Magnatune, a small and eclectic online record label, just released its first iPhone app. As far as we know, this is the first time that a record label has released an iPhone app that allows its users to play every song of every artist on its label for free and as often as they want. The only restriction on the app is that every song is followed by a short announcement with the name of the artist and title of the song.
Magnatune has always done things differently. It was one of the first online music services to allow its customers to choose how much they wanted to pay for an album. From its inception, the service never featured DRM'ed music and always offered its albums in alternative formats like WAV, OGG, FLAC and AAC. On its website, Magnatune offers a commercial-free streaming plan starting at $5/month (users can choose to pay more) and a download membership that starts at $10 a month.
Sadly, the first version of the iPhone app doesn't support these membership options, but according to Magnatune's announcement, the next version will allow paying members to stream announcement-free music.
The app itself is pretty straightforward. You can browse Magnatune's catalog by artist, album and genre. One neat feature of the app is that it remembers where you left off when you turn the app off - or when you get a call - and prompts you to return to that song when you start the app again.
The Magnatune store allows users to buy songs right from their phones. Most of Magnatune's artists are featured in the iTunes store, and the app simply takes users to the iTunes app to buy the song. This, though, also means that potential buyers can't choose how much they want to pay for an album.
Record Labels on the iPhone
We have talked a lot about how bands and artists have started to look at iPhone apps as replacements of traditional albums. Hopefully, more music labels will now also follow Magnatune's lead and release their own apps. With built-in purchasing and music discovery, this is a logical extension of the app-as-album trend - but then, the major music labels aren't exactly known for being logical.