Mobile apps, currently in their infancy, are already following trends seen in digital music: a few hits, a ton of filler and lots of potential. The current and future states of apps will be the focus of the "App Observations: A Mobile Drilldown" panel at the Billboard Music & Money Symposium in New York on Thursday.

The costs of creating and distributing apps are dropping precipitously. Mobile Roadie, for example, allows people and companies to create inexpensive iPhone and Android apps for a $499 set-up fee and a $29 monthly hosting fee. That has created a massive flow of app content. As with recorded music, app sales distribution follows the familiar long tail curve. A few big-names are joined at the top of the ranks by some out-of-left-field hits. And already there are signs of clutter at music download stores. The iTunes app store currently lists nearly 160,000 apps, according to 148Apps.biz. Nearly 38,000 apps have been added in 2010. In fact, there are so many iPhone apps there is now an app company, AppsFire, that creates apps to help people discover useful apps.

Clutter notwithstanding, mobile apps are a stepping stone away from downloads and toward totally new ways of experiencing media content. From games to newspapers, apps are allowing content producers to reach consumers who might otherwise not purchase their content.

The numbers are encouraging for such a young marketplace. AdMob's January 2010 Mobile Metrics report showed Android owners download about the same number of apps as iPhone owners - 8.7 per month for Android (1.1 paid and 7.6 free) versus 8.8 for iPhone (1.8 paid and 7.0 free). At 12.1 apps downloaded per month (1.6 paid and 10.5 free), iPod Touch owners are well ahead of the pack. With the average iPhone/iPod Touch app going for $2.85, that's about $54 in annual consumer spending for the average iPhone and iPod Touch owner.


For info on tomorrow's Music & Money Symposium, presented in association with Loeb & Loeb, visit Billboardevents.com. #MMBiz2010