Apps, Mobile & SMS

Groovebug’s Blue Note Is First Curated iOS Music Subscription App

Blue-note-thumbBy Eliot Van Buskirk of

Yesterday, we reported on the first iOS app in iTunes that lets fans of the classic rock band Crosby, Stills, and Nash subscribe to the band for $4/month through an iPad app. The band calls this “the first” artist subscription app in iTunes, and we believe that to be the case. It’s a fascinating idea, this notion of subscribing directly to a band, with the opportunity to get not just songs, but merchandise deals, exclusive photos and videos, and all sorts of other odds and ends.

However, this was not the first music subscription app in iTunes designed for listening and learning about a certain set of music. Earlier this month, Blue Note Records released a similarly-groundbreaking app that lets you subscribe to music from a specific label in iTunes. Blue Note by Groovebug (free, iOS) contains not only music, but loads of extras for jazz fans looking to learn more about the classics they already love, and discover new artists from the label’s unparalleled back catalog. So far as we can tell, this the first curated music subscription app for iOS (please let us know if we missed one somehow).

With some labels, this would make about as much sense as saying, “Here, take this random assortment of songs and give us some money.” However, the freemium Blue Note app makes sense in part because Blue Note is all about jazz. Second, the label curated an extensive batch of artists for this release, so it comes off as a cohesive way to learn about all sorts of artists and their music.

“We’re interested in testing and learning with all sorts of models, and this one works well both for the casual fan who wants to learn more, and the aficionado who wants to immerse themselves,” said EMI vice president of digital projects Neil Tinegate, who is also pretty sure this is the first app of its kind. “Music is the core, of course, but it’s the signposting, recommendation, social elements and beautiful interface that add up to a great experience. You don’t have to be a jazz fan to get into this app, but you’ll probably be one afterwards.”

Veteran jazz fans should find it deep enough, given the extensive biographies, videos, and even news feeds about these artists, while the app also contains a wealth of information and efficiently-delivered resources for those just coming down with “the jazz bug.” If you decide to subscribe for $2 a month (no minimum), it turns into a miniature jazz music service, replete with native AirPlay support for curling up on the couch and diving deep into Blue Note’s world (or you can do it this way).

As reported by The Next Web and others, Blue Note by Groovebug is the first app to be spawned by the OpenEMI initiative, a collaboration between former major label EMI (now part of Universal Music Group) and The Echo Nest (publisher of

Let’s use the Blue Note App to find out more about legendary sax man Dexter Gordon:

Our journey begins with the Blue Note app’s main screen, where you can scroll through Blue Note artists, or search for one specifically. Note that this is the free version — we can still learn quite a bit about him, even without paying for the full-track versions of his songs.

blue note app


Tapping Dexter Gordon brings up his albums. In the free version, I can play 30-second samples of all those songs, or it’s $2 to listen to all the full-length versions as much as I want to in a month:

blue note dexter gordon


Now that I’ve played some tunes, let’s read up on this man. I’ve seen a movie about him… but what does Blue Note have to say?


I can watch all the handpicked videos for free:


Dexter Gordon is still in the news, sort of. My understanding deepens:


The “similar artists” feature is presented in a neat way: By spinning the record, I bring up a list of rotating names that expand into and contract out of view, so I can rinse and repeat this process all over again, continuing on my own personal Blue Note jazz odyssey:

And that’s the basic discovery process, which is a nice way to while away the hours digging classic jazz tunes, man, while learning about these artists in several different ways. It’s a nice combination of fun, learning, and listening, offering plenty in the free version, and a nice value in the premium version.

Now that Apple has opened the floodgates for apps that let you subscribe to specific music on iOS, we’ll be interested to see if other labels (or any other music entity that owns music rights) try something similar. If you’re working on something like that, please, let us know (or send us a tweet).


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