Spin's iPad App Kicks Out the Jams
Spin's iPad App Kicks Out the Jams

Music blogs have taken quite a bit of wind out of music magazines' sails. But tablets like the iPad offer all print outlets the potential for renewed life in the digital age if used correctly.

Spin Magazine's iPad app -- called Spin Play -- is a promising example of what can be accomplished in this format, particularly for music publications. Here's why: it plays music. Lots of it.

That point is made first thing upon launching the Play app, as top and center is a small "playlist" bar that gives users the ability to start listening to music immediately. These are full songs, not 30-second samples, which Spin is licensing individually from the appropriate record label on a monthly basis.

But what's really cool is that the music seems to stay with the app from month to month. Users can toggle to a playlist view that just shows every song available within the app, sorted by which issue they were featured in. A separate tab filters that list by favorites, and the app also supports Apple's AirPlay feature, meaning users can stream the songs wirelessly to any connected home entertainment system in the house.

Access to the music, however, depends on buying the iPad issue for that month. The March issue of Spin is available as a sort of demo for free, while subsequent issues cost $1.99 each, or a year's subscription for $7.99.

That's not bad for streaming access to 70+ songs a month, regardless of the other content it provides. The playlist is made up of songs from every artist featured in the current issue. So readers can lean back and listen to the music while scrolling through the news and features. For each song, there is the option to select it as a "favorite" or a link to buy from iTunes directly from the iPad.

Buying music is a little clunky as it takes the user completely out of the Play app, meaning they need to relaunch it to resume reading. But as a streaming function it works just fine.

Music playback is predominant throughout the digital magazine as well. There are two main ways to interact with Spin's editorial. One is to select a monthly issue, which launches a list of stories and features contained in that month's magazine, or select from the quick news and review bar at the bottom of the screen, which functions much like the short/breaking news featured on the publication's website.

Regardless of which you choose, each story features various icons that lead to different types of multimedia content. A musical note icon will cause the music player to start playing the music of the artist referenced. This works better for some articles than others. For instance reading the feature story on Tame Impala, clicking the music tap will automatically play a song by that artist. But in the reviews section, selecting the same button opens a list of all the songs reviewed that month and forces the users to select which to play, even though each individual artist review features its own button. Seems like it should just launch that artist's song.

Other tabs link to YouTube music videos, audio interviews, and an option to share the story via Twitter, Facebook or e-mail. It should be stressed that these multimedia links are not just added here or there. Pretty much every single article has the option to play the music related to the artist involved. The more in-depth the artist is featured, the more songs from that artist is included. I counted 71 songs available in the playlist offered in the launch version.

But what's really cool is that the music seems to stay with the app from month to month. Users can toggle to a playlist view that just shows every song available within the app, sorted by which issue they were featured in. A separate tab filters that list by favorites. Users can only access music from issues of the magazine they paid for via the app.

The March issue of Spin is available for free. The April and subsequent issues cost either $1.99 each, or a year's subscription for $7.99.

Spin says it secures the right to each song on a monthly basis. The app also supports Apple's AirPlay feature, meaning users can stream the songs wirelessly to any connected home entertainment system in the house.

The app was created by iPhone and iPad developer Bottle Rocket, which also created the NPR Music app, an app for BET, and several other publications and TV networks.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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