Here’s our roundup of some of the more inventive examples of apps that came out for the first time in Q1 2013, with our views on why they’re worth being aware of.
Read on for the last quarter’s selection. And if you’re interested in a trial subscription to our Music Ally Bulletin service, where apps are just part of our daily coverage of digital music trends and technologies, find out more here.
STREAMING MUSIC / VIDEO
The Berliner Philharmoniker’s Digital Concert Hall (above)
Launched by the Berliner Philharmonika orchestra in January, this iOS app offers streaming HD-quality video of classical music concerts both live and from its archives, with users paying a subscription for access.
Available in the UK only for now, Bloom.fm is a personalised radio app that plays tracks based on specific artists and genres, Pandora-style. The iPhone app is very slick, with users able to pay £1.49, £6.99 or £13.99 a month via in-app purchase to store 20, 200 or unlimited tracks on their devices (with cheaper options if they pay Bloom.fm directly).
Serendip – Free Music Radio
The title says it all: Serendip is one of the various wannabe Pandora-killers that’s going more global than its inspiration. Drawing from YouTube, Vimeo, Soundcloud and Bandcamp, it aims to provide musical and social recommendations alike.
A number of bands have used the wireWax platform to add tappable hotspots to videos, and this iPhone app was a player for people to view and interact with all that content. Its release came in advance of a second app that wireWax say will help people make these videos on their devices too.
UK mobile operator O2 teamed up with startup MusicQubed for this app, which downloads the UK’s official Top 40 singles chart onto subscribers’ smartphones every week, along with 10 classic songs. After a free trial, it costs £1 a week for O2 customers or £4.99 a month for everyone else.
Bass-music brand UKF has built an enormous following on YouTube with its dubstep and drum & bass channels. Now there’s an app for that, providing on-the-go access to UKF’s videos, news and ticketing/merchandise offers.
EQuala Social Radio
US-only for now, this app suggests that users “rely on your friends’ music to be the best social radio station”. That means following “friends and tastemakers” to pull in music shared on Facebook using Spotify, Pandora, Rdio, Songza, YouTube and other digital music services, while trying to match users with others based on their listening.
And more Pandora competition from the relaunched Wahwah, whose original version was acquired (then shut down) by personal radio firm Senzari last year. All-new Wahwah is basically Pandora meets Songza: personal radio streams based on the user’s current activity or mood, with a location spin of being able to tune into nearby users’ stations too.
Concert Vault for iPad
This iOS app came from Wolfgang’s Vault, offering a subscription-based way to watch and listen to live concert recordings from archives going back to the 1950s. Mobile newcomers get a 14-day free trial to see what they think of the service before having to stump up. The app was the result of a partnership with innovative startup Groovebug.
Right now, you can only get The Kleek in South Africa, but it’s rolling out to Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Angola in the coming weeks. Launched by Universal Music, it’s a streaming music app (initially on Android) with a pan-African focus, complete with Samsung preload partnership to get it into people’s hands.
This Android app describes itself as a “socially connected mobile jukebox” where one device hosts a music session, and others then connect locally to it to vote on what tracks should be played next. One of an increasing number of apps exploring this idea.
Sleevenote – The Album Artwork Music Player
A suitably down-to-earth title for this, an app that helps people browse and play music stored on their iOS devices using its cover artwork.
The success of Songza in 2012 has spawned another wave of startups aiming to help people play music based on their moods. Witness Moodlstr, which aims to get its users quickly creating their own mood-based playlists of local music.
Launched by Entertainment Robotics, this app celebrated the 25th anniversary of Peter Gabriel’s ‘So’ album, with 10 songs available for fans to remix by dragging coloured tiles around the screen. Individual tracks are sold as in-app purchases.
They Might Be Giants
We’ve liked the cut of They Might Be Giants’ digital jib for some time now – the band have consistently shown themselves willing to experiment online, and now in mobile. This app offers a different song from the band every day, with links to iTunes and their own free MP3 club. A treat for fans.
Don’t Be Scared LP
There’s been a lot of chatter about albums-as-apps, but relatively few interesting examples. This was one, from DJ Vadim, who worked with startup Immersive Album to turn his ‘Don’t Be Scared’ album into an iPad app. Or, as the App Store description puts it: “A swirling, remix-able 3D beast”.
One Direction Scrapbook
The world’s biggest boy-band got a neat social app in February from label Sony Music: an app for fans to create a “personalised 1D scrapbook” of their own photos mixed with virtual stickers of the band. Facebook and Twitter-sharing was fully plumbed in.
Domino’s App feat. Hatsune Miku
A fun example of apps, music marketing and brand partnerships rolled into one package, starring Japanese virtual pop-star Hatsune Miku. Fans can order pizzas, “check the delivery status with Hatsune Miku songs”, take a photo with the virtual star dressed up in Domino-designed costumes, and use an AR feature to turn their pizza box into a virtual concert stage for her avatar to perform on.
Snoop Lion’s Reincarnated: Track Notes App
As Snoop Lion (formerly Dogg) prepared for the release of his first reggae album, he worked with startup Citia on this iPad app to whet fans’ appetites. Described as “liner notes for the 21st century: multimedia, multi-sensory, made for the fans”, it included full streams, lyric videos and information on the album and Snoop’s motivations.
Hurts’ new album was promoted with this audio-only iOS game by FOAM Agency that got fans to “navigate through a mysterious and dangerous plot surrounding an enigmatic organisation who are trying to befriend you”. While hearing Hurts tunes, obviously.
