Why we built our own music player app

Why not just publish all our music on Spotify and other streaming platforms?
I have no problem with artists who do that. An important factor for musicians is getting their music heard, and to do that, you need to have your music available in the places where people listen to music. The problem is that Spotify doesn’t really pay the bills. Artists get virtually no money from people listening to their music on Spotify (compared to e.g. when people used to buy a CD or even buy a download on iTunes). And while New Scottish Hymns is a music ministry, and my goal is not to get rich from it – if it generated enough income, I could invest more time and money into it, producing more music for encouraging Christians and building up the church.

I realised that most people tend to listen to music on their phone (mostly), and very few people listen to CDs, or buy MP3 files. But it occurred to me that there was no easy way to actually invest in the artists you wanted to support, by buying their music. I realised that the google Play store, or the app store..these are some of the biggest storefronts in the world – and yet there are so few ways to buy music there. You can pay for your streaming subscription, sure, but that money goes primarily to the platform, not the artist.

I’m also not a fan of Spotify when I have to find music – deciding on a playlist, or an artist, or album. It’s not a “frictionless” process because they have to create space for so many choices, including their custom playlists they’ve made for you, or the latest podcasts they want to promote to you. What I’m doing with the NSH app is offering our fans a simple way to quickly access a collection of music that will help them to worship God.

My idea is that this app is like a record, or a CD on your shelf – it’s not a record store where you have to decide what section to go to, then leaf through the catalogue to find what to listen to. It just sits there on your homescreen and you tap it whenever you want to listen to some worship music.

So don’t think of this as a competitor to your streaming apps. You can still listen to (well, some of!) our music in Spotify. Just think of it as the simplest and most direct way to listen to New Scottish Hymns, lyrics and album notes and all – and realise that whether you’re just buying one song, or unlocking all the albums, you’re investing in this music ministry directly, and for that I’m really grateful.

The app did cost me a lot of money to build, but it’s kind of an experiment. I just wanted to see whether people would use it…and whether it might be a model that we could pass on to other artists seeking to do the same thing. I’m indebted to my Canadian friend Jonathan Hall who has done all the heavy lifting with the app development. He’s really excellent at what he does.