How to disable iOS notifications panel for music apps.
Attention is one of the underlying currencies of the web. Every piece of information on the web receives some amount of attention. This amount can be zero, but most of the time it is not. Attention can be converted into nearly anything of value. Action, monetary units, fame and depending on the nature of it and its recipient - even happiness.
Attention needs to be treated like the precious resource it is. Collect it whenever it is offered, use it responsibly and direct it to the cause you think it is worthy of.
In my last blog post I promised to explain why I tried to get you to sign up for the email newsletter that goes with this series of blog posts. That’s because it’s one of the best methods to contact people when they want to be contacted.
Emails get read whenever people feel like reading them, messages sent through email are not going to get lost in your timeline on Twitter or Facebook and they don’t require recipients to log into a special service or visit a website.
I’m not going to go into any detail about how important Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and even MySpace are because if you’re reading this you most likely know that already. Until Google+ gets its act together and allows accounts for bands and corporate entities I wouldn’t recommend using it unless you’re releasing your music/apps under your real name.
Instead I’m going to suggest you add a list of ways to follow you to every email you write, blog entry you’re posting and to your Twitter info as well (you do have a Twitter account, don’t you?). You’d be surprised how many artists email me links to their tracks and how few of them mention any way to find out more about them in their email signature. Make it easy for your fans and followers to keep up to date with whatever you’re doing.
They’re offering you their attention by reading your mail, why not treat it responsibly?
If you have a blog it should feature these bits of information in a prominent place:
Pick the most important ones and add them to your email signature as well if you feel comfortable doing that. If you have a ‘business’ email account then I’d say this is mandatory as well.
If you still have some time left, you can create your own email newsletter using Mailchimp.
Let me walk you through that:
First, go to www.mailchimp.com.
Sign up and click on Lists, then on ‘Create List’.
Then go to ‘Create Forms’, click on ‘share it’ and copy the URL displayed on the left side of the screen. You can use that in your email signature, on your blog… you get the idea.
That concludes this episode of Marketing for iOS Developers and Musicians. If you liked it, sign up with your email address here to be notified of new episodes.
See what I did there? :)
Everybody is busy, few people have the time for it, few have enough experience with it and the people who do are using their know-how for Evil(TM).
I’m talking about marketing and promotion.
If you’re an iOS developer or a musician then marketing and PR usually is an afterthought for you. You’ve got more important things to do and you’ll do this Facebook and Twitter stuff when you’re done with your new track/album/app.
You’ve got three minutes every day to spend on it and whoever has your attention should better make it count.
You know what? You’re right.
I’m going to make it count.
Sign up with your email address here to be notified of the next episode of iOS Music Marketing.
Here’s a preview:
- I’m going to explain to you why I’m not asking you to follow us on Twitter or Facebook.Yet. (Spoiler #1: Emails aren’t going to get lost in your Twitter timeline.)
- Also I’m going to provide you with a short list of feasible und understandable steps that you can do in less than 5 minutes to push your product/brand/band/app. (Spoiler #2: One of them will be to make your users/fans sign up for your newsletter.)
Thanks for your time.
UPDATE: Episode 2 is online. Click here to read it.
I’m tihinking about making a series of blog posts for iOS Musicians about marketing and promoting their tracks and themselves. Anyone interested?
Today I’m going to share the somewhat darker side of being an app developer for Apple’s iOS platform by telling you about the black box that is the App Review. The institution within the Apple ecosystem that developers send their applications to for them to be reviewed by the wise and wary eyes of men and women working to protect he public from malicious apps that break the rules of Apple.
These men and women adhere to a set of rules that is ever changing. They’re called the App Review guidelines and they’re your bible if you decide to become a developer for iOS.
These rules help you - the aspiring developer - guess what the App Review team might find OK and what they might not quite like.
And you want to please them, oh, do you want to make sure they’re happy when opening and testing your app.
Because if they are not, your app is going to get rejected. Your update won’t be online any time soon time. Your bug fix won’t be live and you’ll receive more complaints, bad ratings etc.
There’s a process that you can use to complain about a rejection but that entering process means you cannot submit any new update in the mean time. Which is not what you’re going to do because it’ll take a lot longer than if you just change your app and resubmit it.
And you will not - ever - be able to reason with them outside of this process as you would be able to with a colleague or business partner.
Instead they will answer with almost fully predefined text blocks which most likely have been written by Apple’s legal department.
You cannot talk with them before submitting an app, you can’t ask them what they think about your implementation.
