Harnessing app technology to enhance the learning process
and provide valuable market insights
Some in the music industry argue that the four hours a day the average consumer spends gazing at their smart phone is cutting into the time they could be spending with a guitar, and thus adversely affecting sales. The software engineers at Musopia have an entirely different take, viewing smartphones as a way to actually increase the number of guitar players. The Finland-based software developer has created a series of apps that turn any phone into a powerful teaching tool that company founder Topi Löppönen says will speed the learning process for beginners. A lot of aspiring guitarists apparently agree. To date, there have been over 1 million downloads of the Musopia apps, and they consistently receive four and five star ratings at the Apple App Store.
Musopia’s Apps are based on what Löppönen calls the “straight to playing” learning approach. Rather than emphasize scales and technique, they provide simple chord structures that enable beginners to play their favorite songs in a matter of minutes. He contends that the satisfaction that comes from mastering a song greatly reduces the frustrations that prompt 90% of beginners to abandon the guitar in a matter of weeks. Even a modest reduction in the quit rate holds the promise of significantly increasing the size of the guitar market.
Musopia’s educational technology is currently incorporated in a growing family of apps. The flagship FourChords, as the name implies, includes chords and lyrics for more than 1,700 songs from artists such as Adele, Bon Jovi, Coldplay, Eric Clapton, and Jack Johnson. The simple chord structures are augmented by backing tracks that can be tempo-adjusted, karaoke style lyrics so users can sing along, and tutorials that provide the fingering for each chord. The Ukeoke app provides a similar treatment for the ukulele. The JustinGuitar Beginner Song Course app provides a mobile-tailored version of the free guitar site developed by Justin Sandercoe that attracts approximately 25,000 unique visitors every day. Unlike many other apps, all the song content on Musopia apps is fully licensed.
Musopia’s apps are free and available today in the App Store and Google Play. Furthermore, the apps come with a free trial period of premium access to a complete hit song catalog. Musopia also has an active partnership with leading music industry brands to help them give their beginner customers a pathway to a lifelong hobby. In addition to helping players master their instruments, the branded apps provide manufacturers with a powerful marketing tool. Paula Lehto, Musopia’s chief marketing officer, explains, “Mobile needs to be part of every marketing mix, and with Musopia, you don’t need an 85-person digital department to enter the arena. For the same cost as a few ads in a guitar magazine, we provide a branded app that offers a value add to the customer and provides continuing impressions.” The branded apps also deliver unique real-time customer data, from demographic profiles to musical preferences. “It’s data you’re not going to find anywhere else and it will help you make better informed marketing and product development decisions,” she adds.
Kala Ukuleles is one of a number of companies that have teamed with Musopia to develop a proprietary Learn To Play app. The Kala app provides everything beginners need to get started, from instruction on tuning and strumming to a library of songs.
Musopia maintains a business development office in Southern California, but its home base in Finland is actually at the center of mobile app technology. Rovio, the developer of Angry Birds, and Supercell, developer of Clash of Clans are both based in Finland. With a cooperative business environment, Löppönen and his team have been able to develop cutting-edge technology to further their mission of inspiring beginning musicians and helping them get more enjoyment and satisfaction.
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