interactive walk through the musical genre. Filled with pictures, videos, and sound clips, the app delivers much more than a traditional book on the subject matter could. And that’s exactly why 955 Dreams felt that jazz would be the perfect subject for such an app — because it is so much about experiencing the music. Apple clearly agreed as they quickly featured the app shortly after its release and sales skyrocketed.

It’s not surprising that Apple agrees with 955 Dreams’ vision. This type of app is exactly what Apple has always envisioned for the iPad: a rich, immersive experience that satisfies the user in a way that would be impossible on another medium. Not only can you watch videos and listen to music in the app, but with one-click, you can buy songs you like right through the handy iTunes buttons in the app.

Back in 2009, Apple released the iTunes LP format. It’s a format that takes albums and wraps them in various multimedia in an effort to give the user an experience more akin to that of unwrapping an old LP. Most people, it seems, aren’t biting on that offering. Instead, it really does seem like The History of Jazz app is more along the lines of what Apple should have done.

955 Dreams clearly knows that as they’re now hard at work on a wide range of apps in a similar vein of History of Jazz, but spanning all different genres and individual artists. Not surprisingly, some of the music labels are starting to eat this idea up as well. They’d be crazy not to — “affiliate sales are through the roof,” Bellubbi says, noting that they’re seeing around 14 to 22 percent conversion rates within The History of Jazz.

Emotional experiences around music are so fulfilling. If you create those experiences, people will buy music again,” Bellubbi believes. “You pay for the experience, not the music,” he continues. Again, that used to be a tough sell to the record companies, but they’re biting now.

The company raised a $250,000 seed round from Mitch Kapor and Dave McClure’s 500 Startups late last year. And they made half of that money back in the first month of sales, Bellubbi says. And the money has continued to flow in, but they’re pumping it right back into the products. “We are just going to go for it now,” he says.

So that means an expansion to Android, right? Not so fast. “The least path of resistance is the Apple platform,” Bellubbi says, noting that they’re in no rush to develop for Android.

And he goes further. “A lot of people get hung up on [the new in-app cut of] 30 percent — it’s stupid. That’s what’s selling your apps. Wake up,” Bellubbi says in defense of Apple’s model. “You do the same thing if you’re selling your product at Walmart,” he continues.

His advice to would-be iPad app makers? “If you’re aiming for a 99 cent price point, aim higher.

Expect to see the next app from 955 Dreams soon. It will obviously also be music-related, but quite a bit different than the History of Jazz, is all they’ll say for now. And if and when that one takes off, expect a wide range of music apps for the iPad to follow — especially as the newly-unveiled iPad 2 further explodes the potential user base.

You can find The History of Jazz in the App Store here.