Band Puts All Its Music (Plus More) Into A $3 iPhone App

from the more-experiments dept

The pop band The Presidents of the United States of America have released a special iPhone app that contains all of the music from all of their albums, as well as additional rare and unreleased music and images. The whole thing costs $3 — which certainly blows the old $1/song model out of the water. It’s worth noting that one of the band members is now VP of the software company that made the app… and the band actually owns all the rights to its own music — so that made all of this much easier. Also, it’s a bit unclear how the app works exactly, but it certainly looks like the music is locked (hello, DRM!) inside the app. That’s annoying.

There have been a few other bands that have experimented with similar “album in an app” type models before, and it’s certainly an experiment worth watching. However, by itself, I’m not sure how scalable the model really is. If other bands do this using different apps, then you have to run each one separately and you lose out on the benefit of a central control system for all your music. And, if it really does involve DRM, then bands may just jump on this and alienate fans yet again. Still, if a “standard” and open way of doing this was established, such that bands could have their own apps easily interoperate, and the music wasn’t locked down, you could see some interesting models emerge. For example, imagine getting an app that actually kept you updated on a band? Every time they release a new song or add new artwork, it automatically is added to your collection across different devices. That would be a useful application. Unfortunately, this particular app only seems to be a tiny step in that direction (and due to DRM, perhaps a step in the wrong direction).

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Comments on “Band Puts All Its Music (Plus More) Into A $3 iPhone App”

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40 Comments
PaulT (profile) says:

While I’m usually very much anti-DRM, this is one of the few places I feel it’s relatively acceptable.

The band are selling a lot of music for a very cheap price, as well as some exclusive extras. The price is extremely cheap for the amount of music you get. Most importantly, they’re not locking the music up *exclusively* with DRM – you can still buy their music DRM-free if you want through other outlets.

It’s really just an experiment – just as Radiohead’s model was streamlined by NIN, I’m sure that anyone following suit will do the same if this is successful. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how this goes and it’s nice to know that all profits will go to the band rather than some middleman.

JustMe says:

Awesome idea, not "DRM"

Yeah Mike, I think you’ve taken it a bit far on this one.

It sounds to me like they have a business model that works for their fans and themselves. Just because you have to run their app to listen to the music instead of your preferred MP3 app doesn’t mean it is DRM, any more than saying that the drawings in Crayon Physics are locked in via DRM.

Chill, have a cold one and ease in to the weekend my friend. This is a win for the good guys, and I’ll definitely be checking the band out.

Spectere (profile) says:

Re: Awesome idea, not "DRM"

Just because you have to run their app to listen to the music instead of your preferred MP3 app doesn’t mean it is DRM, any more than saying that the drawings in Crayon Physics are locked in via DRM.

It’s an inconvenience to customers because rather than being able to listen to it using the iPod player with the rest of your music collection, you’re forced to listen to it from within their app. And yes, if you’re forced to listen to it with a certain configuration, it is DRM. DRM, after all, affects how you can use a digital product.

I probably wouldn’t buy this app simply because it would be an inconvenience. The iPhone’s player functionality can be run in the background while you play games or use other apps. This music playing app can only run in the foreground like any other app. What’s worse is that, because of this, it limits what you can actually do on the device while you listen to music. Have to check your calendar? Need to look something up on the map? Want to check the weather? Tough, you have to stop the song to do any of that. I’d go so far to say that most of the people who casually brush off the inconvenience of using a special app to listen to music have never used an iPhone.

Is the app a nice idea? Yes. I do like the effort that they put into it. But trying to claim that it isn’t DRM just because it’s cheap access to a discography is silly. It is DRM and because of its use of DRM it does impact how you can use the device.

Matt says:

Re: Re: Awesome idea, not "DRM"

if for whatever reason you a: cannot play the songs outside of their app and b: cannot play any other songs outside the app

then there is no value, just full on inconvenience, which = it will fail. They’ll probably blame piracy or something stupid if they’re a bad band, or come up with a solution if they’re smart.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: Re: Awesome idea, not "DRM"

“It’s an inconvenience to customers because rather than being able to listen to it using the iPod player with the rest of your music collection, you’re forced to listen to it from within their app.”

Agreed. Once again, the use of DRM is not to hinder piracy, you can get the entire discography of The Presidents of the United States of America on bittorrent.

And yet once again, the use of DRM is to make life more difficult for the legitimate buyer.

The person who pirates the music, can play it anywhere. The person who does the right thing and buys the music, is screwed. Yeah, that’s a way to make your fans.

I do have to admit the price is right.

bassbeard says:

Re: Re: Re: Awesome idea, not "DRM"

I don’t think that DRM is relevant in this case because this app is not supposed to be a substitute for actually “owning” the music. The user is paying $3 to subscribe to a service, not purchase digital goods–remember that the music streamed, not actually embedded in the app. The idea is that the user would have access to new content that is unavailable anywhere else (along with all the old stuff just thrown in for good measure). How cool would it be if they posted new songs they were working on? Or just a recording of a really good jam they had at practice last week. The only people that would have access to that kind of content would be the people who bought the app. If you really love the band, $3 would be a steal. Now, I can’t say for certain how far the Presidents plan on taking this, but it sure does give me a great idea for my own band….