They have no telephone number. No real email address that they answer with anything else by short blurts of predefined text. You cannot send them a fax or a letter. You can call developer support and ask how to get through to App Review. They will tell you that App Review has no phone, no way to be reached. Only a little box in the submission form that you can try to squeeze in some info for App Review to maybe read - you’ll never know if they actually did.
Don’t call us, we’ll call you
Because if they could be reached, a hundred thousand development teams would try to reach App Review and try to explain why their newest update needs to be let through. Why their app is going to be awesome and thus must be approved.
It’s the one bottleneck the iOS ecosystem has and the more developers there are, the more apps there are, the more updates they submit, the more in-App Purchases they need App Review to approve, the more of a bottleneck it becomes.
It’s an understandable policy that App Review cannot really be reached, not really be reasoned with in advance and it’s understandable that they won’t answer with anything but short messages of predefined text.
But it sucks.
Boy does it suck if you’re a developer.
And it’s frustrating because in my opinion developers should be entitled to be able to have a real conversation with the person who judges their work if Apple receives 30% of the revenue (which is ok, the iOS ecosystem is great and Apple deserves that share for creating and maintaining it).
It sucks even more if you have an actual deadline. Like - as it happens - we do right now:
The biggest newspaper in Germany has contacted us to provide them with a version of our app that they can show in their next issue of the personal computer magazine section that they publish. We’re talking about roughly 600.000 readers from three countries.
So we made that special version and submitted it to Apple in time.
To make extra super sure that it’s going to be online later this month I furthermore submitted a plea to Apple via intricate means offered by their intricate contact system for developers.
I sincerely asked for them to make sure to review it fast because this one is extra important to us. And since in mentioned support system there is an option that deals with exactly that case we had high hopes to have our app reviewed a bit faster so we could prepare for the minuscule chance that we would have to fix anything that App Review doesn’t like.
My plea fell on deaf ears.
Which is almost funny because Apple seems to like us. Whenever we submit an update to our app we’re ending up in the ‘What’s hot section’ of the category our app belongs to.
Apple even had us make a special version of our app for them for internal use (though it seems like they never really ended up using it, but thanks - the request by Apple marketing was flattering enough for us to spend a week on making the demo version for them - so we could hold their deadline).
You could say we’ve got a hot-and-cold kind of relationship. Pun intended.
We’ve got a little more than a week until the special version of our app has to be approved by App Review. Wish us luck.
PS: To clarify - we’d pay almost any price for the opportunity to talk with App Review before beginning development of new feature. As it is right now it’s always a gamble to come up with a new feature or way of monetization only to have it denied by App Review after weeks of development and spending thousands of european monetary units on development. We’d like to think of our work as a craft. Gambling should not have to be a part of it.
UPDATE 1 (one day later): Just had a long conversation with developer support which seemed to have been constructive. Let’s see what comes out of it. I’ll keep you posted.
UPDATE 2: Also had a telephone call with the people at [important German newspaper] and we’ve figured out a Plan B together should we miss the deadline. Thank you people at [important German newspaper]!
UPDATE 3 (two days later): developer support called. They tried to inform me that there’s a form that developers can use to request an expedited review. Or write an email to App Review. Wow. Back to square one I guess.
UPDATE 4: SoundPrism CBE is being reviewed. Not sure if any of my mails or phone calls had anything to do with it. Most likely not since it’s happening a bit less than a week after we’ve submitted the binary to Apple which is the usual timeframe as of July 2011.
UPDATE 5: Updates to SoundPrism 2.1 and SoundPrism Pro 2.1 which we’ve submitted at the same time as this special version have been reviewed and approved. SoundPrism CBE is still in review. It shares literally all of the features of SoundPrism Standard with a special functionality for the readers of [important German newspaper] which has been used in dozens of other apps before. Oh well…
UPDATE 6: The eagle has (partially) landed. No communication with App Review but the app has been reviewed and approved.
UPDATE 7 (8 days later): I couldn’t make this up even if I wanted to. Apple approves a non-existing In-App Purchase. And informs me about it.
And App Review replies:
From: App Review <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Sebastian Dittmann
Subject: Re: Your in app purchase status is Ready for Sale
Please include the line below in follow-up emails for this request.
Thank you for contacting us regarding the review of SoundPrism CBE. In order to properly prioritize the review of your app, please let us know the reason, or reasons, for this request.
We will await your response before proceeding.
App Review Team
… never mind. I’m giving up. You guys win.
by Sebastian Dittmann
While my feet are still hurting from exploring the Musikmesse 2011 in Frankfurt I thought I’d summarize my impressions of it while they’re still fresh (or throbbing, as aforementioned feet).
