Dierks Bentley Meme-Maker? Jason Aldean Slots? Country Stars Embrace Mobile Apps to Reach Fans

Dierks Bentley
Robby Klein

Dierks Bentley photographed on June 23, 2016 at Bastion in Nashville. 

Music stars — and the marketing teams behind them — are always looking for new and creative ways to engage with fans. Several country artists recently launched fun new mobile apps in an effort to do just that.

In September, Dierks Bentley teamed with New York-based developer Echelon Creative to launch a custom keyboard app that allows users to express their thoughts using more than 100 Bentley-centric emojis, as well as lyrics from some of his best-known songs. Also in September, Dustin Lynch teamed with Irish gaming company MavenHut to launch the Dustin Lynch Solitaire mobile app, the first of what MavenHut expects will be multiple celebrity-featured apps.

“My mom got me started on solitaire way back in the day, so when the worldwide opportunity to put my own voice and spin on one of my favorite games presented itself, I couldn’t resist,” Lynch tells Billboard of the game.

Those artists join just a handful of others in the country genre to have launched apps that go beyond the standard artist offerings that typically feature news, tour dates, lyrics, photos, music videos, social media feeds and other basic information. In December 2015, Jason Aldean launched a casino gaming app called Jason Aldean Slot Machines in conjunction with Ghost Town Slots. And in 2013 Brad Paisley and developer Wham City introduced the Brad Paisley Light Show app that allowed users to synchronize flashing lights on their mobile phone displays to music performed at his live shows.

A few of the more traditional apps also offer some more unique features. Scotty McCreery’s official app includes a trivia game about him as well as a “Scotty & Me” feature that allows fans to digitize a photo so that it appears to have been taken with the star.

Among the most elaborate of the offerings is the new Bentley app, which in addition to the lyric and emoji keyboard also includes a meme maker and a “dress up Dierks Bentley” game, which allows users to mix and match outfits on a cartoon image of the singer. The emoji keyboard includes not just images of Bentley, but also his plane, tour bus, truck, “Different for Girls” collaborator Elle King and even his late dog, Jake. It is available on both Android and Apple platforms for $1.99.

“I’m always looking for different ways for fans to be involved in my music,” said Bentley in a prepared statement when the app was launched. “The fans will pick up on a lot of the lyrics, familiar characters and friends we worked in.”

Echelon Creative co-founders Sam Mendelson and Allan Zhang both left jobs in finance about a year ago to develop an idea that became a proprietary algorithm they called LyricLink. It suggests song lyrics that correspond to words and phrases users are typing. They were inspired by a Drake app released a few years ago that also incorporated his lyrics into a texting feature. “What we really wanted to do was to take something like that much further by suggesting lyrics that fit the context of your conversation,” says Zhang.

“A lot of these artists actually have very poetic lyrics, especially country artists, and it seemed like the perfect fit if we were to input their lyrics into our algorithm and give people a way to actually text with lyrics,” adds Zhang. “Dierks is really known for his lyricism, and we wanted that to be a prominent part of the app.”

Mendelson agrees that Bentley’s colorful hits made him a perfect first act for the app. “Between ‘Drunk on a Plane’ and ‘Somewhere on a Beach,’ there was a beverage in every hand.”

The developers are grateful to Bentley’s team for seeing the vision and agreeing to make him the app’s debut artist. “The first one is the brave one,” says Mendelson. Now, he and Zhang are in talks to team with other acts and will customize the app to those artists’ lyrics.

“We’re looking forward to continuing this and improving not only the overall experience for people, but getting it in the hands of all different types of fans across both the country space, as well as music in general,” says Mendelson. “We have a couple more that will be coming out over the next couple of months that will give a similar experience to Dierks, but every single time we launch we look forward to challenging ourselves to do something that’s a little different and a bit better.”