I think it’s easier to make money on music when it is bundled with something else.
To me, these are all examples of musicians who make money selling or playing music that accompanies some other activity or product:
- The composer who writes music for film
- The band that lands a placement in a TV ad
- The composer who partners with a playwright and writes a musical
- The cocktail pianist who plays while customers eat dinner
It seems clear to me that the best strategy to making money with music is to try to bundle that music with another product and to sell that product – not the music.
The problem is that I’m not somebody who knows much about making anything other than music. I don’t make movies, TV ads or fancy dinners. What can I do?
Build an App
In July I read an article that said that App Store sales had actually eclipsed iTunes sales, even though iTunes had a 4 year head start. Consumers seem reluctant to buy music – especially with so many free or nearly-free services that will provide them with the music. But apps are selling.
So I decided to build an app. I went in to more detail on the idea about a month ago in the article Why You Should Build An App.
I think there were some people who misinterpreted my idea when I wrote that article, though, so I want to clarify.
I’m not suggesting that musicians should create apps about their band, or music, or songs, or whatever. We have to acknowledge the realities of the time we live in, and again, consumers seem to be reluctant to pay for music. So you have to offer them something else. I’m not suggesting we should make music apps – I’m suggesting that we should make apps.
At the end of the article I told you I’d update you on my progress: my first app is now available.
The app I built is called WinterSpark.
The idea is very simple – it’s a modernized, sup’d up, mobile Yule Log. It shows a cool fireplace video and plays my Christmas album in the background. WinterSpark is available for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and AirPlay compatible devices (like AppleTV).
With a tap, snazzy controls fly in and out that include rewind/play/forward, details about the recording and historical information about each song. If the user is interested in more historical info about the song, a provided link takes the user to the Wikipedia entry for the song.
The emphasis, though, is on the fire. The user can turn off the music if they’d like. No problem. When I talk about the app, I pitch it as a fireplace app – not a music app.
I had a designer friend of mine help me with the details of the app function. I don’t know a thing about coding for Apple devices, so I went to Elance.com – a great website where you can find iPhone developers – and posted the project. I received 5 bids and I chose the best combination of lowest price and best quality.
The project took 2 weeks to code, revise and complete. They created two versions, a $0.99 version and a free, banner-ad-supported Lite version. Once submitted to the App Store it took 6 business days for both versions to be accepted and have the app available for sale.
From the time I thought up the app to the time it was ready in the App Store was exactly 4 weeks.
How much did it cost? I’ll say this – less than an order of digipaks from DiscMakers.
In the first 6 days, WinterSpark and it’s Lite version have been downloaded 436 times. Not bad, but it’s already clear to me that an app won’t sell itself. Without a concerted marketing strategy behind the app, it’ll never be noticed in the App Store. So that’s the next step that I’m working on now.
It’s early in the process, so it’s hard to know how things will go this holiday season. More info to follow.
What’s this about a MusicianWages app?
Yes, the rumors are true – Cameron and I are in the process of developing an app for MusicianWages.com readers. It’s not a content app – meaning, it’s not a mobile version of our site. It’s a helpful app for working freelancers that we are very, very excited about. It will be ready for testing at the end of this month.
We’re really looking forward to telling you about it!