AppLOUD Gives Working Musicians A Chance To Finally Profit From Streaming Music
It only takes a few seconds with the appLOUD iPhone app to become bombarded with sound and color. Opening it displays video stills of musicians musicians frozen in mid-performance, and one by one they fly by on its its timeline-style interface. Tap any of these stills and the app comes to life, bringing you fan-made concert videos uploaded by other users.
But appLOUD aims to be more than just another music hosting platform--of which there are a bewildering array, these days. Users can like, comment on and share videos they enjoy but there's also a feature that lets you tip the musicians directly. AppLOUD links directly to users' credit cards via stripe and with the touch of a button you can leave a little (or a lot) buttons for liking, commenting and sending a small tip to the musicians themselves--a real tip, direct from your credit card to a band's bank account. It's a little bit like the human exchange between busker and pedestrian--throw a dollar in the guitar case--that unfolds every day in areas of high foot traffic--but re-imagined for an Instagram-savvy audience.
AppLOUD and its creators are hoping this approach can grow into a real financial boon for independent artists. "The app is inspired by street musicians I see regularly around subways in New York," founder Cecilia Pagkalinawan told Okayplayer. At the moment, the app is populated by exactly this kind of artist--videos of street performances and few small stage shows dominate its video catalog, with numerous fan-shot clips from last month's South By Southwest music festival playing prominently.
There are a multitude of music apps and streaming services that pride themselves on putting money in artists' pockets. Soundcloudrecently boasted about the $1 million it has paid to new "premier partners," while Spotify and Pandora have both paid artists since day one. Even Youtube is begins to kick back ad revenue to uploaders, labels and artists once a certain threshold is reached. But appLOUD prides itself on providing a better deal. The app's creators take 10 percent from each artist's digital tip jar, but the numbers still work out nicely. The money that Melbourne soul outfit Hiatus Kaiyote would recieve from a fan's $1 tip would take roughly 107 Spotify plays, 657 Pandora plays and at least 300 plays on Youtube to add up.
Apploud currently validates artists' identities via their Twitter profile handle, so only artists that use that social network can benefit from tips (sorry, Prince). What's more, a fan hoping to tag a band in a newly-uploaded video must know AppLoud also makes it possible to purchase concert tickets and merchandise from acts directly. It has the potential to become a kind of career-spanning musical crowdfund; so long as artists keep playing, the tips can keep on coming. Pagkalinawan asserts that at least one artist has already made over $500 from the tips of digital fans.
But appLOUD's future depends upon whether or not the fledgling app can secure a wider audience. At present, its library of videos comes across as sparse and searching for content featuring your favorite singer or band can often lead to a disappointing "No videos found." For a service that's so high-concept, engagement still needs a boost. But Pagkalinawan and her team are eyeing the coming music festival season to bolster appLOUD's back catalog, and updates to the app will include an "Influencers" feature that lets users themselves rise to prominence and get (unpaid) praise for their impressive videography work, and there's hope that the now novel concept of musicians making good money off of a streaming service will draw more and more fans to promote, play and pay with the app.
There's also one other, albeit smaller, issue. In a world already saturated with concert smartphone use, appLOUD seems to be encouraging fans focus on their phones in the mid-song moment. To address this problem (and to remain within fair use copyright laws), the app limits video lengths to 30 seconds. The platform is "meant to feature highlights and not the entire song or show," Pagkalinawan said. Another solution may be venues themselves: appLOUD encourages venues to create profiles and upload videos of bands' performances and use the service as a means of promoting shows and selling tickets. TechCrunch reports that advisors with experience at Shazam and EMI, along with music critic Nelson George have been brought in to help the platform grow.
Currently, AppLOUD is only offered for Apple iOS, but plans for an Android version are in the works. Despite its relative dearth of content, the platform itself is satisfying to navigate, and its intentions do appear to put the musicians' own interests first and foremost. With young audiences' growing demands for free online content, no questions asked, it may prove to become a vital source of much-needed cash for artists still on the come up. "What we want is to democratize the discovery of talented music," its creator assures. Here's hoping that democracy keeps growing.