Using the iPhone to market Music, Movies, and Comedians

Mon, Jun 15, 2009

Featured, News

Branded iPhone apps are quickly becoming a popular way for entertainers, recording artists, and Hollywood Studios to connect directly with fans, generate hype, and ideally increase sales for upcoming movies, albums, and even comedy tours.


Seeing as the iPhone doubles as an iPod, it makes sense that recording artists were the first entertainers to realize the marketing potential of the iPhone platform.

Pink was the first recording artist to hop on the iPhone bandwagon when she released an app called “Pink’s Funhouse” last November. The app included 30 second music previews, news, photos, and a slew of other goodies for Pink fans. Soon thereafter, the indie band Snow Patrol released a free iPhone app that quickly amassed over 30,000 downloads, far exceeding their record labels expectations. Fans who downloaded the app were treated to album art, lyrics, and more impressively, videos which detailed the making of their latest album. The head of Snow Patrol’s label, Paul Smernicki, was quick to note the intriguing potential for artist related apps on the iPhone.

There’s a lot that we can learn from non-music applications. There are some really clever things going on with stuff like GPS. You could follow bands on tour, map their tour around the world, and make live video or audio from gigs available. You might have interaction from the artist too, creating video diaries and reviewing the shows. There’s potential to create something that has a real function.

One of the more creative ways musicians have used the iPhone to market themselves has been to integrate their music into already popular iPhone apps such as Tap Tap Revenge.  Some artists, such as Weezer and Coldplay, have even collaborated with Tapulous to created themed versions of Tap Tap Revenge that have sold particularly well on iTunes, and have proven to be a big hit with fans.

And taking things to an entirely new level is Eminem, who recently released an iPhone game titled “Relapse” to coincide with the release of his album of the same name.  The app sells for $2.99 in the app store, and lets users play as Eminem as he wanders around town killing zombies with his firsts and a 2×4.  Unfortunately, there’s no Bruno character in the game, but how great a marketing ploy would that have been?

In many ways, an iPhone app is the perfect way for artists to leverage a built-in fanbase.  It’s great for promotion, keeps fans interested and connected, and with the upcoming iPhone 3.0 update, artists might even start to offer apps on a subscription basis.  After all, who wouldn’t be willing to pay a few bucks for access to exclusive videos, photos, and behind the scenes updates from their favorite bands? Just 10 years ago it was a struggle to find online photos of your favorite singers, and you’d often have to settle for a Geocities fansite comprised of only a few scattered photos and song lyrics.


Much like how a shark can smell blood from miles away, if there’s money to be made, you can bet that Hollywood is either there or already on their way.

Hollywood studios typically promote upcoming movies with an onslaught of cross promotions, toys, and branded clothes; and you can now add iPhone applications into the equation.

Warner Brothers recently announced that it would be releasing 25 iPhone apps before the end of the year, in addition to the 15 it’s already released.  Naturally, Warner Brothers is planning on releasing iPhone apps to help promote a number of, what they hope will be, blockbuster movies.  Some of the upcoming iPhone apps include titles for Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes, both of which will be released later this year.

Warner Brothers first entered the iTunes App Store when it unveiled the iPhone game, “The Dark Knight: Batmobile”, which was released in December to coincide with the DVD release of the movie.  Since then, it’s also released iPhone apps with tie-ins to its Terminator Salvation and The Watchmen movies.

Games, however, aren’t the only kind of app Warner Brothers is planning to release.  Also on the agenda are apps such as graphic novels, puzzles, and information widgets that will provide fans with the standard fare of photos, news updates, film trailers, movie locations, and behind the scenes videos.  And given the zeal with which movie studios typically try and market movies, its very possible that we’re not too far off from a time when one movie will be accompanied by a slew of branded apps that cater to a wide demographic spectrum of fans.  In other words, imagine a Hollywood blockbuster with 3 distinct apps, with one geared towards kids, another towards gamers, and one for movie buffs.

But Warner Brothers isn’t alone.  Paramount Pictures has also gotten in on the iPhone app action, and hasn’t been shy about releasing iPhone apps with tie-ins to movies that have already been out for well over 20 years.  Late last year it released iPhone apps with tie-ins to movies such as Iron Man, School of Rock and Saturday Night Fever.  Most recently, it released a positively reviewed $2.99 Top Gun app where players can engage with and shoot down enemy aircraft under the tutelage of Maverick and Iceman themselves.  “That’s right! Ice… man. I am dangerous.”

Movie studios are uniquely positioned to provide exclusive content and behind the scenes coverage that will undoubtedly help them leverage an already high fan interest in upcoming movies like Harry Potter.  More than that, they also have the financial resources to advertise their apps, and really give it a marketing push that the majority of developers simply can’t afford to keep up with.


Love him or hate him, Dane Cook is one of the most well-known and popular comedians of the last few years. According to Dane Cook haters, and there are a lot of them, Cook is an overrated hack who only rose to prominence because he was the first comedian to astutely leverage social media to his advantage. Specifically, Cook used MySpace to communicate directly with fans, something which helped him build up a huge and devoted following very quickly.

The point of that little blurb was to illustrate that Dane Cook is down with technology, insofar as it it can be used to help out his career. Too harsh?

Anyways, Cook recently launched his own iPhone app which gives users access to exclusive video and image content, in addition to text updates from his comedy tour titled “Isolated Incident – Global Thermo Comedy Tour.”

To the best of our knowledge, Cook is the first and only comedian to have released an iPhone application, but we may not be far off from a time when all sorts of entertainers, from comedians to sports stars, all have their own iPhone apps.  Much in the way that dedicated webpages are now the norm for all types of artists, dedicated iPhone apps might be the next big thing.

Looking Forward

Looking forward, the potential for iPhone apps is as promising and open-ended as ever.  At Apple’s WWDC last week, Phil Schiller noted that Apple has already sold over 40 Million iPhones and iPod Touchs.  That’s a helluva lot of eyeballs, and even more of an incentive for those in the entertainment industry to come up with unique and creative applications.

Imagine if ABC released a LOST iPhone app that had exclusive photos, interviews with the cast, behind the scenes videos, user submitted theories that other iPhone users could vote on, and an all-inclusive cast directory.  Call us crazy, but we think an app like that for $1.99 would sell like crazy.  And if it was free, well then every LOST fan with an iPhone would download that in a hearbeat.  Are you listening, ABC?

Some TV networks are already on board with this idea. The E! network, for example, released a free E! Online iPhone app last April, and continues to advertise it on their channel.


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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Peter Says:

    Whenever anybody brings up the 50,000 apps in the App Store, I always like to point at some of these apps.

    Take the Pink or Snow Patrol apps: These are basically glorified web pages. “Promotional Apps”, like the one for Harry Potter, will be great fun but useless once the film is out and again, for the most part, you could do the same thing with web pages. Why do an app?

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