New Album Format: The App

Bernhoft's New Album "The Islander" Released as Mobile AppWith albums being released in more formats than ever, yet another medium has taken arrived as a means for delivering and packaging music: the app.

Norwegian fusion pop artist Jarie Bernhoft released his third full-length album earlier this year as an app for iPhone and iPad, featuring all of the tracks in HD format, 3D video, exclusive material and photos, and a “studio” interface that gives the ability for users to create remixes of the album’s tracks.

The app album sells for $20 and is available for download through the App Store. One downside is its size. At 1.3 gigabytes the app is considerably big for the mobile world, where storage space is often a key point of consideration.

Depending on how Islander succeeds, it may be the beginning of a new trend of using the app format to deliver music in exclusive fan-centric environments. Some have even speculated that it could be the future of iOS music.

Last summer, Hans Zimmer released an app that allowed users to hear his score for Man of Steel in a simulated 3D surround sound version through a normal stereo pair of headphones. The app was free, but the music had to be purchased. Fans who bought the CD were given a free access code for the app as well.

The idea of an app format taps into both the apparent growing interest in high fidelity digital formats and the interest of independent artists looking to package exclusive content to fans directly, rather than through Spotify, Pandora or iTunes.

Reviews of Islander in the App Store have been high so far, with one fan writing, “This is the best item I’ve spent my hard earned money on in a long long time. The music is top tier and the looping station is fun. I love being creative and this is superb! It lets me be part of the action instead of just a fan listening to a good album!”

The top comment in a discussion forum on Reddit wasn’t as enthusiastic, however, writing, “It’s original, but I’m not going to want an App for every album I buy.”

For those preferring the more traditional formats, Bernhoft’s new album is also available on CD and in all the major digital music retailers and major streaming services.

While the evolution of digital music isn’t exactly predictable, it’s certainly going to favor artists that leverage the newest technology to engage with fans and use the tools available to create immersive experiences with their music. Because technology, like apps, makes artists and their music more accessible to fans, it’s likely we’ll see a lot more of the most successful artists take advantage of it.