Arts organisations making money with smartphone apps?

A couple of weeks back I wrote that arts organisations don’t seem to be as interested in apps as some people may suspect they are. Turns out that’s not entirely the case.

I recently came across an organisation that was being sold the idea of building a mobile app as a money-making wheeze. I wondered if that was as unlikely an idea as I suspected, so I turned to Twitter:

It got 14 retweets and apparently reached 42,260 people (yeah, right). No answers though, so I tried again later:

18 retweets this time and one possible answer – a response from Adrian Murphy pointed to the British Museum’s Treasure’s app which might fit the bill.

Plenty of organisations (and I’m thinking of the funded ones here) have made apps and charged money for them, so I thought there might be a few shining, profitable examples out there by now. It would appear not.

To be fair, there may be some out there – it’s not as if my research was particularly rigorous. A more likely scenario is that organisations haven’t tried to turn a profit with their apps. Given that the odds of producing a moneyspinner aren’t great that’s probably sensible. Rather, apps have been used to support the content of exhibitions or productions. What’s more, as I said in that other post, the cash for them has often been fronted by sponsors keen to capitalise on some good PR.

It’s clearly not impossible to make money in the app stores. Others in the wider arts, culture and heritage category have made things work for them – see Faber’s Wasteland iPad app for one – but these seem to be the exception.

The charity angle (that I mentioned in that first tweet) might well be another matter – it’s something I want to look into properly at some point.

Published by Chris Unitt

I work at One Further, doing digital projects with cultural organisations. Follow @ChrisUnitt or find me on LinkedIn.