Music apps are a huge category of apps, and 2009 was a huge year for music apps. Music Ally sums up the year's biggest music apps for us here.
2009 was the year of the App Store, as Apple passed the two-billion downloads milestone for its store. The year also saw labels and artists jumping onto the bandwagon with their own branded iPhone apps.
The most successful, like Smule's I Am T-Pain (pictured right) sold tens of thousands of copies a day. It's only fair to point out that the vast majority sank down the app charts fairly quickly though – proving that iPhone apps provide a return on investment for the music industry wasn't a huge priority this year.
Even so, there was plenty of creativity being put to work. To highlight it, we've chosen a selection of 40 branded music apps that we thought were innovative this year – which were all covered in the Music Ally Daily Bulletin.
They're all based on artists, labels and other music brands – the list doesn't include apps for music services like Spotify or Pandora, nor does it include pure music games like Rock Band or Tap Tap Revenge (although one of the latter's artist-branded spin-offs is included).
Read on for a snapshot of what was released this year, and let us know your thoughts on the best and worst of what the App Store had to offer. Oh, and yes, we've put them in a rough order reflecting how much we liked them, starting with the best.
1. I Am T-Pain might be an obvious choice for top spot, but it combined technical innovation with stellar sales. Eschewing pure promotion, it let fans sing along with a selection of T-Pain songs while having their vocals Auto-Tuned on the fly. It also had good sharing features, used in-app payments to buy and download new tracks for use in the game, and recently added the ability to sing over any song in your iPhone music library. App Store
2. Little Boots Reactive Remixer was a branded version of existing iPhone app RjDj. Yes, it involved remixing three of Boots' tracks, but in two cases that was done based on the user's movement and external sounds – a properly interactive ambient experience. Or something. App Store
3. Hi, How Are You was a beautiful iPhone game based on the artwork of singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston. Described by the New York Times as "a kind of psycho-religious version of Frogger", it was a great game backed up with Daniel's visuals and music. App Store
4. Sonifi was one of the most fully featured ‘remix an artist' apps, being designed by and for trance artist BT. It let fans mess with the beats, bass, melodies and harmonies of his latest tracks. The killer feature, though, was a two-player ‘Jam Link' mode to collaborate over Bluetooth. App Store
5. Live Metallica (pictured) was an official app from the metal band that constantly offered a free stream of their latest gig, while also letting fans buy (no, NOT from iTunes) previous sets. Photos and notes from each show made it a must-have for fans.
6. iDrum Underworld Edition was another of the best examples of the popular ‘remix your favourite artist' app genre this year. It offered 13 tracks to mess around with in an intuitive square-tapping interface, with artwork from the band's design chums at Tomato. App Store
7. Johnny Cash: I See A Darkness was a graphic novel based on The Man In Black's life. It didn't include his songs, but had a clever ‘search and insert' feature to find his tracks on a user's iPhone to play at the relevant points of the story. App Store
8. nin: access was the official iPhone app for Nine Inch Nails – one of the more tech-savvy artists in the industry right now. It gives fans access to the community and multimedia sections of the band's website, as well as letting them chat and upload photos from their iPhone. App Store
9. The Presidents of the United States of America was an app by the band of the same name, offering four albums from their back catalogue as streams, as well as lost recordings, live tracks and other extras. App Store
10. Baby By Me Sound Lab was a remixing app created for 50 Cent by Romplr. It involved mixing and matching stems from his Baby By Me single, then posting the resulting remix to Facebook. It tied in with a contest, and sparked 250,000 downloads in a matter of weeks. App Store
11. Lady Gaga iOKi (pictured) was a karaoke app based on La Gaga, with instrumental and vocal remixes from four of her hits enabling people to sing along with her, then go it alone. In-app payments allowed new songs to be purchased and downloaded too, from Gaga and other artists. App Store
12. Deadmau5 Mix was one of the first ‘remix an artist' apps for iPhone, from an artist who would release several more apps later in the year. It let fans remix ten tracks by applying delays, effects, rewinds and cuts, complete with a virtual scratch pad. App Store
13. Metallica Revenge was one of Tapulous' artist-focused spin-offs from its Tap Tap Revenge games – although in fairness we could have picked its titles for Coldplay, Lady Gaga or the Dave Matthews Band in this slot. What these games nailed was the combination of gameplay and experiencing the actual music. App Store
14. Kelly Clarkson Open Mic was a singing game based on the American Idol winner, which scored fans on their ability to sing five of her tracks. It tied into a competition that put winners on-stage singing with Kelly herself during her tour soundchecks. App Store
15. Haus of Gaga was one of the first fruits of Universal Music Group's deal with Kyte, turning its artists' video blogs into iPhone apps. It offered new and archive episodes of the Transmission Gagavision vlog, as well as news, tourdates and live chat. App Store
16. Robbie Williams Racing was, would you believe it, a racing game based on Robbie Williams. No pure cash-in, though – besides his tracks featuring in the game, Robbie himself provided the commentary, with unlockable videos and photos for skilled players. App Store
17. Delicious Vinyl DJ was a music game based on the famous hip-hop label, getting players to match notes to the sounds of Young MC, Tone Loc, The Pharcyde and Masta Ace. A nifty way of getting value out of some venerable hits. App Store