Since I don’t have a background in music production or electronic music that was actually my first visit to Musikmesse so I can’t say anything about the size of it but I’ve heard from people I’ve met that it has shrunk a little - less exhibitors, smaller booths. Yamaha apparently didn’t share their whole hall with anyone else before but this year they did.
Compared to other (trade) fairs Musikmesse was rather quiet. Walking across the area didn’t hurt my ears half as much as GamesCon would have. Except for the stuff going on in hall 4.1 where all the guitar/amp/metal/rock people are. Most of them just have to be completely deaf judging from the volume in that hall. Not just deaf for aural stimulation but also deaf and most likely partially blind when it comes to current developments on iOS (except for the brave people at Line6 who defiantly demonstrated their iPhone/iPod accessoires and apps there).
There was another significant exception in there but I’ll get to that later.
As I perceived it, Musikmesse is mostly about hardware. So much that some software companies don’t even have a booth there. Looking for Ableton for example? You won’t find them at the Messe. Also very few developers of Apps had a booth there. The only ones I’ve seen were Sonoma and they also invited other developers (like Rolf Wöhrmann of Nlog Awesomeness) to showcase their AudioCopy/Paste framework.
But every single sales person at the booths had an iPhone and everyone of them wanted an app for their technology or wanted app developers to incorporate it in their apps.
Which was flattering but also very sad at times when it became apparent that they rarely had a clue about what it takes to make an app, market it, how pricing at the app store works and what kind of limitations are forced upon developers by Apple.
They all like what Moog has done with their Filatron app and they want “something just like that.”
They are looking at Korg and realize what the possibilities are but they don’t want to spend that much money on it.
At one booth I was offered to incorporate a nice MIDI/Audio routing framework into our apps for the price of just 2 USD per copy sold. The good people there were surprised when I told them that for some music applications that’s about a 200% share of their complete revenue.
One CEO told me about how awesome the future would be when we would finally be able to have devices talk effortlessly with each other. When I told him that Core MIDI already does that he said “yeah, but without cables”. Benjamin - one of our developers - just replied “No we’re already doing that, see - CoreMIDI via WiFi and almost zero configuration through Bonjour”. It was almost painful to see how developers and makers of cutting edge music hardware are not aware of what’s happening on iOS right now and how small development teams are making use of the frameworks Apple is offering to them.
But not only hardware developers are being somewhat unaware. At the Spectrasonics booth I demoed SoundPrism Pro to their creative director (and a small crowd that formed around me). He really liked it but was surprised about how easy it was to just plug in a camera connection kit into the iPad, add a USB/MIDI cable and route it through the hardware keyboard that they were using. Plug and Play, no configuration needed to use SoundPrism on an iPad as a MIDI controller.
He didn’t know setup was that effortless even though they have their own iPad app, Omni TR, which they have been showcasing at the booth. It uses a different way of communication to plug right into Omnisphere (their awesome synth). Using it as a controller for Omnisphere requires an update, it’s own application and both devices being on the same wireless network.
To their credit Spectrasonics might be one of the few companies who see what’s going on and are actively doing something about it. Hats off to them.
All the other developers and manufacturers of hard- and software will be hit more or less hard by what’s happening on iOS right now. With apps aimed at serious and professional musicians and composers like Everyday Looper, KORGs iElectribe/iMS-20, Temporubato’s Nlog synth, our own SoundPrism Pro there will be less reason for musicians to spend hundreds of dollars on soft- or hardware if they can get similar or even better/unpreceded performance from an app that costs a fraction of that.
The hardware needed to run those apps is already present because most musicians have iOS based devices - most of them already own an iPhone or want to buy an iPad 2.
I’m going to finish this post with two innovations which I think stand out, are not based on iOS but still might threaten hardware manufacturers who think they can go on doing business like they did in the last decades.
The first one is a really nice idea for a DJing interface which relies on projection and motion (and touch?) sensor technology:
The second one is the DMA 1 smart audio hub by DarkMatterAudio which is aimed (not only) at the guys from hall 4.1.
Since it does all the amp/effect stuff via Software and it’s already part of the device which will have its own app store with additional software it offeres an alternative to spending a lot of money on hardware devices doing the same thing… and carrying them around. It’s not on the market yet but it looks promising if the DMA guys do a good job with their app store and can convince enough third party developers to join them.
by Sebastian Dittmann
The manager of an open air rock concert calls a specialist to install a light show with lasers, additional spotlights - a whole visual entertainment system to turn the concert into an exceptional audiovisual experience for the audience.
