Dave Grohl - Software Visionary


Dave Grohl may have inadvertently discovered the formula for mobile app sales.  Yes, the lead singer to the Foo Fighters.  Watch this video to see what I’m talking about. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oojzmjJ3ugE

Okay, so the video is about music.  Sure.  And the interview starts off with “most white people dance to the lyrics”.   He then takes that and breaks it down to catchy bumper-sticker sized bites if words. “Life’s a bitch and keep on truckin’”

His hypothetical song may not win a Grammy but he hit the nail on the head.  The song is catchy, you can sign along easily, it has a single message, and it gets stuck in your head.  He has managed to identify what people like (the lyrics) distill it down to a key feature (the chorus) and build a supporting song around it.  He is not re-inventing some deep Bob Dylan song – he is writing something simple for the masses that people would buy.

Now, let’s look at the top iPhone app sales:

  • Where’s my water
  • Fruit Ninja
  • Angry Birds
  • Cut the Rope

*I excluded GTA 3 because of a temporary sale

Let me try to make the connection between iPhone app sales and the Foo Fighters.  You see – most iPhone apps are simple.  They do one thing that people like intensely for a very brief period of time and then move on.

I’m not trying to say anything negative about the software developers (or Dave Grohl).  They have managed to come up with a formula for success: one key feature (the chorus) with supporting content (the rest of the lyrics).

Let’s think about what paid apps are NOT on this list:

  • BA II Plus calculator
  • WolframAplha
  • OED

In other words – the app store favors the Foo Fighters approach to music over the Bob Dylan approach.  Sure, my financial calculator is not exactly Dylan but it is complex.  Explaining what NPV is to someone is a lot harder than saying drag your finger over this imaginary rope on the screen.

I’m not the first person to notice this trend in software development.  The real reason I wrote this post is because I wanted to find an excuse to link to the YouTube video :)