The largest survey among app developers on the market, Vision Mobile’s Developer Economics, has just been published. With over 10.000 developers participating, the report contains key information for any developer trying to learn the business of app development. Read on to see why going for gold in the apps business is kind of like trying to become a rock star.

As an app developer, the future may look a little grim:

Revenue distribution (Source: Vision Mobile)
The revenues from mobile apps dis-proportionally comes from less than 2% of the app developers. In fact, 2/3rds of developers do not make enough money from the business of app development to focus on it. Of course, according to Vision Mobile, half of those developers are not looking for money anyway, rather app development is a hobby or the developer is simply experimenting. Given that the app developer community is exploding (Vision Mobile pegs it at 2.9m while Evans Data says 8.7m), there must be a reason that drives developers beyond money.  Indeed, looking at the figures for app developers above, the resemblance to the music industry is uncanny:

Artist revenue distribution (Source: Next Big Sound)

Music analytics company Next Big Sound has found that in music – as in app development – most artists remain undiscovered (i.e. “lost in the app store”) and only about 1% of artists can be considered mainstream or mega stars, yet the avenues to market for a music artist today are arguably as plentiful as an app developer. Still, new artists keep coming.  What is the driver?  Clearly passion is a key ingredient that keeps artist creating, and some of them going for gold. But did U2 sound good the first time they got together in a garage? Or did they scare the neighborhood cats away? Of the risk of causing a comments storm, we elect to believe the latter.  What made U2 good, and what makes an app developer good is simply experience:

Experience in apps and revenue (Source: Vision Mobile)

When analyzing app developers, there are huge differences between those who have released 50+ apps vs those with only a handful in terms of the earnings potential.  The power of experience, as stated by Vision Mobile, cannot be ignored.


“The 3% of mobile game developers who have shipped 50+ titles are nearly 9 times as likely to be earning over $50k per app per month than the 62% who have only shipped between 1 and 3 titles.”

– Vision Mobile


We also believe that experience does not just mean creating better apps, but being smarter about your marketing strategy, to localize your app and marketing, make sure your app is in as many app stores as possible, engage with users and keep improving your product, etc. Sure, it’s tough to make it as an app developer, and while you may not make beautiful music right off the bat, if you keep trying and improving, chances are you may one day become that rock star…

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