The specialist works on this for months, talks with artists about which features they might like, makes plans and comes up with a concept that is liked by everyone involved. He implements it together with his employees (he’s the owner a small company specializing in this kind of work) over the course of weeks, tests it, rearranges some of the stage setup for it to work beautifully.
When it’s time to get paid for his work, the manager of the rock concert tells him:
"Sorry buddy, the electric framework needed for what you did there was already in place before you I called you to do this. You’re just building on top of that, how dare you charge money for this? You didn’t invent the fuses, cables, spotlights, you’re just using them and rearranging them a little."
These are the words they used:
“The application is using In App purchase to unlock the use of the Apple Camera Connection Kit, which then enables MIDI Support.
It would be appropriate to revise this In App Purchase product to provide functionality other than what the iOS provides; or to remove it.”
This statement shows that the person who reviewed this was thinking exactly like the manager in the story above. I’m sure that person didn’t mean us any harm, it’s more likely that the reviewer doesn’t understand what the implementation of a framework means. They (as well as some music blogs) might assume that it’s just as easy as flicking a switch.
In fact, the wording of this statement shows that they think unlocking the Camera Connection Kit enables MIDI Support. Which is absolutely untrue. Plug in the Camera Connection Kit into your iPad while it’s running any music app and then see if the app ‘magically’ sends out MIDI information. If the application developers didn’t support it in the first place - which means they had to write the code for it - then nothing happens at all.
I’ve tried to contact App Review multiple times over the course of the last days but I haven’t received any answer from them regarding this matter.
But there’s a more important aspect to this.
It seems like the section of the App Review guidelines forbids to sell any implementation that unlocks a framework provided by iOS. The wording from the actual guideline is:
That sounds like it’s only limited to hardware features. But with the rejection of our IAP for Core MIDI (which is not based on hardware at all) this has far fetching implications.
It means that iOS developers cannot - ever - charge via InApp Purchase for a feature that is based on a framework supplied by Apple’s iOS.
That means that a photo app cannot for example offer an additional video feature that uses the Core Video framework as a purchase in that application. An ebook reader app cannot charge for an audio book feature because it’s based on Core Audio via IAP.
Developers of these apps would have to release completely new apps with that feature and offer them separately if they want to make up for development costs - instead of improving their existing ones. Customers of the initial application would have to buy the new one instead of being able to decide if they need the feature or not and just buying it separately within the app.
I sincerely hope someone with a connection to the App Review team reads this and manages to persuade them to reconsider this part of the guidelines.
CEO Audanika GmbH
mail: sebastian dot dittmann [at] audanika dot com
by Sebastian Dittmann
After Apple’s rejection of our new feature that we wanted to sell via InApp Purchase something dawned on me:
We will never be able to sell our work on new features if they’re based on technology - software or hardware - that Apple has just released without creating a new application specifically for that reason. Neither will any other iOS developer without breaking Section 11.8 of the App Review Guidelines.
That’s a huge difference to creating and selling software outside of the iOS ecosystem. If you’re part of Apple’s ecosystem you can’t charge for updates. Neither through having users paying for them directly nor via creating a store inside of your application and charging for new features that make use of new features on iOS.
Implementing a new technology that was released by Apple (like CoreMIDI, GameCenter etc…) isn’t as easy as flicking a switch. To do it nicely multiple developers will usually have to work for at least a week or more (obviously depending on the technology).
Example: it took us a week or so to implement CoreMIDI into SoundPrism. It took us another month to reach the quality that we were ok with charging for it.
As a developer that’s pretty bad but it also isn’t great for users/customers.
It either forces smaller teams of developers to release new apps instead of making their existing ones better. Or it forces them to improve their applications but they have to do it without getting paid for it.
From Apple’s perspective this is awesome. They release a new feature which (usually) rocks and their developers can choose between:
- Creating a new application to make use of that feature and charge for it.
- Spending quite a lot of time (usually a week or more) to implement it in their existing apps and giving it away for free.
Now why would any developer choose option 2? That depends on what their competition is doing. If their competition is implementing that feature then they’re forced to do it as well. If their competition is not implementing that feature then it’s probably a good idea to be the first one who has it.
Option 1 isn’t optimal for developers as well because it means they cannot stick with few applications and make them better and better.
One could argue that quality prevails and that even free updates to an application result in higher sales - which is true - but releasing a new application or actually charging for a feature results in higher revenue. In fact, sometimes free updates don’t change revenue at all if they don’t drive enough attention to your application.
The implications of this are that whenever Apple releases a new technology developers will either:
- implement it for free. Result: Apple and users of older apps win because developers create better applications without users or Apple having to pay anything. Developers lose.
