Music-related apps can build a fan base for artists and create revenue - and they are going to become even more ambitious.
That was the message from Ted Mico, EVP Digital, Interscope, Geffen, A&M at day two of the MidemNet digital music conference in Cannes. He was speaking at the "Apps and Music - Turning a New Phenomenon Into a Financial Reality" panel.
"I don't think all artists should have apps," said Mico. "There are artists who are still using fax machines who probably don't want to do this."
However, he said that a young artist such as Soulja Boy "is a child of the digital age" and has no problem engaging with fans via multiple platforms.
Mico conceded that some artists will want to remain "mysterious and enigmatic" but he stressed the overall benefits of apps: "The evidence is stacking up in favor of doing the extra work."
For a "charismatic" artist such as Lady Gaga, apps can become hugely popular and drive music sales. Mico said there was sudden growth in downloads for the Lady Gaga application soon after its launch thanks to the viral element and the appeal of the artist.
"This was well before she was at [pop] radio - [it was] her talking to her fans and spreading it virally," he said. "You can definitely build a fan base."
Mico admitted that some apps can be expensive: a Black Eyed Peas Tapulous game called Riddim Ribbon has spent six months in development. "It's a tremendous amount of work, effort and money," he said. "It's being done with commercial viability in mind - we hope we're right."
Michael Schneider, CEO of Mobile Roadie, said apps are an "incredibly useful and essential element for artists" and identified the iPhone and Android platforms as the most important. Shazam CEO Andrew Fisher said it has 14 million users globally on the iPhone - all potential music buyers.
Apps are also subject to piracy, although Tapulous VP of business development Tim O'Brien revealed that it targeted 1 million pirate users of Tap Tap Revenge 3 and made them subject to heavier advertising than legitimate users.
"Great apps are like babies - very easy to conceive, hard to deliver," Mico concluded. He predicted that a new app for Dr Dre, released in approximately four months, will be one of the most ambitious to date.
Elsewhere at MidemNet, veteran promoter Harvey Goldsmith, managing director of Artiste Management Productions, spoke up on behalf of the live sector in relation to the labels at a time when live has been growing revenues. "The industry doesn't talk to each other on a senior level," he said. "Live is always left out."
But he was relaxed about the proposed Live Nation and Ticketmaster merger, suggesting that it would make other companies become "more creative."
There was also a perspective on changing business models from a different industry, with the keynote featuring Getty Images co-founder and CEO Jonathan Klein. Getty opted not to go down the route of trying to protect its library of images by digital watermarking, only taking issue with flagrant commercial violations.
"We made it easier from a licensing and rights perspective," he said, adding that it created appropriate price points for images from its library of 80 million digital images depending on the consumer.
"The lesson for the music industry is don't stand in the way of technology, don't stand in the way of what customers want," said Klein.