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Awesome idea, not "DRM"

remember that the music streamed

Mmmm… that’s certainly interesting. One on hand you get access to new stuff, that’s cool (if you’re really into the band). On the other hand you have to be connected to the net to access it. That’s a bummer.

I guess you’re right, this would be a good deal for a hardcore fan of the Presidents, if such a person exists. I love the drumming on Lump, but that’s about it for me.

JEQP says:

Re: Re: Awesome idea, not "DRM"

However, you could listen to the music through the iPod player by just buying the songs at a dollar a pop, couldn’t you?

From my interpretation when you buy the app you’re buying the rights to listen to all of PotUSA’s music when and where you want to. It’s quite clearly not a download model.

If other bands did this, then an aggregator map was made so you could form playlists from different bands, that would be a good way to listen to (and pay for) music. True, you’d have to change players, but if it took off then at some point they’d get aggregated under a standard form anyway.

R. Miles says:

For shame, Mike.

but it certainly looks like the music is locked (hello, DRM!) inside the app. That’s annoying.
I agree with PaulT. In this instance, DRM is perfectly used. The band is taking a great chance trying a new business model, and by offering music at cutthroat prices, some protection is necessary.

To even bring up the DRM issue makes you a hypocrite, Mike. Here’s a business trying a new model, and you bitch about the insignificant use of DRM in an application which is DRM itself, and definitely platform specific.

Did you ever stop to think that maybe the music and images are free, but attached to the software requiring the DRM?

Otherwise, what damn reason would anyone want to purchase the app? They can easily obtain the images and music for free elsewhere.

Kudos, he Presidents of the United States of America! Don’t let Mike rain on your parade and thank you for trying something new.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: For shame, Mike.

In this instance, DRM is perfectly used

Nope, I strongly disagree. What is the legitimate purpose of DRM? To prevent piracy. Does this DRM prevent piracy? Nope, you can still get the entire discography of The Presidents of the United States of America on bittorrent.

What this use of DRM does the same thing nearly every use of DRM does, make it more difficult for the legitimate purchaser.

The person who gets the music off of Pirate Bay can use it anywhere and anyhow he wants.

The person who does the right thing and buys this app, is utterly limited.

So once again, please explain why screwing over legitimate purchasers is a good thing?

R. Miles says:

Re: Re: For shame, Mike.

Nope, I strongly disagree. What is the legitimate purpose of DRM? To prevent piracy. Does this DRM prevent piracy? Nope, you can still get the entire discography of The Presidents of the United States of America on bittorrent.
Then, again, why the need for the app?

You seem to forget this application is platform specific, meaning I can not use it on my BlackJack II.

Given this, I wouldn’t be surprised this app had to include DRM in order to get approval from the iPhone police, which recently denied a South Park app due to “infringement” possibilities.

Granted, the software makers own the rights to the music, but try explaining this to the idiots at Apple.

I could understand the argument against DRM had the software been an open platform model, but it’s not.

However, I will not be surprised to see DRM removed should the application get developed for other platforms.

To think anyone would have a damn issue with DRM on a $3 app which bundles much more than music is insulting to the musicians at least trying to make a difference and get their music out there as best they can with the limited Apple resources they have.

Because they know, people like you, can download what they want for free.

Personally, if more bands did this (even with DRM), I would definitely support them much more than I would stores like iTunes, which takes more than it gives.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: Perspective...

Where IS this problem exactly?

The iPhone is much more than a phone. It’s also a media player. Thus the problem is that if you buy this music, cannot add it to your other music and are forced to listen to it only through the app.

Now maybe you’re a huge fan of the Presidents, and maybe you listen to them exclusively, but most people mix up their music collections.

And, as I’ve written above, the person who download the music off of the Pirate Bay is able to use the music anyway or anyhow he wants.

However, the person who does the right thing and buys the app, is punished by being given an inferior and limited product. So screwing over legitimate purchasers is certainly a problem in my book.

R. Miles says:

Re: Re: Perspective...

cannot add it to your other music and are forced to listen to it only through the app.
This is the most idiotic comment in this entire discussion.

However, the person who does the right thing and buys the app, is punished by being given an inferior and limited product. So screwing over legitimate purchasers is certainly a problem in my book.
There is no way the person is being punished. Not at $3.

Those being punished are the iPhone owners, who can’t transfer this application to other sources. Talk about true DRM, this tops anything the band is doing.

Especially given they have the ability to kill this app at their discretion.

If you’re really that concerned about DRM, you could always purchase the DRM-free songs and transfer them TO your damn phone.

Such ignorance!!!

