Brad Serling’s private collection of Grateful Dead tapes evolved into a music enterprise of its own, nugs.net.
The complete operation of nugs.net covers downloads, CDs on demand, pay-per-view webcasts, and subscription services with exclusive live content streamed to millions of fans, daily.
According to one Pollstar interview with Brad, it started with the idea of offering a one-stop shop to service bands by bringing their music straight to their fans. The focus here, is on the nugs.net app developed by Reinvently.
The music world is changing radically for everyone – fans, bands, labels and service providers. nugs.net taps into a specialized niche avoiding any competition with the likes of Spotify or iTunes.
They do what a lot of fans are doing anyway, but exponentially better. That involves professional recordings of live shows from some of rock’s greatest legends. Some of their featured artists include Metallica, Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Phish, but they work with over a thousand others.
All of these recordings, tens of thousands of them, are available through their web stores and selection of them are streaming on demand via their mobile apps.
There’s a Business in That?
Oh yes, but it is nowhere as simple as it may sound, whether from an intellectual property, logistics or technology perspective. While most apps (like 90%) involve a free-to-play model, the nugs.net app works on the basis of an “All You Can Eat” subscription model plus options for premium purchases of FullHD pay-per-view live concert webcasts.
The app is free to download, but an active subscription is required for the user to listen to any performance. Running at $12.99 per month or $129.99 for a yearly subscription positions nugs.net as a premium service, not just a premium product. Users can also purchase individual shows and webcasts without needing a subscription.
Subscriptions are perhaps the gold-standard for monetization models, but they require finesse to not scare users away. It is important to point out that, industry-wide, app abandonment is heavily concentrated in the first 3-7 days after users download an app – as high as 80%. But, those who use an app for a week are likely to continue using it for much longer.
nugs.net employs an effective push-pull strategy to offset user pay-to-play abandonment. Users are able to browse through all of the performances to see what they might like. They can also sign up for a free 7-day subscription, before having to pay anything. This provides the best of both worlds, giving users a chance to try nugs.net to see if they like it.
But again, there’s the intellectual property and logistics behind all of this. Brad Serling is a music industry professional, suffice that he saw a niche no one else was covering. One factor that plays into his success is that he doesn’t have to try to compete with the likes of Amazon, Spotify, iTunes or Google.
What goes into the development of a Music Platform?
The audience comes first. As mentioned, nugs.net evolved from Brad Serling’s collection of Grateful Dead tapes. Where most bands got famous by going through a record label, the Grateful Dead did it by going straight to their fans. Fans would often travel across several states to see them. True Dead Heads attended literally hundreds of Grateful Dead shows, recorded them, shared their recordings… and other assorted paraphernalia (the Stash).
Bringing that kind of sharing and community spirit to life would need to take center stage in nugs.net’s app. Reinvently was commissioned for both the iOS and Android versions of their app. In addition to strong community sharing features, it also meant covering all User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) elements and technical media components.
For one, the entire system required scalability to handle continuous and accelerated growth. This translates to being able to handle tens of thousands of artists, potentially hundreds of thousands of songs. Moreover, many songs would have multiple versions, drawn from concerts spanning years, if not decades. Plus, its functions and aesthetics would need to hold true across their website and the much smaller screens on mobile devices.
Development of the nugs.net app followed suit, adding numerous components to include:
• a component to easily switch from live-streaming to a traditional playlist, and to different tracks within a playlist.
• means for handling gapless playback (avoiding interruptions between digital tracks).
• download progress indicator for users who want to listen to a performance later when offline.
• an intuitive payment system capable of handling subscriptions.
• social media integration to make it easy for both the artists and the fans to share music with their friends.
• a module for users to post their own reviews of songs and performances.
• Sonos integration
The Big Picture – How Music is Changing
The music world is changing in ways we could only dream about a few years ago. Take, for example, the ability to share music. One feature of the nugs.net app’s social media component considers friends may not have nugs.net installed. What’s the point of sharing then? Well, the link they receive automatically detects their device and takes friends to the App Store or Google Play when clicked. Friends can then take part in the free 7-day trial subscription, too.
While the app is one component of nugs.net’s overall business, it is also an important revenue stream for bands, too. It’s like the icing on the cake for what bands do anyway – concert performances. As referenced in the previous link to Brad’s interview, some bands are bringing in seven-figure revenues from their live recordings. Until nugs.net, that was a completely untapped source unless the band hired their own professional recording agency.
Another great advantage of digital music platforms is that once music is in a digital format, it can be easily converted and played across an ever-expanding field of IoT devices like Sonos, Echo and Dot. These are systems that fans can link to their mobile device to play on higher quality sound systems, around the house, and even by voice activation. “Alexa, play ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ by Metallica…”
There’s more, a lot more coming to the music world. For more about monetizing digital music, check out What You Need to Know about Music Platforms on the Reinvently Blog.
Thinking about developing a music app? Let’s make it a success story!