Armin van Buuren
Superstar DJ Armin’s official app doesn’t as such, provide many features that we haven’t seen before in artist apps: news, social feeds, tour dates and so on. But its clean, stylish design showed that such apps don’t have to look cluttered, while the inclusion of his A State of Trance podcast offered more value to fans.
The Rolling Stones
Not an official band app – that’s been out for a while. This iPad app came from British magazine publisher IPC Media, gathering reviews, interviews and photos from the archives of Uncut and other music mags.
Blue Stage by Sennheiser
Part magazine, part branding exercise for music hardware firm Sennheiser, this iPad app offers a new issue every month with interviews, videos and music aiming to turn readers “into a fully-fledged sound connoisseur in no time”.
US trade mag Billboard launched its impressive iPad app earlier this year, adding video, photos and Spotify-fuelled playable charts alongside the articles from the print edition.
Music magazine Artrocker is one of several publications to have ditched its print edition in favour of a digital-only existence. Its iPad app is sleek and uncluttered, focusing on new bands, interviews and reviews.
Mixmag has been covering dance music since long before EDM was a glint in… Well, whose eye was EDM a glint in, anyway? But yes, this aims to take Mixmag’s brand global with a mixture of news, tracks and technology info.
It’s been a busy quarter for British music magazines taking their tablets. DIY joined Artrocker in Apple’s Newsstand with this app offering weekly digital editions at £1.99 a pop (plus monthly, six-monthly and yearly subscriptions). News, interviews, features and reviews are all included, with the app designed to complement DIY’s monthly print mag, not replace it.
MUSIC-MAKING / DJING
Jam for iPhone
Generative music meets karaoke in this fun iPhone app, which promises that you can “sing anything into your phone and Jam will turn it into an original musical Masterpiece, regardless of your musical ability”. Songs can be shared on Facebook or to Jam’s built-in community to vote on.
Cubase iC Pro
This spin-off product is an iPhone and iPad remote-control app for the Cubase software, with an emphasis on helping people record and set up four dedicated cue mixes.
Weezic Augmented Sheet Music
Several innovative startups are looking to work with sheet music on tablets. Weezic doesn’t just show scores on-screen: it turns pages automatically, includes a virtual orchestra to play along with, and offers tempo and transposition tools for musicians of all levels.
This curveball of an app came from Korean firm SK Planet: a way for iPhone owners to jam with virtual instruments over the network, creating music together that could then be shared on Facebook, Twitter and SoundCloud.
Mobile Music Sequencer
Yamaha was just one of many music-creation hardware and software firms getting involved in apps this quarter. Mobile Music Sequencer was a pretty powerful iPad sequencer app that played nice with Yamaha’s synthesizers and Cubase alike.
Aimed at DJs using Pioneer’s CDJ-2000′s or 900′s & rekordbox software, this app aims to help them navigate their track collections when playing live “giving you the confidence to improvise during a live set whilst staying in perfect key”.
Song For My Valentine
This topical karaoke app was the work of PureSolo: a way for people to sing Barry White’s ‘The First, The Last, My Everything’ into their mic and have the results (with licensed backing track) sent to their loved one.
We’re fascinated by the potential hinted at by CloudSynth: “The world’s first iPhone synthesizer app that allows you to access SoundCloud music as a creative library.” In other words, it maps SoundCloud sounds onto a virtual keyboard to play.
How big a role will iPad (well, tablets) play in the future of DJing? Native Instruments pulled out all the stops for its Traktor DJ iPad app, with manipulatable waveforms replacing virtual decks, and all manner of powerful features lurking beneath the accessible surface for pros to explore.
PledgeMusic Artist Updater
Not strictly a music-making app. Instead, this is for artists crowdfunding using the PledgeMusic platform. It’s an app to help them post updates for their backers – photos from gigs, videos from the tour bus and so on.
Battle & Hum
Nice work on the U2-referencing title for this social music game, which challenged players to hum songs for their friends to guess. A karaoke Songpop, in other words, albeit one that reminded us of an app called Hum This! which came out last year.
DISCOVERY / LIVE APPS
This musical discovery app runs on top of streaming service Deezer’s API, aiming to provide suggestions for tracks the user may like based on their habits. The long-term idea is for users to be able to log in with their Deezer accounts to listen to full tracks rather than 30-second clips.
It’s only available in New York for now, but the concept is intriguing: a “personal concierge for live music shows” that learns each user’s musical preferences, then recommends gigs AND gets them on the guest list.
Initially focused on a few US cities, live music discovery app Timbre went global this year. It pulls in a list of artists playing near the user’s current location, then plays their music to help judge whether their gig is worth a punt.
Stream that Song
Developed within Orange France’s Labs, this app offered Shazam-style music identification while also tying into Deezer’s mobile apps to play full versions of the tracks, using the streaming service’s Web API.
This is an invaluable app for live-music fans who regularly find themselves with an extra ticket to shift, or in need of a last-minute one themselves. Tapping the existing #twickets Twitter hashtag, it’s a fan-to-fan ticket exchange system that cuts out the touts.
The idea behind ShowScoop Concerts is marvellous, although it needs lots of users to work best. It wants fans to rate gigs in a granular way: stage presence, crowd interaction, sound quality and visual effects. The idea being that other fans can then decide if a band (big or small) is worth seeing.
Initially available in the US, this is another live-events discovery app, this time from 955 Dreams, the startup behind the acclaimed Band Of The Day app. Available in 25 US cities, it suggests nearby events of all kinds (including gigs) with tickets sourced from a range of suppliers.