Real Men Launch Paid-Only Apps

The iPhone race was sewn up years ago by the likes of Pandora, Tapulous, and Shazam.

And tens of thousands of apps later, it’s incredibly difficult to gain meaningful mindshare.  But the iPad remains a virgin platform, at least for music, and a fantastic place for experiments on the paid side.

Look no further than SoundHound, which surprisingly popped up as the biggest paid iPad app in a recent Apple ranking.  Not for last week, but overall – ie, since the tablet first shipped last year.  And guess who’s topping the free iPad side?  That’s right: Pandora.

You can see where this is going.  Pandora has managed slim profitability, and that’s actually remarkable for a free app.  But some entrepreneurs are looking at this picture and skipping the free app entirely, simply because they feel it distorts the learning curve on monetization.  At the MidemNet Lab, coordinated by Music Ally, one of the winners was an Australian company called Jammbox, creator of the Discovr iPad app.  That app is suddenly ranked in the top 5 (paid) across 32 countries, thanks to an experience that seduces the music fan.

This is one of those ‘you gotta try this!’ apps, but you also gotta pay.  “It was important for us to test a price point,” Jammbox founder David McKinney explained to Digital Music News.  That is, in isolation, without a free version clouding the experiment.

This also puts more pressure on the development process, because people will only pay for something good.  But if you like music, you’ll love Discovr, and there’s absolutely no ramp-up required (besides buying an iPad).  It’s simple-stupid: basically, you start by entering a band you like, and Discovr instantly produces a map of related artists.  It sort of reminded me of chemistry class, and the circles actually behave like charged electrons (so perfectly geeky!)  It also plays to some unique aspects of the iPad, which include a lean-back experience that doesn’t really happen on the iPhone.

But is that worth $4?  David thinks the early results come from a meaningful sample size, though that’s up for debate – especially without hard numbers.  But if the experiment continues to work and scale, at least Jammbox is getting paid along the way.