Ben says:

Come on now

Add me to the list of people who thinks your complaining here is pretty ridiculous. They’re offering a full catalog of music and extras for $3 and you’re complaining about it being locked inside the app? That is called a trade off. Its like complaining that “yea, leasing a car is cheaper but then you have to give it back after a few years!”. You can’t possibly expect several albums plus extras to be sold free and clear for $3, unless you’re a complete moron. Hell, renting all that content for a month seems like a great deal.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: Come on now

Add me to the list of people who thinks your complaining here is pretty ridiculous.

The person who downloads the music off of the Pirate Bay can use the music anywhere and anyhow.

The person who does the right thing and buys this app is utterly limited in how and where it can be played.

So please explain why screwing over legitimate purchasers is a good thing?

I know what you’ll say, but it’s only three bucks. What you’re saying is that it’s OK to screw over your legitimate customers if you don’t charge too much. That’s absurd.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Come on now

I’ll say again, this particular DRM is being very well used because it’s not exclusive and it’s not overpriced. Don’t want the DRM? Fine, you can buy the albums from eMusic, iTunes, Amazon, etc… If you want too accept the restrictions, the price is absolutely fine.

If you want to pay for extra functionality, buy the CDs or buy MP3s at a higher price. Later albums are available through eMusic for as little as 30c/track. Yes, the pirate option still exists, but this offers yet another option not to pirate the songs. Given that all proceeds go to the band, it’s not bad, it’s just a question as to whether it’s workable long term.

This differs from the old music industry DRM model (and the current movie model) because there is a choice. Non-iPhone users, those who want additional freedom and those who merely want one or two singles are still given the choice of what to do with their music.

I understand your position to some extent, but this is a band using their own music for their own gain. Stick to complaining about the RIAA/MPAA/whoever that insist on ripping off both the artists and consumers. The POTUSA issue will work itself out in time.

Orlandin says:

Interesting idea

With iPhone becoming cheaper to get, I believe this is a great way to promote. DRM is not as stifling in this situation since it was designed for a specific product. Since one of the band members is VP of the software company, this can be seen as adding value to the company and the band. I wouldn’t pay a dollar to listen to peaches, but I would pay 3 to listen to their albums.

Anonymous Coward says:

Really DRM?

I think it is a technical limitation of the iPhone that apps run in a limited space and cannot interact with certain other apps on the device or it’s filesystem. Calling that DRM and blaming TPOTUSA for it seems a bit shrill. After all, they are simplijg offering an alternative, low-cost way for fans to hear their music. If they don’t want to hassle with the app, they won’t.

beachboy says:

Business plan

What it looks like they’re doing is basically providing a cheap way to let people preview their tracks in the hopes that people will then buy their music (again) in a more prefered format (mp3.) The band is obviously hoping to generate a good amount of revenue from the “unresistably low priced” app, and boost mp3 sales at the same time. I don’t like pop music, but if a band I was interested in was offering all of their tracks for $3, even just to preview, I’d go for it.

Spectere (profile) says:

Re: Get a grip

What’s the point of paying $3 for something that you likely won’t use due to its inconvenience? Even if I were a huge fan of Presidents I certainly wouldn’t buy this as a music player. It’s might be worth it for the extras, but the fact that it’s a separate app and can’t be multitasked would mean that I’d never use it to seriously play anything.

I’d much rather pay more and have the ability to use the music how I like rather than being held back.

Ben says:

Re: Re: Get a grip

“I’d much rather pay more and have the ability to use the music how I like rather than being held back.”

Then do it. That’s called a CD. Amazon is another option to suit your preference.

FFS people, they didn’t yank their music from every other place it can be bought, this is simply another option. Its called a trade off. Low price, restricted to the app. Higher price, unrestricted. Yes you can get it for free if you want too. This application is just another option for people who WANT to pay for their music. Giving them choices regarding price point and restrictions is a good thing, not a bad thing.

Droslovinia (profile) says:

DRM is not always bad!

Crap! I’ve been holding out on the iPhone for so long, but I’m a big POTUSA fan, so now I have to get one. BTW, this is an app that plays their music and provides some extras. DRM is perfect for this. How many people have been clamoring for all the other apps to allow you to take their music and play it for free with no restrictions? Why WOULD they? So if I spend 99 cents per song for all this stuff, that;’s nothing to complain about, but give it all to me for $3 and keep me from distributing it, and suddenly it’s a bad idea?

chronos (profile) says:

President's Radio

While I don’t agree that legitimate music purchases should be locked inside an application on a certain device, this is different; it’s basically a $3 app that is like POTUSA radio. It’s cheap, and you can listen to anything the band’s ever put out. It’s no different than satellite radio for your car. You pay for the service, but they sure as hell aren’t going to let you keep the songs and move them around.

Yes, this experiment could be improved upon, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

PUSA Fan says:

Subscription

I agree with poster #16, this is basically a subscription. It doesn’t appear to use traditional DRM. The music is streamed. The closest app to this is Rhapsody and other music subscription services. You pay a fee and get all the music you want streamed to your computer. This isn’t all that different. It’s a great product at a fair price.

To see where this may all be headed, check out one of Dave Dederer’s (President’s singer & guitarist) other projects http://www.audiofuse.com.

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