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Lady Gaga's ARTPOP: can it revive the album-as-app concept?


Lady Gaga has announced the official pre-order and release dates for ARTPOP, her new album, and also the app through which it will be delivered to smartphones and tablets.

Both album and app will be pre-orderable from 1 September, according to a post on Gaga's Facebook page, before their official release date of 11 November.

"Built by TechHAUS, the technological branch of HAUS OF GAGA, the app itself is a musical and visual engineering system that combines art, fashion, and technology with a new interactive worldwide community – 'the auras'," explains the post, which doesn't skimp on grand claims (or capital letters).

"Altering the human experience with social media, we bring ARTculture into POP in a reverse Warholian expedition.

Exploring Gaga's existence as a cultural interface, the user will share in the 'adrenaline of fame; as they build and share their own projects, chat with one another, and watch in real-time on a virtual globe as ARTPOP explodes onto the physical and virtual universe at once on November 11, our 'BIG BANG!' On this day, HAUS OF GAGA venges with forte to bring the music industry into a new age: an age where art drives pop, and the artist once again is in control of the 'icon'."

The album launch will be preceded by "an evening of artRave" including collaborations with photographers Inez & Vinoodh, theatre director Robert Wilson, and artists Marina Abramović and Jeff Koons.

It's the app that promises to be most intriguing, though. It's the most high-profile album-as-app since Bjork's Biophilia in 2011, which was initially released for iPad as a collection of interactive sections: one per song.

Gaga actually announced plans for the ARTPOP app in September 2012 on her Little Monsters website, promising fans that "the most major way to fully immerse yourself in ARTPOP is through the APP". It sounds like the creative vision for the app has remained roughly the same since then:

"ARTPOP will be released as an IPAD, iPhone, mobile and computer compatible application (WORLD) that is completely interactive with chats, films for every song, extra music, content, gaga inspired games, fashion updates, magazines, and more still in the works! I will also be able to upload new things to the APP all the time, the same way i upload to twitter and LM.com."

Most major music artists have an app of some kind nowadays, although in most cases a relatively simple one that pulls in social media updates and YouTube videos while pointing fans out to buy music, tickets and merchandise.

Others have taken a different approach. Snoop Dogg was making $30k a week from sales of digital stickers in his Snoopify photo-sharing app in June this year, while Trey Songz was reportedly making $54k a month from sales of virtual items within his Angel Network fanclub app earlier in the year.

Biophilia remains the most creatively-ambitious artist app, but also a bigger financial risk – it was rumoured to have cost more than $500k to develop, but sales figures have never been released for the iOS version. A Kickstarter campaign to raise £375k to port the app to Android and Windows 8 was cancelled 10 days in after failing to pick up steam.

Lady Gaga looks to be pulling out all the stops for the ARTPOP app in order to make it the most successful artist app yet, and prove there's a business model for apps as a format for music distribution. But also to continue making the case for the album itself as a music format.

"An app can demand all of your senses and attention at once. That's something exciting for musicians," said Scott Snibbe, who worked with Bjork on Biophilia, talking in October 2011.

"A lot of them lament the demise of the album experience due to digital distribution. But one thing about the app-album is it reclaims people's attention for an entire album."

Lady Gaga will certainly have people's attention on 11 November. It remains to be seen if ARTPOP can kick off a new wave of album-as-app projects from her peers.


In relation to the APP, Billboard director Bill Werde confirms that the app sales might count as album sales for Artpop.

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