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Why new consumer-focused mobile apps are struggling in 2016


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Most of the coverage of music startups Cür Media and Crowdmix focused on their financial issues, understandably, since that’s what scuppered both before their commercial launches.

Had they made it past beta, though, they’d have faced an equally big challenge: getting onto people’s smartphones at any scale.

Union Square Ventures partner Fred Wilson, familiar to the music industry from his firm’s investments in SoundCloud and Turntable, has written a downbeat blog post about the barriers facing new apps in 2016.

It was sparked by Wilson trying – and failing – to find any non-game apps that have broken into the top 100 free-app charts for iOS and Android and stayed there for three months.

“I think launching a consumer focused mobile app and getting sustained traction (>1mm MAUs for six straight months), is almost impossible right now. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. I am sure there will be exceptions that will prove the rule,” he wrote.

“What is a bit surprising to me is how many entrepreneurs, particularly experienced entrepreneurs, are attempting to do it right now and how many investors (angel, seed, VC, etc) are backing teams doing this.”

While Wilson goes on to encourage optimism about bucking this trend, his words shouldn’t be taken lightly within the music industry.

Music-streaming services like Pandora and Spotify have managed to become fixtures in those free-app charts – they’re 18th and 19th respectively in those rankings on the US App Store at the time of writing, with YouTube Music (29th), Musical.ly (41st), SoundCloud (42nd), iHeartRadio (74th) and Flipagram (96th) also currently in the top 100.

Musical.ly seems to be one of those exceptions to Wilson’s rule, but his blog post is a reminder to the music industry that, when presented with a whizzy new music-related app, the question of how it plans to get any sort of traction on the app stores is key. And quite often unanswerable with any conviction.

Stuart Dredge

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