It seems as though individuals developing and looking to commercialize music-playing apps have been, in the words of Lady Gaga, “caught in a bad romance” from content licensing constraints. To help reconcile this relationship, The Echo Nest, a music application platform, and Play.me, a subscription-based music service, announced a partnership on May 12 to create an opportunity for music apps to go commercial and generate revenue.
The partnership lets Play.me grant access to licensed material, while The Echo Nest platform offers several APIs that developers can use to build their applications. With access to information about artists, songs or listeners (including demographics and listening patterns), developers can add as much or as little metadata to their application as they need, according to The Echo Nest’s developer Web page.
Prior to the partnership, most of the apps created (and offered for free) on the platform are purely for entertainment, and include music discovery, exploration and analysis features. Musicpainter, for example, is an app created on the platform that allows a user to play along with a preloaded track. It then synchronizes and tunes the original and user tracks by analyzing key and beat information.
The platform also includes some commercial apps, said Paul Lamere, The Echo Nest’s director of developer community. One such app, tourfilter, lists concerts that are playing in 79 cities in five countries, and uses one of the platform’s APIs to get concert and music reviews.
Until now, The Echo Nest platform has given music application developers a chance “to show what they can do,” said CEO Jim Lucchese. “But they haven’t been able to commercialize or interact their apps with consumers.” And while some developers may take the chance and commercialize their apps, despite licensing constraints, most developers will only work with 30-second clips of songs, as allowed by United States copyright law.
The other idea behind this partnership is to drive subscribers to Play.me’s music service while The Echo Nest creates some revenue by charging Play.me for access to its platform.
And aside from giving individual developers a chance to create apps, the platform also offers opportunities for the enterprise as well. “That’s the good thing about platforms,” said Forrester analyst Sonal Gandhi. “They’re a good equalizer.”
One example of a commercial app is Live Metallica for the iPhone for US$.99. This app generates revenue by selling unique content, such as pictures and notes from each show. Being the official app for the metal band, fans can purchase from LiveMetallica.com audio recordings from its latest gigs, or use it to buy previous sets and instantly stream that content to their phones.