David Emery from Beggars Group started off, talking about the official app for Adele, which was made by XL Recordings.
“We don’t do that many apps,” said Emery. “Expense is a part of that. But if we have a good idea for a project that needs to be an app, we’ll do an app. We don’t just sit there and go ‘we need to do an app’. It’s not a tickbox.”
However, Emery said that it was clear an app for Adele would do well, so the label worked with Mobile Roadie to create an app that would present news, tour dates and social features for fans.
“The guts of the app is pretty straightforward, but because of the artist involved, we thought it would work.”
Since launching, Emery said the app has seen fans using it “every single hour”. It has an in-app leaderboard showing how much fans have commented and posted, and the top fan has posted more than 13,000 times.
Is Adele selling lots of music through the apps? “Not massively,” he said. “Especially in the context of the campaign, it’s a drop in the ocean. We’ve covered our costs from producing the app, but it’s not much more than that.”
XL spent around £4,000 on making the app, Emery added. “For almost every single other artist we work with, that’s too much though.”
The app has now been downloaded 1.5m times across iOS and Android – “which we think is probably the biggest artist out there”.
Onto Nikke Osterback from Atlantic Records UK, talking about an app called Mike Scanner for The Streets. “The idea is that we integrate applications and web for the fans in one single place,” he said.
“We built a custom barcode scanner, which is just like when you go and scan any everyday product. And then we could put new barcodes on products from the CMS to create missions for fans.”
It was downloaded just under 50,000 times, said Osterback. But he stressed the additional benefits of online PR for the app – a partnership with The Guardian for example – as a way to “tie apps with your digital strategy”.
He also talked about costs, and specifically how Atlantic got developers to pitch for the project. Quotes ranged from £750 to £7,500. “Sometimes you just need to find the right people.”
Osterback also talked about the official app for Lykke Li – a members area spanning the website and app, which was produced with startup Mobile Backstage.
“I think mobile and apps, checking in on gigs and this kind of thing, this is much better for fans to interact with each other,” he said. “The challenge was how do we have a native application speak to the website, and a common database for the web and the app world?”
The work done for this app will now be used for other Atlantic and Warner Music artists going forward. “If we did the same thing this year, we’d probably be looking at how do we accomplish that in just HTML5 for mobile,” he said, though.
“I think people in the music space went nuts with the apps, because you had to be in that space, because your mobile browser couldn’t handle the web… But now first get your house in order: websites working in mobile, and then go into the apps world.”
Next up: Tony Barnes from Virgin Records to talk about Professor Green and Swedish House Mafia. He started by saying it’s vital to be absolutely clear about your app strategy from the start.
“I tend to find for most of our campaigns: there’s a moment in time where the opportunity is right to say we’re ready to develop an app now,” he said. “For me, mobile apps isn’t about reach in terms of raising awareness around an artist… I don’t think it works in that way. Discovery is a real huge problem. It’s more about increasing and deepening that relationship with your existing fans.”
But even then, it’s important to have a clear idea about objectives and how you plan to measure success, said Barnes.
Swedish House Mafia had two apps: one was an iPad coffee-table app blending a film, a book and an album. “It sold pretty well considering it was a new format,” he said of the £7.99 app.
But then in March last year the band launched a Mobile Roadie-powered app, which Barnes said has been “really, really strong”. It, too, includes a built-in QR code reader for fans to scan posters and other codes on materials.
For Professor Green there was an app that will provide fans with exclusive content throughout the year: videos, music and messages from the Prof himself. And yes, code-scanning for fans to get discounts on merchandise, but also in stores that Green likes.
Barnes was asked what proportion of artists on the label will get an app made for them, and admitted that “I can’t see us developing an app for a developing artist.. you need to wait until you have that scale, and have reached that point where it makes sense”.
The panel were asked about apps as art – the Bjork Biophilia model. “It’s certainly something we’re considering, but it has to come from the artist,” said Emery. Barnes noted that Biophilia cost a rumoured £400k to make, so it’s a significant investment for a label to commit to.
“My personal favourite is digital songbooks for tablets. That’s my Holy Grail,” added Osterback. But Barnes said there are lots of factors involved in deciding what kind of apps to make for artists.
“It might be a concept album for instance. We’ve got an artist coming out with an amazing concept album with animations and storyboards… and that could lend itself to a very artistic applications.”