How to Undertake Music App Development?

Develop a music app

In this guide for helping you develop a music app like Spotify, I will first describe tools like ’software development kit‘ (SDK). Subsequently, I will explain the mobile app backend management options. It‘s a development project, hence, I will describe the development project execution approach after that. There are a few SDK options that allow you to undertake a Spotify-like app development.

SDK option #1: How to develop a music app using the Spotify SDK

The company behind the famous music app also provides SDKs. You can find them in the Spotify developer portal. Note that their Android SDK is currently a beta version, hence, expect changes frequently.

Their iOS SDK enables your music app to authenticate users and interact with them. The connection with the main Spotify application in the background is established by the SDK. Complex operations of a music app can all be offloaded to the background Spotify application. These are playback, authentication, network, and offline caching. It‘s a lightweight SDK.

This SDK requires iOS 9 or higher. Access their iOS SDK quick start documentation here. You can find their iOS SDK API reference documentation in their iOS SDK GitHub repository.

The Android SDK also is a lightweight one, besides, it offloads complex operations like authentication and offline caching to the background Spotify application. The SDK is less than 300 kb. It keeps the playback in sync with the main Spotify app. It works offline and online. The SDK needs a minimum Android version 14.

Check their Android SDK quick start guide here. API references for the Android SDKs can be found here, and here. Check the Spotify branding guidelines here.

SDK option #2: How to develop a music streaming app using the Napster SDK

Napster, which was Rhapsody earlier, shouldn‘t be confused with the earlier company that ran into legal troubles. They offer SDKs and APIs for building music apps. You can access their SDKs in the Napster developer portal. With their SDKs and APIs, you can build an app that can play over 40 million songs, besides, the company takes care of the licensing aspect. Your users can access data like artists, albums, etc., additionally, they can view favorites and top charts.

You can access their Android SDKs. Their iOS SDKs can be accessed. They have extensive documentation for their APIs which you can access here. The company also has good example projects that you and your team can view. This covers common music app functions, e.g., playing top tracks, playing top playlists, log in with OAuth, etc. You can access this documentation here. To know how to integrate playback into your app using their SDKs, visit this GitHub repository.

SDK option #3: Apple MusicKit

Offered by Apple, this is an option for iOS only. Apple’s MusicKit will allow you to play ’Apple Music’ and your local music library natively from your app. If users have an account with ’Apple Music’, then they can create playlists. Refer to Apple’s developer portal MusicKit section for details.

First, your team needs to set up the Apple developer account. Subsequently, they need to get the MusicKit identifiers, keys, tokens, etc. Check here for detailed instructions. The app can let users authorize ’Apple Music‘ with StoreKit. The instructions for that are found here.

Using the ’Apple Music APIs‘, the app can search for songs, playlists, artists, etc. There is extensive documentation available for these APIs. You can access them here. This allows playing songs from ’Apple Music‘ and accessing users‘ music libraries with permission. Read more about using the Apple media player in the app here. Apple has its branding guidelines, and you can access them here.

Option #4: How to make an app like Spotify using the SoundCloud APIs

SoundCloud doesn‘t offer Android or iOS SDKs. They provide JavaScript, Ruby, and Python SDKs. Hence, in this option, your development team has more work since they must work with APIs directly. You can access their APIs from their developer portal. If you want to use the JavaScript SDK, it can be accessed here.

They have comprehensive API documentation. It covers the entire gamut of functions, e.g., authentication, uploading sounds, playing sounds, search, etc. Check their API documentation here. There are also APIs to control the embedded player, and you can access the documentation for that here.  SoundCloud has branding guidelines. Read their detailed guidelines about it here.

Managing the mobile backend of your music app

I recommend that you use a ’Mobile Backend as a Service’ (MBaaS) for your music app. This project is an involved development project. Even with SDKs and APIs, you will need to spend considerable time on coding. Using an MBaaS spares you the backend development and management effort, hence, you can get a quicker ’Time to market‘.

There are several MBaaS providers, e.g., Google Firebase, AWS Mobile, and Kinvey. This is not an exhaustive list. Check our comparison “How to choose the best mobile backend as a service (MBaaS)?” for more examples.

Note that you need to follow the appropriate guidelines for publishing the app in the ’Google Play‘, and ’Apple App Store‘. Check the respective guidelines here, and here.

Managing your music app development project

In this guide of how to develop a music app, I need to now explain how you can manage this development project. This is largely a custom development project, although some of the options include SDKs. To effectively execute this project for your startup business, you need to first onboard a capable team.

Onboard your project team

You need the following skills in your team:

  • Business analysts;
  • UX/UI designers;
  • iOS developers;
  • Android developers;
  • Testers;
  • 1 PM.

The number of developers and testers will depend on your requirements and delivery schedule. Your designers should be well-versed with mobile menu navigation patterns. You can consult our guide “Mobile navigation menu examples” because UI design is critical for your app.

The PM should be well-versed with modern project management methodologies. Check our guide “Top 7 project management methodologies” for more details.

Project execution approach

Core applications in a business, like accounting or CRM, typically don‘t require frequent large changes. They process the core business data, and they are called ’Systems of Record‘ (SoRs). Since they don‘t go through frequent overhauling, the traditional waterfall methodology is fine for them.

