CMND/CTRL: October 2012

By Tom Aylott

Since the first edition of CMND/CTRL we’ve had a think about how to structure our tech roundups, and rather than keep it to three specific things, we figured it’d be better to do it as a bit of a more “free-flowing” piece. With that in mind, you can call this second edition of CMND/CTRL the October edition. It features a roundup of recent events, and comes in advance of a Christmas recommendations list (a Punktastic t-shirt, obviously) next time around.

The past few months have been pretty eventful as 2012’s festival season drew to a close, and one of the things that I’ve noticed is the increase in “free apps” from bands using the BandApp platform. There’s a few companies that do this, but BandApp is the one that’s got a few bands on board recently in the UK scene.

Notably (for iOS at least) these apps from BandApps are web apps, so they’re not delivered by Apple’s App Store – they work by getting you to add a homepage icon. This isn’t actually the most obvious a feature on an iPhone, but it’s handled fairly elegantly and you’re ready to go quickly once you’ve clicked on a link to  BandApp webapps carry most of the things you’d want to know about a band. There’s links to music, videos, tour dates, pictures and news, and it’s all pretty easy to navigation. However, like almost every single app of this type, it’s actually pretty difficult to see why someone should choose an app like this (especially for repeat usage) rather than just stick with what they can already access on the internet.

It’s not that the apps look shit or perform badly (though there are some fairly big kinks to iron out), it’s that most fans of bands like Marmozets or Blitz Kids already have quick ways to access this stuff. The attention span of your average smartphone addled teenager (ie. the target audience here) is fairly short, and if they can’t do things like play songs in the background or on lock screens, then they’ll just open up the iPod app instead. And the official YouTube app already exists to search between many bands quickly. It could be that these apps will fail because they impact the speed at which you can listen to music. That said, I’m a 24 year old male with an extremely short attention span and a Spotify premium account, so maybe I’ve missed the point.

All in all, it’d be wrong to call them a waste of time or useless. They look great and make it very easy for aspiring bands to create an app for their fans to download. The BandApp platform suffers from a lack of something to come back to more than anything else. What I’d really like to see them do is offer a new twist on the artist/fan relationship somehow. Something that the bands want to use and the fans want to use for the same reasons (but different to just using Twitter or Facebook). There’s certainly potential here, but it’s missing any unique features.

I’ve also been having a play with It’s a streaming service in your browser, with with the same prices as Spotify in the UK, and though some of the UK indie labels are missing (PIAS aren’t signed up by the looks of it), the selection is pretty good. I don’t think it quite stands up to the Spotify platform when it comes down to it, but it may appease those who wish to have a browser based experience rather than an installed one.

Rara looks great, but interaction and sharing takes a little longer than you’d like it to, and it feels a little unpolished at the moment. While there’s certainly some advantages to browser-based listening, with Spotify rumoured to join the browser-based streaming services soon, rara might get lost in the crowd of Deezer, Rdio and the rest.

If you do fancy an alternative to check out, it’s £1.99 a month for a trial at the moment so you may as well have a look if you’re curious.

The new Myspace from Myspace on Vimeo.

Also appearing recently was a hint at what we can expect from MySpace when it relaunches. The slick look of their preview video certainly got a few people thinking “What If…?”, and though it’s unlikely that MySpace will be top dog again, everybody loves an underdog… but only when that underdog stops being a heap of crap.

The slick look and Facebook/Twitter integration seems to signal a white flag for their social media supernetwork ambitions, so after well over a year of barely clicking and never posting a MySpace link here on Punktastic, I’ve gone and posted one in this very article. They’ll have everything to prove once they relaunch, but with Facebook still not really being a true music listening location yet in itself, perhaps there’s a gap that’s still to be exploited while SoundCloud is still growing. Or no-one will even bother signing up and it’ll be a massive flop. I’ll be having a look regardless.

In other news, Apple have unveiled an impressive pile of stuff as Autumn swings around. Many, many people who listen, record and talk about music use Apple’s expensive, beautiful shiny things, and the announcement of a new iPad just six months after “the new iPad”, a smaller iPad, a new Mac Mini and iMac range should get people salivating about ways to spend their money on the run up to Christmas. Whatever you think of Apple and their gadgets, it’s hard not to admit that smartphones and tablets are getting better and better for recording music on the go, and with faster processors comes better software solutions. This new iPad Mini thing may mean you’ve got to content with a few more people holding them up to take pictures at gigs, but you can always spill a beer on it if someone’s being really annoying.