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Lady Gaga's ARTPOP Apes the App Craze

Tickers in this article: AAPL
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Lady Gaga this week announced a release date of Nov. 11 for her next album, ARTPOP. More significantly, her team is extending an important industry trend, namely the release of an app that enhances the album listeners' experience.

Gaga's app is firmly wedded to the album itself but promises to combine "music, art, fashion and technology with a new interactive worldwide community." A single is promised for release Aug. 19 and pre-orders of the album will be possible beginning Sept. 1.

Bjork was an early proponent of the app release as an important component of an overall marketing push. Her impressive 2011 release Biophilia was first released as a series of apps that, as a collection, featured a themed, attractive interface, games, graphic scores of the songs and an interactive element that lets users toy with the music itself, improvising their own structures within the album's universe of sounds.

Many are expecting to see an explosion in app/album releases, but others see the app as being an unnatural fit into the world of music releases, at best an awkward merchandizing on the basic appeal of music listening.

But the app also figures into another even more popular trend in the recording industry: the pre-release of an album (sometimes described erroneously as "leaking") as a complete stream on one of a variety of platforms, with Apple's iTunes being the most popular.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers were early adoptees of the pre-release strategy, making their entire 2011 release, I'm With You, available free as an iTunes stream. This year the practice hit full swing.

David Bowie streamed The Next Day for free on iTunes in the weeks prior to its official March 8 release date and Justin Timberlake followed immediately with a pre-release of JT, officially released March 15. Daft Punk caused a Twitter frenzy with the pre-release of its Random Access Memories in May. The effect on first-week sales generally has been so positive that the pre-release streaming has now become de rigeur across the industry.

Jay-Z's recent pre-release deal with Samsung combined the two trends, featuring an app that gave Samsung users early access to Magna Carta . . . Holy Grail in exchange for personal data. The move netted Jay-Z a big chunk of change even before the release date because, in a somewhat controversial move, he sold the rights to pre-release the album to Samsung, guaranteeing a wide distribution in the process. He also took advantage of Samsung's publicity to announce the album's release to an even wider circle of music fans.