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Making mobile music – the debate

By Charlotta Hedman

– Why can’t you [the record industry] release records as apps? Michael Breidenbrucker of “sonic experience” app RjDj asked during the final debate at the Music 4.5 Mobile Music event.

The room fell silent. All eyes were on Clara Goldsmith from publisher Warner Chappell, who gave a measured answer stating that the tech industry was interested in star power, but that music celebrities were not going to be a free ticket to best-selling apps. Now some in the audience were grinding their teeth.

Peter Jenner accused Goldsmith of in a few sentences having proven everything that techies think is wrong with the music industry. So Goldsmith had to explain that perhaps apps aren’t the best ways of promoting an artists or selling albums when there are systems in place that work. Why spend money from the record industry’s half-empty coffers on developing new products without a proven track record? Björk might be able to do it, but that is because she is Björk. She has an established fan base that enjoys edgy new products, she can take risks because that’s part of her image. Artist manager Leon Alexander of Redlight/Hope Management agreed and said that artists mostly care about earning a living, not about creating fancy new apps.

Breidenbrucker dropped another case study into the discussion. Little Boots vs Inception. RjDj created an experimental app for Little Boots, which didn’t get many downloads. They did the same thing for Inception and that app was a lot more successful. Why? Because the music industry didn’t give them the same access to material or as much emotional support as Christopher Nolan did? No, Goldsmith argued that experimental, immersive apps worked well with the Inception brand, but not so well with a music artist. In the end it all needs to make sense for the PR department, which is perhaps why there wasn’t a conclusion to the debate as they weren’t there.

The discussion continued into the networking drinks after. Breidenbrucker might just have wanted to be contrary, but he had gabbed hold of an issue we had all been skirting around during the event – when technology can offer so many innovating and interesting products, why isn’t the music industry taking advantage of it?

If you have any thoughts on why the tech and music industry find if difficult to work together, get in touch. Do you have any negative, positive or “interesting” experiences? Let us know. We’ll put together a hilarious list of inter-industry fail and win.