Good old-fashioned rock’n’roll – now where’s the app for that?
MAY I BE THE first to say it: stop this app madness now. You can’t take a stroll down the street anymore without being assailed by young people thrusting their new app gizmos my way and exclaiming “It’s the future!”. And whenever anyone within the industry shouts “It’s the future!”, you can be sure you’re holding an over-priced crock of rubbish that will be foisted on the populace willy-nilly before said populace promptly throws it in the bin and asks for a refund.
Still, they’re really sending out the big guns to shill for apps. The first out of the blocks is David Bowie, who, in early June (if you can stand the suspense), will release Golden Years as an iOS app.
Bowie has mixed down the song’s original eight stem files – his original lead vocals, the 12-string guitar, bass, drums, electric guitar, harmonium, percussion and backing vocals. Once you hand over approximately ¤1.99 for the app, you get to remix it yourself. All day long if you want. File under: technological basket-weaving.
One step ahead is Björk, whose upcoming Biophillia album was “partly recorded” on an iPad and will be released as a series of apps. Apple is in on the deal and busy announcing that this is “the world’s first app album”. Where’s my bunting?
However, there’s no release date and the only vague thing we know about Biophillia is that it will “encompass music, apps, internet, installations and live shows”. In other words, it will be the usual 10 or so four-minute songs with a link to a Facebook page and lots of flashing lights that don’t actually do anything.
The research and development teams at all the majors have pumped big money into the “app dollar”, so brace yourself for a barrage of “revolutionary” and “world’s first”-type press releases over the coming months. If it all reeks of desperate catch-up from a bunch of middle managers who have overdosed on Marshall McLuhan, it’s because that is precisely what has happened.
There is only one music app out there that you can actually take for a test drive: Swedish House Mafia’s Until One, which was specifically designed for the iPad. Prices vary across territories, but it’s cheaper than buying an album off iTunes (though dearer than your average app).
“It’s very much a test of the format, the product content and how it is all bundled together,” explains Cosmo Lush of EMI’s Digital Business Development. “It’s an experiment – we are looking at how technology opens up opportunities and new ways to deliver music content.”
Apart from the actual album (remember that?), the app delivers multiple video segments, firstperson written accounts (that’s “liner notes” to you, Grandad) and an interactive black-and-white gallery of some 150 photos. There’s also – you’re way ahead of me – “links to Twitter and Facebook pages”.
It all sounds and looks a lot like the much-hyped iTunes LP launched two years ago. The deal here was that you weren’t just getting the individual album downloads but also liner notes, artwork, memorabilia, video footage and all that jazz. It’s priced higher than the usual iTunes album and hasn’t exactly been an unqualified success.
So now, format-wise, we’re looking at the CD, the bog-standard download, the iTunes LP and now the app release. But here’s a mad idea from totally out of leftfield: take away all your technological flashing lights and bells’n’whistles.
Instead, put all those millions of development euro into finding bands that can deliver an album of substance (not just one-and-a-half good singles); a band who can actually play their instruments and cut it live; a band who can thrill us, move us, perplex us and keep our interest after the first marketing campaign has faded from view. And no, there’s no app for that.
Björk: appy woman