Guest post by Eliot Van Buskirk of Evolver.fm.
A few weeks ago at a MidemLab lunch, I sat next to Adam Perry, drummer for The Bloodhound Gang and CEO of BandApp, which promises to help any band create iOS applications to promote and sell their music, keeping a higher percentage of revenue than through iTunes.
Naturally, I was curious about BandApp, especially because it sort of launched and then sort of unlaunched. Given that we judges had already made our decisions, I felt free to ask him more about BandApp's new direction. That conversation was not recorded, but this one was, via instant message. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity:
Eliot Van Buskirk, editor, Evolver.fm: Why does a band need an app? What does it do that previous products and promotional items do not?
Adam Perry, founder and CEO, BandApp: Well, your fans are mobile for a start. You need to be with them 24 hours, direct to their pockets. And they need communication with a band and with other fans. All brands need a mobile presence these days — bands, large or small, are no different.
Evolver.fm: So it's not just about releasing an app and that's it — you need to keep the content fresh within the app to keep people using it?
Perry: Yes, and it's our job to constantly engage the band, let them see how successful BandApp is for them, and let them know what they can do better to increase fan traffic. Like anything promotional, it's all about refreshing content and keeping your app up to date and relevant.
Evolver.fm: What sort of features will be included when BandApp relaunches? And why did it unlaunch?
Perry: The unlaunch is a long story! We were at the end of beta — we learnt a lot about what we need to do differently, and that kind of meant starting again. So we did! Our big lesson is that although look and feel and getting a web app to perform almost like a native app is important, allowing conversation and mobile community building is way more important. We got the first bit right, and now we've improved it beyond recognition. But we are adding community in a big way, based right there in every app generated, and also on web via our store.
Evolver.fm: Nice. Have you found that it's important for BandApp to include the music itself, or is it more of a fanclub, news, and social networking sort of thing?
Perry: Music is key. That is so much the new focus. Before, we offered free upload of tracks to the band's own web store. (When building a BandApp, we pay bands 75 percent of the total sale price too!) Now we have made music the focus within the app itself, so although you have a music page, the player always sits at the bottom of the app, and music, artwork and details fills the screen in music section. Each track can be flicked along like a photo. It looks and feels great. Community, social, sharing and recommendation is also big for our relaunch, so bands will be able to recommend their favorite bands from within their app — and that band's app will open up.
Evolver.fm: 75 percent is a better percentage than they get from iTunes.
Perry: Oh yeah! We see 7 pence per sale from iTunes — once we recoup the missing £1.7 million the label spent shipping us round the world for 10 years with our mates. BandApp is a way better option.
Evolver.fm: How else did your experience as the drummer in "A" and The Bloodhound Gang inform the creation of this app?
Perry: My experiences playing in bands, from trying to get signed to actually doing it on a pretty big scale is what inspired me to create BandApp. Plus, you've got 10 dead hours sat around in a venue every day. You can either drink, play PlayStation for 10 hours, or start something. I tried to start something. As well as drink.
Perry: That would be great, but we don't expect that. What we want is that you will only carry around the band (or bands) that are deeply important to you. That's enough for us. We need fans to constantly check in with the BandApps, we need that connection. I have many BandApps, and we are planning a native app to be our "tweet deck," if you like, to house all this stuff and keep it in a cool place on your device. But ultimately, the connection between super fan and artist is what will make our business grow.
Evolver.fm: That makes sense. So, assuming a band wants to get involved, what's the business model like and what would they need to do?
Perry: They just go to bandapp.com, log in [assuming they get an invite to the private beta], and start building, and they will have a very cool instant app in minutes to share with fans. They can also sell their music on the BandApp Store, as mentioned before. This is totally free to both band and fan. If you're unsigned and unpublished, we can also look to license your music for you.
We pay bands monthly in arrears via their PayPal account, and they have a dashboard that lets them keep on track with sales, fans, activity, payments etc. We will also split advertising revenue with the band if we run advertising through their app, which is a new revenue stream for a band. We feel that your mobile space is prime real estate for an advertiser looking to engage with music communities, and we want bands to benefit from this.
Evolver.fm: That sounds like an interesting model — it's basically freemium app creation for bands. I'd imagine that the hardest part is striking a balance between a cookie-cutter approach, like what we saw from iLike in the early days, which spat out a bunch of barely-functional apps with the same canned elements, and the bespoke, customized apps I've heard that some bands have paid up to $50K for. How do you strike a balance there? And how much control do bands have over how these things look?
Perry: Bands have lots of control, from the skins, to buttons, to custom icons, even remaking the icons. We have some really cool functional stuff too that goes waaaaay beyond the iLike experience. Above all though, it has to be clean, simple to use and cool to use.
Evolver.fm: Well, we can't wait to check this out when it (re)launches. Any hints on when that will be, and which bands will be first?
Perry: We hope to be back by early March. It's looking really nice. We will import many of our original bands over, so we should have a good starting base with a few tasty big-name bands on there too.
Evolver.fm: You mentioned [outside of the interview] that you're answering these questions on an iPad. Where are you right now?
Perry: In my office at home, preparing for a big meeting in the morning. I'm using the Mac to get that ready, hence on the iPad.
Evolver.fm: A true multitasker.
Perry: I wish! If I could multitask, I'd be a waaaay better drummer.
(Headshot courtesy of Hectic Designs)