Can Tablets Resurrect the Album? One Start-up Hopes So


The album, as you might have read, is long dead. But the idea of having a digital package filled with music, pictures, information and more from an artist, well, that may have some life. At least that’s the hope of start-up 955 Dreams, which is looking to build off the early success of its first iPad app by pushing a new musical media format.

955 Dreams launched the History of Jazz last week on the iPad. The $10 app is like a cross between a music LP and an interactive coffee table book, taking people through the history of the genre using music, images, animation and video. It also includes updated information from Wikipedia and other sources. It’s kind of like what Apple envisioned with its iTunes LP in 2009, but in a portable format built for the tablet.

Kiran Bellubbi, the founder of 955 Dreams said the History of Jazz app has sold well despite its price tag, and has just been named the iPad App of the Week in the App Store. Bellubbi said more importantly, artists and record labels have begun reaching out to 955 Dreams to discuss creating apps around specific artists. While some, like Imeem founder Dalton Caldwell have questioned the ability for people to make money in digital music start-ups, Bellubbi believes this new publishing format can help artists and record labels recapture some lost revenue by leveraging the power of the tablet.

“We’ve stumbled into a new revenue stream for artists with a relatively large following,” said Bellubbi. “This interactive, immersive experience is something fans are willing to pay for.”

As I wrote about before with Callaway Digital Arts, tablets are opening up opportunities to create new publishing experiences that aren’t just e-books, but instead are dynamic applications leveraging audio, animation, pictures and text and marrying them with engaging touch-driven interfaces. Again, Apple tried something like this before with iTunes LP, but there were two problems: it was tied to both iTunes and a computer and it didn’t provide the same type of engagement that a touch-screen experience provides. That’s probably one of the reasons it hasn’t caught on with consumers or labels.

What 955 Dreams is doing is really fulfilling that original promise through the iPad. 955 Dreams won’t be the only publisher in this area but it could help drive the format if it catches on with some big name artists. I wouldn’t be surprised if Callaway, Apple or others looks in this direction if 955 Dreams can show some early progress.

Bellubbi said this new form of musical publishing applications could be a simple album or discography of one artist. Or it could capture an entire genre like the History of Jazz app. Currently, the History of Jazz app only uses snippets of music from iTunes and allows users to buy the songs through iTunes. Bellubbi said in the future, 955 Dreams will look to fully integrate musical content to make it more like a full album experience.

955 Dreams, a team of three, is funded by Dave McClure’s 500 Start-Ups and Mitch Kapor. Bellubbi, as CEO of High Five Labs, previously put out the Honeydo and Mario Battali Cooks apps. Take a look at the video of the History of Jazz app below to see what 955 Dreams is creating.


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