No Band-Aids on Bullet Wounds: Apps To Save Music?

“…holding a CD is really important. Not to a lot of people, but it should be…”

-Drake during an interview with Big Tigger, 9/16/09

As part of the sleek iTunes 9 update, Apple introduced their “iTunes LP” format, which is essentially a digitized version of a “deluxe” CD. The effort is obviously intended to make the idea of purchasing full-length projects relevant and (I suppose) interesting again to the mass consumer. But by doing this, the music industry is only “putting a band-aid on a bullet wound,” assuming that a bundle of content extras will somehow entice consumers to reverse course and purchase a product that is the opposite of the clear market winner- the $1.29 single.

The iTunes store was revolutionary in that it was the largest (legal) catalyst towards shifting consumer’s music consumption habits.  In its wake, consumers quickly adopted a purchasing model that appealed to their impulses, opting for the instant gratification of digital singles over the traditional album-based model.

Since consumers stopped buying albums, certain artists and record labels made music especially for “music industry 2.0″, where content was ubiquitous and overabundant, and consumers could have their fix anywhere. This “fast food” consumption of music was certainly not great for the art and created a culture of what are known as “ringtone rappers”, artists, like Soulja Boy, whose music is intentionally watered down with the hopes to reach a mass audience quickly and, if successful, would be able to be repackaged and resold in various forms (i.e. ringtones).

This brings us to the here and now. The “iTunes LP” might be a rallying cry from record labels and Apple, but is it really the solution, or at least the next evolution of how we as a culture will digest music? After reading a few recent articles and blog posts on the subject, I’m convinced that it isn’t.

The good news is that the answer isn’t hard to find. In fact, it’s also in iTunes.

Confused? Don’t be. I’m referring to the App Store. If recent history serves as an example, T-Pain launched his incredibly-popular (and utterly annoying if overused) “I Am T-Pain” application, to tremendous response; it’s amassed a generally positive response on iTunes comments and blogs, and is currently the #2 Top Paid App in the store. The app allows consumers to “autotune karaoke” themselves into his most popular music and attempts to sell users additional tracks to sing along with is probably an indicator of where things are heading.

Nine Inch Nails have done it, so has Rob Thomas (courtesy of the good folks here at AgencyNet). In fact, it seems that more and more artists are creating applications to promote themselves and become more transparent and accessible to their fans.

“Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel…music-themed apps are innovative new ways for fans to interact with content produced by their favorite artists”, says Sarah Perez of Read Write Web.

Interaction. Engagement. The power to inspire.

These are traits that artists once exemplified and held true, but after the industry took a few bumps in the road they seemed have been lost somewhere. Mobile applications new consumption format allows for a dynamic, non-intrusive consumer experience that keeps the communication fluid; for labels, it’s also an effective means of combating the unpreventable leaks that occur when albums are shipped off to be manufactured, which can happen weeks, sometimes months out.

The days where physical CDs are completely eradicated from the vein of consumer culture aren’t here yet, and labels probably aren’t radical enough to rollout a project exclusively via an iPhone application just yet, but it’s time for labels, marketers, and developers to begin thinking about this format as a standard for this generation.

Image Credit: neon.mamacita