App pricing stats spell caution for album-app excitement


chart_21-resized-600Having written about Bjork’s Biophilia, Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP and other album-as-app projects, we regularly get asked to comment for media stories about whether ‘album apps are the future for music’.

As much as we’re interested in the creative potential of these kinds of projects, the honest answer to that question is no.

An interesting and innovative part of the future, yes, but a small part in comparison to the crucial task of nailing the physical-to-digital transition (including the ownership-to-access transition within that) in the distribution of music.

We’re looking forward to how ARTPOP pushes the format on, of course. It’s just that we’re not predicting anyone’s going to get rich off album-apps in the near future.

And that caution is enhanced by figures published yesterday by mobile analytics firm Flurry about the price people are willing to pay for iOS and Android apps, as their respective app stores (App Store and Google Play) both pass 50bn downloads.

According to Flurry, the average price paid for an Android app is just $0.06, although that increases to $0.19 for iPhone and $0.50 for iPad – all these figures obviously include free apps in the calculation.

Flurry also notes that 90% of iOS apps are now free, up from 84% in 2010. “People want free content more than they want to avoid ads or to have the absolute highest quality content possible,” suggests Flurry.

“It seems that the conversation about whether apps should have ads is largely over. Developers of some specialised apps may be able to monetize through paid downloads, and game apps sometimes generate significant revenue through in-app purchases, but since consumers are unwilling to pay for most apps, and most app developers need to make money somehow, it seems clear that ads in apps are a sure thing for the foreseeable future.”

One caveat is that Flurry also has a mobile advertising arm, so it’s in the company’s interests to shout about in-app ads being a good thing. But the data is nevertheless a reminder why whizzy album-apps sold for the price of a traditional album may face a challenge in making back their development costs, let alone making a profit.

Bjork’s Biophilia app was released for Android as an £8.49 download on Wednesday, and has so far sold between 100 and 500 copies. We wonder whether there’s scope for album-apps to be rethought as freemium products, supported by ads and in-app purchases, or even monthly subscriptions.

Over to you, Lady Gaga.

Stuart Dredge

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