Music as Apps

By Vincent Meelberg


Hardly anyone could have missed the news regarding the new iPhone. In a well-orchestrated keynote presentation, held last month, Apple introduced the most recent iteration of its immensely successful product, again claiming that it is “the best iPhone ever.” Be it as it may, this wonderful device has caused the demise of another, former, hit product created by Apple: the iPod. Along with the introduction of the iPhone 6 the iPod Classic was quietly discontinued.

Of course, the iPod Touch, basically an iPhone without a phone, still exists, but this is a completely different device. An iPod Classic was a device devoted exclusively to music listening. Your entire music collection could be stored on its 160 Gb hard drive. The iPod Touch, on the other hand, does not have that storage capacity. Moreover, it is not meant as a music player, but as an interactive media device.

Perhaps at first sight this might not seem as a big deal, but the fact that Apple, one of the pioneers regarding the digital distribution of music, no longer offers a dedicated music player, may be indicative of a more general trend: a change in the way people appreciate music. In a rather nostalgic article, Wired’s Mat Honan links the disappearance of the iPod Classic to the fact that we are no longer defined by our music, music that we bought, owned, and collected. And I believe he is correct. Even though services such as Spotify and Rdio make most (but definitely not all) recorded music available to their users, creating a playlist in these services is not the same as collecting LPs, CDs, or even iTunes tracks. We no longer need to invest time and money in our music collection, and therefore the value we ascribe to music has changed.

Peter Kirn has a different take on these developments and discusses another recent phenomenon: releasing music as apps. Apps are particularly suited to devices such as the iPhone and iPod Touch, for they use both images and sound and invite interaction. Therefore, releasing music as apps turns music into something more than mere sounds, but at the same time transforms the way we define music. Take Björk’s Biophilia, for instance, one of the first examples of music as app. This app is almost a work of art, with excellent graphics that ask to be touched and manipulated. I have the app myself, but I still haven’t actually listened to the songs themselves. I’ve heard snippets of music while playing with the app, but I cannot really recall any of the songs. So, is music as app the future of music, or will it turn music into something else, a game perhaps?

Image credits: Fe Ilya via Shared under creative commons