Like all independent artists, rock musician K Ishibashi--who goes by the name Kishi Bashi as a solo performer--was eager to boost his profile. At the end of last year, he agreed to be featured on Band of the Day, a new music-discovery app that each day showcases one act, with full-length song streams, photos, original interviews and biographies, all on a slick calendar interface. For two weeks after Kishi Bashi was featured in December, there was a spike in new fans on his Facebook page and Twitter feed.
"It was a strong promotion that definitely helped grow awareness for my music," Ishibashi says, noting that a producer reached out to him because of it. Since then, he has secured the money he needed to release an album and has landed a gig touring with popular music acts Of Montreal and The Barr Brothers. "If you gain a handful of fans from Band of the Day and then another handful of fans from blog postings, before you know it, you have a legitimate following on the internet," he says.
Four months after its September 2011 release, Band of the Day surpassed 500,000 downloads. It was the runner-up for Apple's App of the Year in 2011 (behind Instagram).
Kiran Bellubbi, co-founder and CEO of 955 Dreams, the Mountain View, Calif., company behind Band of the Day, is a mobile-computing guru who helped develop the very first handheld computer in India and early apps for the Palm. He founded 955 Dreams in 2010 to tackle the look and performance of the entire mobile experience.
"Band of the Day is the world's first daily music magazine native to iOS," he says, meaning the app was built from the ground up to be feature-rich and aesthetically pleasing on a mobile display. At less than 20 MB, it downloads easily over a 3G network. (Mobile versions of print magazines can be upward of 200 MB.)
The iPad version of the app came out in January, along with news of a $3.25 million round of seed funding and partnerships with more than 50 music labels. Coming this summer are features that integrate the app with TV and a new revenue model that reimagines the design and user engagement of the mobile-ad experience in a way that "doesn't suck," Bellubbi says.
What's not on the agenda? Licensing 955's technology or doing contract work for other app developers. Bellubbi is adamant about focusing on his pure vision for mobile.
"Very few people have thought methodically about how typography, images, video and sound can be different on mobile devices," he says. "I've seen firsthand how mobile devices can change the world … and we are on the cusp of something huge."