There’s a lot of grumbling in the music business over the loss of record sale profits to streaming services. When it’s less expensive to stream all of music history than it is to purchase one album, it’s hard to get the average fan excited to buy a physical or digital copy of a new release. Yet albums are as important as ever for artists and their fans; they just aren’t a major source of income anymore (unless you happen to be Beyonce or Taylor Swift).
While the industry continues to consider alternative revenue streams, one solution has been to bring monetary value back to the album by rethinking the format in which it’s released. Björk, Lady Gaga, and Calvin Harris have each experimented with releasing their music as an app that provides an interactive experience that streaming can’t. Other high-profile artists with resources at their disposal are sure to follow suit, but what about smaller, independent acts that can’t afford app development?
3plet, a startup out of Estonia, has an answer. They plan to revolutionize the album experience by providing an affordable platform for artists to release their albums as interactive mobile applications. The app--called a 3plet--adds images, lyrics, background information, and social actions to every song, and is distributed to the App Store, Google Play Store, Windows Marketplace, and OVI Store.
Users can download an artist’s 3plet and listen to 1-3 tracks for free; the rest of the album and content is available through in-app purchases. This pricing model allows artists to use their 3plet as a promotional tool or press kit, as well as a source to generate revenue.
If the artist already has all of the necessary visual content and metadata, the cost of creating a 3plet is €350. Sure, the app isn’t as flashy as the ones that Relative Wave created for Björk and Lady Gaga, but the affordability of 3plet’s platform makes app development available to bands at any stage of their career. To supplement the low development fee, 3plet also receives 20% of the apps’ net sales turnover.
So far, 40 indie artists have released album apps with 3plet, with more than 100,000 installs. In order to extend their reach, 3plet recently announced a partnership with Music Kickup, a Finnish startup that provides free digital distribution and an artist development platform called Career Path. Explaining the importance of the partnership, 3plet co-founder Vlad Davydov said, "Through our partnership with Music Kickup, artists see this opportunity [3plet] at exactly the right moment of their career. With this integration, 3plet's team is also looking to test and potentially expand to a number of European markets."
Artists around the world are eager to find unique ways to monetize their album releases, and 3plet provides an accessible platform to do just that. So will album-apps revitalize album sales and become the new industry standard for releasing music? Probably not. But they will be a great tool to supplement an artist’s outreach and income, and devoted fans will embrace the 3plet as a new way to interact with their favorite music.
Ben Norris is the Founder / CEO of The Peddle, a Helsinki-based company that provides native English language services to startups across the Nordic and Baltic regions. He moonlights as a contributor to ArcticStartup.