However, mobile apps and websites are part of the front-end of the business. They are used for engaging customers, hence, they are called ’Systems of Engagement‘ (SoEs). Such apps undergo frequent large changes. An iterative approach like the ’Agile‘ methodology is more appropriate for these hence, I recommend using it for this project. Read more about it in our guide “How to build an Agile development team?”.

SoEs require quick feedback from the market. You need to quickly get a ’Minimum Viable Product‘ up and running. The real market feedback will then let you gauge what features and enhancements you need. The ’Scrum‘ technique of ’Agile‘ methodology is appropriate for this besides, it is also a well-tested technique. I recommend you use it in this project. Read more about it in “How to build a Scrum development team?”. The PM works as a ’Scrum Master‘, whereas the team is a small one, with developers, and testers working in a closely-knit environment.

Your first step is to build a ’Product backlog’, which lists the features you need in the app. Then you prioritize features along with project stakeholders, however, you need an estimate from the ’Scrum’ team. This way you can plan a ’Sprint’, which is one iteration. It typically lasts no more than 4 weeks and must include demonstrable features.

Once you have planned the ’Sprint’, the work proceeds. The ’Scrum master’ conducts ’Daily stand-up meetings’ to get project status. These meetings also highlight show-stopper issues that the team must resolve. Once the work of a ’Sprint’ completes, it’s time for the ’Sprint review meeting’. Here the team demonstrates the features. Once the project stakeholders approve the features, the ’Sprint’ is over. However, the team must conduct a ’lessons-learned exercise, which is called the ’Sprint retrospective meeting’ in the ’Scrum’ context.

Consider using appropriate tools for managing the project. Trello and Asana are good collaboration tools that can help. Check our guide “The 10 best Agile project management tools”. Also, consider using test automation tools like Selenium or Jenkins.

Important factors to consider when developing own music app

The market for music apps is competitive, and success in this market requires differentiators. You need to develop the right solution and plan the project effectively. Consider the following key factors:

1. Plan the MVP for the proposed music streaming service

You have decided on the functionality to offer, and you have zeroed in on the features. Will your ideas for your own music app succeed in the market? You can find that out only by getting market feedback.

We recommend you launch an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) with a few features to start with. It should be a fully functional product, even if you offer only a few features. This helps you to get market feedback. You can then enhance the app or modify your plans.

Which features should you offer in your MVP? Would you only offer the core features needed in a music streaming application? Examples of these could be the music player, downloading, audio streaming, searching for favorite tracks, etc.

Alternatively, will you offer other features like social media integration, searching for radio stations, podcasts, etc.? Would you offer only a monthly subscription option to start with? Will the MVP allow the subscribers to create a free account? Would you offer other monetization options in it?

You need to study your target audience well to prioritize the features. As we have explained in our MVP guide, you can use various tools for this. “Pain-and-gain map” and “prioritization matrix” are examples of these tools.

You can offer the high-priority features in MVP. On the other hand, you can offer features like social network integration later.

2. Choose between cross-platform development vs native development for Android, iPhone, iPad, etc.

Decide the kind of app you will create. Do you want to create native iOS or Android apps? Native mobile development involves programming languages that work very well with the operating system (OS). E.g., Java and Kotlin work well with the Android OS. On the other hand, Swift and Objective-C work well with iOS.

Native mobile apps can utilize the hardware and other features of a mobile device very well. Therefore, they deliver great user experience, performance, and security. However, you need to create different apps for platforms like Android and iOS. That increases your development and maintenance costs.

Hybrid development involves JavaScript-based mobile frameworks like Cordova and Ionic. These apps can run on both Android and iOS with the same codebase. They can’t match the user experience, performance, and security of the native apps, however, hybrid apps are cheaper.

You can also use React Native, a modern mobile development framework. This uses JavaScript too. React Native delivers a near-native experience. Choose between native and hybrid development before choosing your tech stack.

Are you planning to offer personalized recommendations to users? You need to develop ML (Machine Learning) algorithms, and you need Python developers

3. Evaluate and choose tools for specific use cases, e.g., GarageBand for creating a music maker app

You might have plans to offer attractive features like making music. Accordingly, you need to evaluate various development tools and choose the appropriate option.

E.g., you can use GarageBand for Apple’s platforms like Mac and iOS, which is a well-known DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Note that GarageBand isn’t available on Windows. You can use an alternative like Cakewalk, a DAW from Bandlab.

How much does it cost to develop a music app?

All ’MBaaS‘ providers display their prices on their websites. You can easily compare them and make the appropriate procurement decision for your company. However, the number of developers and testers depends on your apps‘ requirements. Your local labor market will influence your total manpower cost. Note that if you use the SoundCloud APIs, you will need to budget for more developer hours, since they don‘t offer Android or iOS SDKs.

Some of the skills may be niches in your local labor market. This means you need more time to hire developers. This can be a critical factor in your project planning. If you face challenges in onboarding a team, or you can’t spare a PM to manage this project end-to-end, consider getting professional help. Use our guide “How to find the best software development company?

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best music applications?

Spotify, Tidal, and SoundCloud are good examples of music applications.

Do music applications make money?

The largest music applications make millions of dollars per year. Spotify, for example, signed podcaster Joe Rogan for $100,000.

Where to find expert software developers?

DevTeam.Space is a community of field expert software developers. All its developers are vetted for excellence and are performance monitored.


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