Mobile entertainment firm Melodeo recently released its third artist-branded app with "Usher Top 100," which, like other artist apps from the company, allows fans to stream 100 songs from the artist’s catalog via their iPhone.

The company's VP of business development Dave Dederer, once the frontman for the rock outfit the Presidents of the United States of America is a vocal proponent of using iPhone apps to reach existing fans and recruit new ones. In advance of his appearance at Billboard's Mobile Entertainment Live conference in San Diego on Oct. 6, Dederer discussed his thoughts on artist iPhone apps with Billboard.

Is the hype over artists iPhone apps deserved?
I think it is, not because of the media revenue and visibility opportunities but because these ways of presenting the artist and their recorded material are going to be important in the long run. The format is not fully integrated into how a consumer seeks out and acquires music right now, but it will become an important revenue stream in the future.

So are today's apps just stepping stones, or do they have any immediate customer value?
I think everything happening in mobile media is stumbling around in the dark relative to a more mature media business like TV or recorded music as it's presented in other formats. It's a totally open landscape. There's no precedent. So for artists and rights holders who are forward looking, this is a place to innovate and build a new market without it being disruptive or cannibalistic to an old market.

What's the greater opportunity for iPhone apps today... reaching new fans or engaging existing fans?
My answer is that it's both, and it's too early to tell. For paid apps, you're targeting your existing fanbase, and for free apps you're delighting existing fans and drawing in new fans.

What about the apps you're making at Melodeo?
I think they're all targeted at existing fans. Maybe it's because I come from the background of a creator and rightsholder, I'm drawn to this idea of creating new revenues streams with that content rather than just building buzz around an artist with a fee app. For the average 15 year old, if they buy something on iTunes, their experience of buying a song, album, TV show or app is all the same. They just go to this place and click on an icon and are billed. I don't think the consumer of the future is going to care what it is that they're buying, they don't care about the differentiation between buying an app or buying a song. They just want to buy a good experience. My interest is to show that this can be a viable part of an artist's income stream both now and moving forward.

Who's job is it to promote these apps and educate fans that these apps are available. The artist? The label? Apple?
In the spirit of new-age, 21st century music business, we all are. We've already seen the issue of placement, particularly on the home page, has become a huge negotiating point between rights holders and Apple, just as for years getting a single on heavy rotation on radio was between program directors and promoters from labels for years. I think we'll see that whole landscape translated into the digital space, and the big sea change will be big rights holders spending money. Call it payola, call it marketing, call it whatever you want, but people who own a lot of valuable content will figure out ways to pay somebody enough to sell enough content for it to make sense.

So what does that mean for the emerging artist trying to use mobile as a way to build a fanbase?
They'll be out of luck in that arena, but they'll be able to continue to use this as another tool in their arsenal along with their MySpace page. They can go to iLike and get an iPhone app for $100. Marketing it will be up to them. Don't expect it to show up on the Apple homepage.

Dederer will be a speaker on the pane "Ask The Experts: Artist Apps" at Billboard's Mobile Entertainment Live conference, taking place Oct. 6 in San Diego as part of the CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment conference. Other panelists include Tim O'Brien of Tapulous, Jonathan Zweig of EpicTilt, Ali Partovi from iLilke, and Moderati's Jon Vlassopulos. Billboard's Antony Bruno will moderate. A full agenda is available at www.billboardevents.com.