Paul McCartney re-releases five of his classic albums as iPad apps
Band on the Run, McCartney, McCartney II, RAM and Wings over America get reworked for the modern-day App Store
Wednesday 16 July 2014
Paul McCartney is the latest musician to experiment with the idea of albums as apps, following in the footsteps of Björk, Lady Gaga, Jay-Z and Snoop Lion.
Five of his classic albums – Band on the Run, McCartney, McCartney II, RAM and Wings over America – have been turned into iPad apps by label Concord Music Group, and released through Apple's App Store.
Each app includes remastered audio tracks, interviews, rare photos, album and single artwork, and videos including rehearsal footage and documentaries.
The new apps cost £5.49 each, which is less than the remastered albums cost from Apple's iTunes music store, where they sell for between £7.99 and £10.99.
McCartney is one of a growing number of musicians exploring apps as a new, interactive format for albums, with Björk's Biophilia app in 2011 the first high-profile example. It turned songs from the Biophilia album into mini-games, interactive art and music creation tools.
Originally released for Apple devices, the app was ported to Android in 2013, and recently became the first app to be inducted into the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Lady Gaga released a companion app for her ARTPOP album in November 2013, after promising "a musical and visual engineering system that combines music, art, fashion, and technology with a new, interactive, worldwide community".
What that meant in practice was a virtual turntable to play songs from the album – if fans had bought them from iTunes – and an ArtHaus feature to create and share animated GIFs of spinning pigs, slogans and other objects based on the album's lyrical themes.
Jay-Z, meanwhile, struck a deal with Samsung in 2013 to distribute up to a million free copies of his Magna Carta Holy Grail album through an Android app, although it was criticised for the level of personal data it drew from fans' smartphones.
Screenshots from Paul McCartney's new iPad apps.
Other artists to have released apps include Snoop Lion – a companion app for his Reincarnated album, and a separate Snoopify photo-sharing app selling virtual items including a $99.99 "Golden Jay" spliff – and Crosby, Stills & Nash, whose CSN app charged fans a monthly $3.99 subscription to get exclusive content.
The music industry's desire to make more of apps is understandable, given the growth of Apple's business in particular.
Industry analyst Mark Mulligan noted earlier this year that in 2003, music accounted for 100% of revenue on the company's iTunes store – unsurprising, since music was all it sold. But by the end of 2013, apps represented 62% of iTunes spending, with music less than a quarter.
While McCartney's former band The Beatles' back catalogue remains exclusive to iTunes, his solo and Wings albums are available on streaming music services like Spotify too.
The five new iPad apps represent a new way to make more digital money from those archives, although it remains to be seen whether fans who may have bought the albums several times already in different formats are tempted – even at the lower price.
Sir Paul McCartney's back catalogue is being reworked as iPad apps. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA