Name an artist app that’s been a commercial success. Examples are extremely thin on the ground, bar hazy memories of Taylor Swift selling a decent amount of downloads through her Mobile Roadie-powered app back in the day, and Trey Songz making $54k a month at the peak of his The Angel Network app in 2013.
But if you think about artist apps through the lens of creative success: projects that were interesting, inventive art in their own right, there are a few more. Björk’s Biophilia being the most famous.
The new app from Gorillaz hopefully fits more into the latter camp: a showcase for Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s band’s characters and world that launched yesterday as a free download for iOS and for Android – in advance of the release of their new album ‘Humanz’ later this month.
It’s being pitched as “an immersive mixed-reality experience that lets you step into the band’s house”, exploring the rooms of each animated character.
The app will also function as the engine for a ‘Humanz House Party’ listening event, where the new album will be playable in full for fans who gather in 500 places around the world – a dash of Pokémon Go location-based fun here – with the promise of a mixture of AR, VR and 360-degree environments elsewhere in the app to keep fans interested.
And the business model? That’s pretty interesting: a partnership with Deutsche Telekom (through its Electronic Beats initiative) provides the commercial backing for this.
Artist apps might not make money, but brands know they need to do ever-more with mobile; still like to associate themselves with artists that have proper stories to tell; and are super-hot for augmented, virtual and mixed reality.
If any artist was perfectly positioned to capitalise, it’s Gorillaz. But let’s see how popular the app is now it’s out in the wild.