- create new applications containing the new features and abandoning older apps. Result: Apple wins. Developers and users of older apps lose because nobody wants to buy a new application if they got used to the old one. Also the App store gets ‘spammed’ with new apps which is great for Apple’s statistics but bad for users trying to discover good apps.
Either way Apple always wins:
- By having tens (hundreds?) of thousands of developers getting to work literally for free after releasing a new feature.
- And by indirectly forcing users to buy new apps - which will will be more expensive for them than if developers could have offered the feature as an upgrade.
Please excuse me now, we still have to submit two new applications today.
by Sebastian Dittmann
Not being told what’s going on is always a bad starting point. Knowing that you’re not being told what’s going on is even worse. Trying to find it out on your own is usually complicated, creates tension and most likely leaves a bad aftertaste.
That’s exactly what’s going on right now with some developers for iOS. I’m talking about Apple not telling them why their apps aren’t being reviewed for a long time. And if they’re reviewed the review seems to take a lot more time until approval.
This might not sound like a big deal but in fact it is. It has the potential to severely hamper the iOS ecosystem. And since the iOS ecosystem is pretty much the only economically relevant mobile ecosystem at the moment it’s a big deal for mobile.
So lets talk about details.
This is how things were: You would develop an application, submit it to Apple, wait for a week at most then your application would change status from ‘waiting for review’ to ‘in review’. Then you’d wait another day and your app would be approved and you could sell it. Hardly ever would it take more than a couple hours to have your app approved after being in review. Sometimes process from submission to approval would take only two days. Great stuff!
This is situation for some (not yet all) developers: Develop an application, submit it to Apple. Wait for a week to ten days (or more?) for the application to switch status from ‘waiting for review’ to ‘in review’. Then you wait a day. Then another. And another. Then you start writing emails to the App Review Team asking them what’s going on and if there’s some bug that they’ve found and if they can give you any insight into the progress of the review.
Apple will send you an automated(?) reply that they need more time. No details.
You wait for another day, and another… it’s a week now. You write another email to request an expedited review because your customers have now been waiting for more than 20 days since you’ve announced submission to Apple. They’re writing emails to you asking why Apple is taking so long. Videos from betatesters of your app are appearing on the web because they can’t wait anymore and want to show off their creations.
Apple answers to your second mail with another reply that lacks any substance or real information.
Then you’re making calls to friends, trying to find out what’s going on. Turns out the Apple Review team is busy with all the submissions from the Mac App Store since Mac OS software developers are now finding out that App Stores are pretty neat.
Can you imagine how many submissions of regular Mac OS Apps must be happening as I write this? I can’t. More than ten years of Mac OS X development all over the world and every single one of these developers all of a sudden sees a chance to make (more) money with their applications.
So we’ve got a bottleneck here: App Review. Since Apple wants a walled garden for their iOS and Mac App Store ecosystems they will have to stick with reviewing each and every single app.
Even if the review team could handle the flood of Mac and iOS submissions right now without huge delays (which they can’t) - there’s another problem looming and it’s name is ‘In App Sales’.
Show me the money!
As of this year revenue from sales within apps has surpassed regular sales of apps. That means more money is made from selling stuff within an application than by selling the app itself. That’s why some apps are completely free but charge for important features (Wordlens being an example for that).
We’re going to offer In App Sales in SoundPrism (our own app) as well and since we’ve added this feature I’ve noticed something interesting in our team.
Our developers were all of a sudden coming to me with ideas of how to monetize features. Really good ideas, simple, feasible, easy to implement. Before that we would have to create a new application for every feature, which is bad for our customers, tricky to handle, a nightmare to support.
But let me emphasize this again: the tech guys were thinking about how to monetize features. And they were having fun with that.
A flood of submissions
Usually thinking about that is the job of the business people. Many development teams on the App Store most likely don’t even have business people in their team.
But when techies start having fun with thinking about how to monetize their work that means there’s going to be a lot more submissions for small features.
So we’re looking at a future that looks like this: more apps with InApp Stores, a lot more submissions for these InApp Stores by more people developers because monetizing your ideas has never been easier.
Most of this has to be handled by one company - Apple - because they’ve got the only ecosystem for which developing apps makes sense financially. At least until Android revenue surpasses roughly 20% of iOS revenue (which we might see in 2011).
Apple really has to begin to talk with their developers - and the public - about their App Store and their internal review process to make life easier for teams like ours. Their current way of handling this leaves developers in the dark about what’s going on, how potential problems like the one described above will be tackled. Otherwise it’s incredibly hard to plan for releases, marketing measures, tests.
More and better communication by Apple is needed.