The Music App Map, Part One

Music apps' greatest hits (so far…)
  • MorphWiz
  • Ocarina
  • ThumbJam
February 09, 2011 -- 9:40 am PST
By Antony Bruno /

(The Recording Academy will host the Social Media Rock Stars Summit on Friday, Feb. 11 in Los Angeles, featuring a discussion regarding relevant issues concerning music and the mobile platform. Participants will include Adam Lambert and Chamillionaire, and social media pioneers representing Facebook, Foursquare and Pandora. As a complement to the event, we offer our exploration of today’s most noteworthy music apps. Be sure to download The Recording Academy's MusicMapper app, and create, map and share your personal musical journey. And tune in to our live stream of the Social Media Rock Stars Summit live on Feb. 11 starting at 2 p.m. GRAMMY Live.)

How popular are mobile apps? According to 2009 data released by Apple, maker of the iconic iPhone, more than 7 billion apps (free and paid) had been downloaded from the iTunes App Store since it launched in July 2008.

A recent Nielsen study found the average smart phone owner has 27 different apps on his/her device at any given time. While games, weather, maps/navigation/search, and social networking apps made up the most popular types of apps downloaded, music apps ranked fifth.

Smart phone apps have revitalized the music subscription business by finally providing a viable portable option other than the MP3 player, leading to the launch of such services as Rdio, MOG, Thumbplay, Spotify (in Europe), and the pending mobile music plans of Google, among others. Incumbent service Rhapsody credits its mobile app for a 10 percent increase in new monthly subscribers.

Mobile apps have also brought Internet radio to greater prominence by turning the smart phone into today's transistor radio. Pandora, the personalized Internet radio service, claims it activates 100,000 new users a day via its various mobile apps, which are additionally responsible for nearly half its daily streaming. CBS Radio streams not only all its radio stations through mobile apps on multiple platforms, but has also created a version of its service for the iPhone and Google's Android.

Additionally, artists such as Lady Gaga, music organizations such as ASCAP and music festivals such as Bonnaroo have all jumped on the mobile app bandwagon, customizing apps for their own needs. The Recording Academy also unveiled its latest app, MusicMapper, to coincide with the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards marketing campaign. Last October Billboard magazine hosted the first-ever Billboard Music App Awards, honoring the most innovative mobile apps in six different categories.

Analysts project approximately 50 billion apps will be downloaded across all smart phone platforms by 2012, driving revenue of $17.5 billion worldwide. Here's a snapshot of the mobile music apps making waves today, setting the stage for tomorrow's innovation and growth.

Music Creation

(Wizdom Music)
Platforms Supported: iPhone
Price: $9.99

Conceived and designed by Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess, MorphWiz takes advantage of the multitouch interface of the iPhone and iPad to turn either device into a quasi-3-D synthesizer. Notes are played based on where the user touches the screen according to a vertical grid design. It also adds a music visualizer that translates sound into graphics. For the less musically inclined, it comes with more than 50 presets to help you along. MorphWiz was an immediate hit, generating $40,000 in sales in its first month, and won Best Music Creation App at the Billboard Music App Awards.


Platforms Supported: iPhone
Price: 99 cents

Named in part after the ancient flute-like instrument and the famous video game "The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time," this was one of the first music apps in the iTunes App Store. Holding the device in two hands, screen up, users blow into the phone's mouthpiece and use their fingers to play different notes, changing pitch by tilting the device up or down. Advanced users can change key signatures and modes. A social aspect of the app lets users record and share their songs, and listen to those shared by others. 


Platforms Supported: iPhone
Price: $6.99

Musical novices and seasoned professionals alike will find something useful in ThumbJam. The app can recreate 40 different instrument sounds — from cello and violin to electric guitar and drums — all from the iPhone's touch-screen interface. It's "tilt and shake" feature adds vibrato, note bends and volume swells. Users can build their own background loops or import them from other instruments and files, as well as download new instrument sounds as they become available. Songs created can be saved to a computer or exported to either share online or further develop via professional recording equipment.


Others Of Interest: Drum Meister, iBone, iShred, Leaf Trombone World Stage, PocketGuitar, Pocket Piano, Rock Out, Sonifi, TouchChords, Ultimate Guitar Tabs

Come back to tomorrow for part two of our feature as we provide an overview of the apps making waves in the category of Professional Tools. Meanwhile, download The Recording Academy's MusicMapper app, and create, map and share your personal musical journey.

Tune in to the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards live from Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 13 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS. For updates and breaking news, please visit The Recording Academy's social networks on Twitter and Facebook

(Antony Bruno is the executive director of digital/mobile content & programming for Billboard magazine. He previously worked for the mobile industry trade publication RCR Wireless News, and served as assistant VP of wireless Internet development for CTIA — The Wireless Association.)

"The Music Map App": Part Two, Part Three, Part Four 


Email Newsletter