Mobile Roadie is already well known within the music industry, with its platform powering apps from Madonna, Taylor Swift, Take That and numerous other artists. Not to mention MIDEM’s official app (shameless plug, OK!)

CEO Michael Schneider gave a talk at the MIDEM Managers Village today, explaining how artists and labels can make the most of the boom in smartphones and applications.

Mobile Roadie’s platform launched in March 2009, allowing people to make apps that enabled fans to listen to music, see where they were playing next and buy tickets, link to their merchandise store, watch YouTube videos, and read tweets and blog posts.

Now, Mobile Roadie supports iPhone, Android and BlackBerry, with Schneider saying artists can spend around half an hour to create their app. “We have about 1,500 apps developed on our platform to date, and we have some huge success stories,” he said, stressing that it’s not just about big stars, but also about up-and-coming artists.

More than four million people have downloaded Mobile Roadie-powered apps, with 30,000 more being added every day.

Much of the session focused on questions and answers. Starting with the biggie: why should an artist have an app?

“There’s a ton of noise online,” said Schneider, pointing to the many online presences an artist might have – Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, their own site. “What an app is good at is pulling all those together into a focused, encapsulated experience.”

Is there a debate over who takes ownership and control of these apps? As in the label versus the manager? Schneider cracked a smile while admitting that the issue does crop up.

This is like websites were in 98 or 2000, where the label wants to control it, and the manager wants to control it. And it’s whoever gets there first. We are Switzerland! We love both of them…

Schneider was asked about revenue shares. Mobile Roadie takes no cut of ticket, music and merchandising sales through artist apps – it just charges a monthly subscription fee for the platform.

He says Mobile Roadie has spent a lot of time ensuring that apps made on its platform look good and are customisable. And he also warned that Apple has cracked down on so-called ‘cookie-cutter’ DIY app platforms, which churn out apps based on a single template.

We have competitors who haven’t published an app in a year, because it’s ugly,” he said.

Schneider was asked about some success stories, big and small. He said that an app can put “developing artists on an even footing with huge artists”. The most successful developing acts on its platform are the ones that take the time to engage with their audience, he said.

“We’ve had acts release full-length streaming albums to their fans, in their app, before it hits the streets,” he said.

How about other platforms? “Nokia is launching in the next 30 days. Windows Phone 7, we’re taking a wait-and-see approach.

One interesting fact that came out of Schneider’s talk: only a handful of people attending had tried to make a mobile app. Something he noted.

“A lot of people are taking a wait-and-see approach to mobile… I’d encourage you to get started. One cool thing about mobile: it moves faster than anything you’ve ever seen. Even if you have a plan today, if you have six months to consider that plan, you can throw it away! I’d encourage you to dip your toe in the water.”

Could apps become more of a music delivery channel? “An app as an album is a really interesting idea”, said Schneider.” iTunes LP was a pretty interesting idea – but I don’t think it’s really worked that well. iTunes LP is expensive for artists and labels and it hasn’t really worked. But an app as album could fill that gap.”

He was asked about ticketing through these apps. Almost every one of the apps has gig listings and links to tickets. Mobile Roadie has signed a deal with Songkick to pull in the necessary data. “The number of fans clicking on the ‘Buy Ticket’ link is high,” said Schneider.

He did admit that some things are out of Mobile Roadie’s control. For example, slow mobile networks impede streaming music, while using an artist app abroad can be expensive, thanks to roaming data tariffs.

Data roaming’s an issue. Let me broaden that: cell data’s an issue,” he said. “I’m really excited about LTE, which is sort of 4G. It’s rolling out now in the US… The next generation of cell networks will solve that problem, and I hope Europe gets its act together and starts allowing people to use data cross-border.”

Meanwhile, Schneider gave some more details on what Mobile Roadie plans to add to its platform in the coming months.

“We are working on some cool stuff around merch, which I think will make it easier to sell physical merch,” said Schneider. “We’re releasing an iPad product in about two months as well.

He also talked about in-app purchases within iPhone apps. Mobile Roadie already allows artist apps to ‘lock’ the music section, and then charge fans a dollar or two a month to unlock it, for example.

Mobile Roadie is also working on a way for labels and managers to flow the content in their apps through to their Facebook pages. He also said Mobile Roadie is keen to work with other apps and music services to give its customers more options. Foursquare is already built in, but streaming music app Spotify could be a future partner.

“We’re talking to Spotify, I would love to do something with them, but it’s a little bit more complicated than flipping a switch.”


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Stuart Dredge

Stuart Dredge is a freelance journalist, and a regular contributor to Music Ally, The Observer and more... including midemblog :)


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