Hype aside, apps really can be a fine way for artists to “connect with their fans,” as overused as that expression might be. MobBase debuted another interesting entry in the budding market for helping bands build apps — a trend that at the very least gives them a new way to promote themselves to their fans, and could even turn into a significant revenue stream.
Its idea: an HTML5 app that’s free for any band to create, and which runs on any platform (mobile, tablet, or a “computer,” whatever that is), delivering music, photos, tweets,and videos. Bands can have it for free with a limit of three songs and three videos — or, they can post unlimited content within the app and use all of the extra features for $5 plus $5/month. Best of all, MobBase’s toolset makes it easy enough that even the drummer could figure out how to make one (screenshot below).
Several other companies are mining this same vein, including Mobile Roadie, AppsBar, SongPier, Band App, and more. MobBase co-founder Alan Khalfin told Evolver.fm his company differs from some of its competition because it focuses on apps for bands; it never includes in-app advertisements; it’s cheaper; and the creation tool is more streamlined.
Back to MobBase.
Khalfin told Evolver.fm via phone that the most commonly-accessed function on his company’s apps is the Music section, which means three things: Bands who are building one of these shouldn’t skimp on the tunes; they need to keep that music updated, ideally with exclusives, demos, outtakes, and other stuff fans crave; and they need to remember to surround that music with other stuff that will make them money (tickets, merch, vinyl sales, download sales of the same music, etc.).
Again, these apps are free to make, and the premium features only cost $5 and $5/month — unless you want to put your app into iTunes so that fans can install it from there as an “app,” instead of creating a bookmarked button on their iOS device. The HTML5 and iTunes versions of the app are identical. The iTunes one is much more expensive because Apple does not allow apps created by app farms.
Yes, even though the bands that use MobBase are submitting their own unique content into these apps, Apple insists that each band have their own developer account. MobBase takes care of that, but it’ll cost you.
For MobBase to manage the HTML5 app that can be accessed from any device (as a web page that can be bookmarked onto the home screen), the band owes $5 plus $5 per month, as mentioned. Putting an app into Google Play’s Android app store costs a bit more: $20 plus $20/month. Putting the exact same app into the official iTunes store costs $250 plus $20/month with MobBase.
This is why the company is so excited about offering a $5 HTML5 app that works anywhere: no app store middleman.
There’s nothing MobBase can do about Apple’s policy — which is completely justified. Apple is the one that has to curate the iTunes app store to keep out the hordes of dodgy apps trying to get in. Still, it does make one wonder if bands and fans might start relying more on HTML5 apps rather than iOS apps for simple stuff like these MobBase generated apps, even though fans have to be sophisticated enough to save the app’s URL as a homepage button (screenshot to the right).
In a way, MobBase reminds us of another company — TuneCore, which has been responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars of transactions on the music side of iTunes. It lets artists distribute actual music to the online retailers on the cheap; MobBase does the same thing for their apps, in addition to facilitating their creation.
The main difference is Apple’s stringent submission requirements for apps as opposed to music. Otherwise the two markets are fairly analogous, which is good news for MobBase, because TuneCore has done pretty well for itself.