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Rapper Dizzee Rascal engages directly with fans using iPhone app

British rapper Dizzee Rascal is interacting directly with fans and sharing photos, videos and songs using a social media application for the iPhone.

The application was created using the Mobile Backstage platform targeted at musical artists. Developers claim that the Mobile Backstage platform enjoys an interaction rate of 1:46 ? meaning that for every 46 activities performed by users, the artist interacts once, on average ? compared to rates of 1:780 and 1:20,874 on Facebook and MySpace, respectively.

?Mobile Backstage can be used as a discovery and referral tool to help promote and sell music and, in the near future, concert tickets and merchandise,? said Chris McLellan, partner at The Music Void, London.  ?These commercial features will be designed with ease of use as a paramount feature.

?Instead of simply adding links to third-party websites or apps, we?ll ensure everything can be done in- app itself without all the hassle of extra logins, etcetera, which of course music fans, and everyone else, simply won?t tolerate,? he said.

Helsinki, Finland-based Steam Republic developed the Mobile Backstage platform.

The Music Void runs an entertainment consultancy business and helped Steam Republic with the business development and launch strategy of Mobile Backstage.

Other mobile initiatives Steam Republic has worked on include Java-based applications for clients such as Nokia.

Additionally, the company began developing applications for the iPhone and iPad about a year and a half ago.

Mobile Backstage applications are available for free in the Apple App Store.

Steam Republic will be releasing versions for BlackBerry and Android platforms later this year.

Dizzee Rascal?s Mobile Backstage
When music fans first launch Dizzee Rascal?s Mobile Backstage application, they are prompted to create an account by entering a user name and password.

After logging in, users are taking to Dizzee Rascal?s ?Band HQ? that includes text updates, photos and videos from the artist, arranged in chronological order.

Here is a screen grab of the artist's Band HQ:

Tour dates can be found from an ?Events? tab at the top of the application.

Users can comment on each item to interact directly with the rapper, rate posts and scroll through the different updates by sliding their fingers horizontally across their iPhones.

Here is a screen grab of user comments:

Each Mobile Backstage member, including Dizzee Rascal, has a profile page where other users can add comments and track activities within the application.

A section called ?The Wall? lets members post their own media content, including text updates and photos.

The application also integrates social media functionality.

For example, members can create status updates in Mobile Backstage and post that information automatically to their Facebook accounts.

In addition, fans can use the iPhone?s location-based technology to check in to events from the application.

Finally, Mobile Backstage can be used to offer fans song downloads.

While none of the recording artists currently using the platform are charging for downloads, the Music Void says that it expects about half of participants to charge a small download fee for songs by 2012.

Dizzee Rascal?s Mobile Backstage links users to iTunes, where they can find all of his available recordings available to purchase.

Platform fosters deep fan egagement
Steam Repbulic?s goal with the Mobile Backstage platform is to allow musical artists and their fans to interact on a more personal level.

?As physical sales of music are in constant decline, musical artists and labels are relying increasingly on the power of their brand to generate income from other areas,? Mr. McLellan said. ?As digital search and sharing has created a more fragmented music scene than ever, the key to successful music marketing lies in their ability to create tight-knit relationships with these core audiences.?

Other performers who have signed on to use the platform include The Temper Trap, You Me at Six and Enter Shikari.

The platform is fully customizable, so each artist can tailor the experience based on their objectives.

Steam Republic charges artists $1,000 to set up the individually branded Mobile Backstage applications, plus a monthly hosting fee that costs about $60 per month.

The developer is considering adding in-application advertising to generate additional revenue, although that plan is still under review.

?Our application sits at the cross-roads of the music, celebrity and mobile, and so our launch strategy has needed to seek out and address these audiences where they are most active,? Mr. McLellan said. ?Entertainment professionals, including music industry types, are increasingly online and so we are making great use of social media and even elements of SEO such as link building and content marketing to build awareness.

?The fact that many musicians are celebrities in their own right doesn?t hurt our cause either, and having artists like Dizzee Rascal signed up to Mobile Backstage has been a real bonus in terms of grabbing attention,? he said.

Final Take
Peter Finocchiaro, editorial assistant at Mobile Marketer, New York