Friday, 26 March 2010

What's in a review?

Once again I have to apologise for not posting anything to this blog last week. It was a busy week for me personally and there wasn't anything that I really wanted to say.

However, this week is different. There's been a number of articles about developers being asked to pay for reviews, so I wanted to explore the whole area of reviews and what they're worth.

To start with I have to acknowledge that there are a lot of apps in the app store. I've just checked the UK store and there are 322 pages of music apps. That's a lot, a hell of a lot. The last figures I saw for total apps on the app store was somewhere around 170,000. That's enormous. So how do you get your app noticed?

Reviews is one way, but what is it worth, especially if you have to pay for a review? This article says that developers are being asked for $25 to get a review posted, and there have have been plenty of similar reports too.

The big review sites have almost as many apps in them as the iTunes store, so is there a real benefit to getting a review in one of them? That really is a question for developers, and I'd be very interested in knowing what you think.

Of course for music application developers there are plenty of more specialised sites like CDM, Matrixsynth , Synthtopia, CreativeApplications, and of course PalmSounds!. Getting into one of those will get you in front of an audience that, whilst smaller that the big review sites, will at the very least be actually interested in your kind of application, and, to the best of my knowledge none of them will charge you to be on featured on their site.

So, back to my original question. Is a paid for review actually worth it? I'd love to hear opinions on this, and I will follow up on them too.

I hope that you find this useful. If you have suggestions for future articles or if there's anything in the article you want more on then please email me at

Friday, 12 March 2010

In the mix

One of the things that marketing people always talk about is the marketing mix (at least the ones I know do anyway). The marketing mix can be made up of a bunch of different things. The core (if I can use that phrase) consists of the 4 P's of marketing. They are:
  • Price
  • Promotion
  • Place
  • Product
Today I thought I'd explore these a bit and see what relevance they have to marketing mobile music making applications.

Pricing your app needs very careful consideration. Pricing too low mean less revenue for you obviously but may well produce higher sales. Pricing too high will mean lower take up. The app store has created the well known 'race to $0.99' for developers, which, whilst great for consumers, is not a great thing for developers.

One good example of decisions around pricing is how the Arduino board was priced. Apparently, Massimo Banzi decided to price the board at around the cost of a pizza and a beer so that students / hobbyists could have the choice between going out for pizza and a beer or starting that project they've been meaning too. Also, the Arduino is priced to be not too expense so that you are afraid you'll break it!

How does this help app pricing? Well perhaps developers should be pricing around the idea of what the user will be able to achieve / accomplish with the app? If an app gives me the ability to do a whole host of amazing stuff or produce music in lots of ways then I have no issues with paying more than the usual $0.99.

The other route which is starting to creep into music apps is the 'in app purchase' route. I have no issues with this whatsoever. I think that if you can pay more for additional content or functionality within an app then that's worth paying for. I'd like to see more in app purchase options in apps for getting hold of extra functionality etc. However, caution needs to be applied here in terms of what kind of functionality is in standard updates and what is purchasable in the app.

Pricing also needs to be thought of in terms of the product lifecycle as well, although the lifecycle deserves a whole post to itself. But to cut a long story short, it is perfectly reasonable to alter pricing over the lifecycle of the product.

Promotion can take lots of different forms. It can be about price, special offers, advertising, PR and more.

Today there's an interesting example of a price promotion. Nanoloop has had a price drop from $8.99 to $0.99. Now this is clearly a promotional activity to drive up sales of the app. Nothing wrong with that at all in marketing terms. However, a price promotion needs to be carefully timed. Nanoloop was only released on the 16th of Feb and to drop the price this early in the app's lifecycle can be a risk. The risk here is to alienate the early adopters of the app.

A number of developers have used events for promotional purposes such as PatternMusic and Agile Partners at MacWorld. The impact of events is difficult to measure, but they can be worth it if you're able to do them on a reasonable budget.

PR is a great way of promoting your work. PR doesn't have to be just linked to the launch of an application, but can be used regularly to showcase music made by users with your application, users comments and testimonials etc. But don't be tricked into thinking that good PR is easy. If you're issuing a press release it has to be newsworthy to get noticed and needs to be well written too. Choosing who to release to is important too as there are lots of people interested in iPhone related news these days. Again, PR really deserves a whole post to itself, and it is on my list to write about.

But there are lots of other ways to usefully promote your product. Simple things like social media which I've talked about a bit. Having a straightforward and simple web site. Making sure that there's a manual / faq / troubleshooting page for your app too, which might sound obvious but can be overlooked.

Advertising is worth thinking about if you have budget for it, but be sure you can measure what you're getting for your money!

This is about distribution. Obviously for iPhone developers there is only one actual outlet for distribution, but lots of routes to get there. I've no idea how many review sites there are now, the number keeps getting bigger all the time, and some of them are so huge that just getting your app in there won't necessarily get you noticed which can be just a waste of time.

Getting into blogs like CreativeApplications or Palm Sounds (of course) can get your work in front of an audience who really want to know about apps like yours. I don't intend to create a list of all the good sites or blogs to go to, but I am happy to maintain a list on this blog about which ones developers find useful. If you want me to maintain this list, then comment in your suggestions and I'll put up a list in the sidebar.

Finally product. I'm not going to spend much time on this as I've already posted earlier in this blog on the subject. You know better than me about what you want your product to be and how you want it to work. I do get approached by developers to sound out new ideas, and I'm always happy to give advice in confidence if you would like feedback.

There are other versions of the 4 P's. I think one I saw went up to 8 P's of marketing, but I think for now 4 is ok.

I hope that you find this useful. If you have suggestions for future articles or if there's anything in the article you want more on then please email me at

Friday, 5 March 2010


A number of iPhone app developers have run competitions in the last year or so to promote interest in their music apps, and whilst I've never taken part in any of them I've always enjoyed watching the entries and the seeing who the winner is and why.

Many of these competitions have focused in on users making videos of themselves playing the app or making some kind of music with the app. The videos that are submitted get on the developers site and of course on YouTube and generate interest in the product, which is of course the main reason for running the competition.

I've no idea of how well these competitions do in terms of generating sales of apps, but the very fact that I see a constant stream of them suggests that they work to some degree.

One current example is RJDJ's competition around their Love app from Air. This one focuses on users making recordings from the app. I know from listening to the RJDJ team talk about the competition at Open Music Media that they're getting plenty of entries to it.

One of the biggest was Smule's competition around their ocarina app which generated enormous interest but also had a huge amount of prize money to give away.

Firstly, you're app needs to lend itself to a competition type activity. If you look at the smule competition or the Star6 competition they both involved users making videos of live performance with the app in some context. If you're app doesn't lend itself to video then don't go that way. However the RJDJ competition involves user generated content which is just as accessible.

Competitions can generate a lot of interest, but are also a lot of work to administer. You have to know what you want to achieve from it and be able to measure how much interest and revenue you generate as a result. There are no guarantees with this kind of promotion. If you go down this route you must define how you're going to do it and what you want to get back. How will people enter the competition and how will you judge the winner. What's the prize and how will you get it to the eventual winner wherever they are in the world.

There's plenty to think about, but there's no doubt that as a method of promotion if can work really well.

I hope that you find this useful. If you have suggestions for future articles or if there's anything in the article you want more on then please email me at