18. Get Physical Mix was a compilation app based on the back catalogue of the Get Physical dance label, which allowed fans to DJ and mix the songs themselves, complete with a virtual scratch pad. App Store
19. Grateful Dead (pictured) was an interactive mosaic e-book – an iPhone version of one of those big pictures which lets you zoom in to see lots of little pictures. Those little pictures being 450 photos of the legendary jam-band, with fans able to comment on each, or share with friends. App Store
20. Gedda-Headz was a mini-game collection for iPhone that offered multiplayer and community features, while tying in with collectible real-world toys. We still haven't heard any music from the band it's supposedly based on, but it was nevertheless a neat idea. App Store
21. HWD was an app created for UK artist Heads We Dance, which allowed fans to stream the band's new album Love Technology two weeks before its official release, with news, photos and community features thrown in. App Store
22. It's Britney was Britney Spears' entry into the App Store, offering the usual news, Twitter feed, photo galleries and even a virtual lighter. There was also a UGC feature to paste your head onto the body of one of Britney's dancers, and most importantly, if you shake your iPhone, the app shouts "It's Britney Bitch!". App Store
23. Mariah Carey-oke was the best-named artist app of 2009, hands-down. The pun partly made up for the fact that her current label UMG doesn't have the rights to her classic hits – so four new tracks were included to dog-whistle along to. App Store
24. Twentyten was an iPhone ‘calendar' app revolving around the key 2010 dates of Belle & Sebastian, with a built-in news feed and bonus digital content. An elegant spin on the promo iPhone app idea. App Store
25. Snoop Dogg's iFizzle (pictured) was a fairly simple app, but with plenty of charm. It was a collection of audioclips of Snoop's "most popular and iconic" phrases and quotes. Yep, including "Fo Shizzle My Nizzle". App Store
26. Phanatic was an app built for hardcore fans of jam-band Phish, offering a comprehensive database of setlists from the band's history. That included links to YouTube videos of performances, and the ability to generate stats in mid-show – e.g. ‘when was the last time they played this?'. App Store
27. Ziggy Marley's Music Mixer was another remixing app, but with the neat twist of a slot-machine interface – users could shake their iPhone to randomly mix up Ziggy's songs. Or they could put the time in to mess about with the tracks themselves, of course. App Store
28. Remix David Bowie – Space Oddity was… well, the title gives it away. It let iPhone users mess around with Bowie's classic hit by tweaking individual tracks, then save the mix as a ringtone. App Store
29. Riff King was a branded app for UK metallers Saxon, with streaming samples of the band's latest album and their new video. However, it also tied in with their YouTube UGC contest – also called Riff King – letting users of the app watch the latest entries. App Store
30. Usher's Top 100 didn't actually focus on R&B star Usher's music – instead, it saw him turn curator, picking 100 of his favourite tracks which users could stream through the same tech used for the PUSA application. App Store
31. The Heavy was the official app from Ninja Tune artist The Heavy, and it offered their entire back catalogue on a streaming basis, plus three videos, news and tourdates, and live footage. But it's the streaming element that intrigued us most. App Store
32. Coldplay Strawberry Swing (pictured) was an app created for Coldplay by online TV firm Babelgum. It showcased the video for the band's Strawberry Swing single as well as their previous videos, bundling in a game for good measure.
33. Deadmau5 Live was yet another iPhone app based on the innovative dance artist. It let fans vote on what songs he should play as his encore at his London Roundhouse gig in October, before serving up a 20-minute live recording once the show was done. (Not still available)
34. New Boyz – iJerkin' was a music game created for WMG act The New Boyz, based on their apparently-popular You're A Jerk dance moves. We stress ‘apparently'. Players could tap, slide and shake to make the band pop their moves, and then buy more tracks. App Store
35. What The Funkytown! was unusual, in that it was based on a song rather than an artist or label. It was a virtual scratching app to monkey about with Funkytown, speeding it up and slowing it down, or even playing it in reverse. App Store
36. Snow Patrol: Snowflake was the band's second iPhone app, providing a news feed, forum and the ability to upload photos at gigs to the band's website. The snowflake theme was carried through to a section where fans could create their own unique flakes. App Store
37. Kiss Virtual Concert Lighter (pictured) was, well, a virtual concert lighter. With 24 branded virtual lighter cases to choose from, a scrolling text marquee, and a "realistic flame". Novelty personalisation, yes, but fun with it. App Store
38. Delphic was a soundtoy app released to promote the band of the same name's new single. A simple drum loop was complemented by the fan tapping on-screen pads to trigger samples. App Store
39. Kiss Me Thru The Phone was an app based around the Soulja Boy song of the same name. It was a photo customisation tool to help fans ‘add swag' to their pics, or plant virtual kisses on friends and family before sharing the results. App Store
40. Pepsi Rock Band was an app created to promote the Rock Band console games. It let people put their own faces on the shoulders of characters from the games, then share them via email, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter. It also provided buy links for songs from Pepsi's ad campaign. (not still available)
The leading digital music business information and strategy company, Music Ally, has been providing publications, consulting, and research to the music and technology industries since 2001.