You may know Robert Schwartzman as the frontman for the Los Angeles-based band Rooney or from some of his acting creds: a role in The Virgin Suicides directed by his cousin Sofia Coppola and as the adorable best-friend’s-little-brother-turned-boyfriend in the Princess Diaries. But lately, Schwartzman has expanded into startup territory. His new app, 22, represents an exciting way for artists to connect with their fans over audio. The Eye Skyped with Robert to talk about 22, his dedication to his fans, and his love of Prince.
So, how does the app work?
The app is basically a way to leave short audio messages for people you’re following. It revolves around artists and following artists that you want to hear from personally. It’s called 22 and it’s 22 seconds of audio. It’s more of a communications app. Artists can use it to share anything they want, so it could be an update of what they’re doing in the studio, creating music, a little bit of a taste of what they’re working on—anything they want to share with their audience. Then, people who listen to those clips can reply with a 22-second message back. You can also leave private messages, which go in the artist’s inbox, and if they feel up for it or they feel inspired, they’ll reply. And any reply to an inbox message goes public.
Where did this idea stem from?
I’ve always been a big believer in cultivating your audience and making sure people who are interested in what you’re doing are excited and feel like there’s a connection. It’s important to give back and put yourself out there. I’ve always lived by that—since the beginning of Rooney I’ve always been approachable or accessible as best I can. I’ve always believed strongly in being available as an artist, as far as thinking of cool ways to excite your fans and have direct contact. I just feel like there’s a missing piece in all of this. I wanted there to be a tool so that artists could have a voice component to all the other types of social media. I feel like, more than ever, there are a lot of times that artists aren’t actually being represented on their social media pages, so fans never really know if they’re talking or hearing from an artist they’re following. This is a way-more-personal way to connect with people that you’re interested in connecting with.
How did you decide on 22-second clips?
Well, 22 has always been my special number. It’s always been very meaningful to my life. With the other developers that I work with, they wanted 15 seconds and then we talked about 30 seconds and then I threw out 22 as a middle between the two. I also felt like it could be a cool name for the company.
The app is currently available for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Are there plans to extend this app to other devices and distributors?
Yeah, absolutely. We actually just built a new feature that will be available by next week, which is a way for people to stream posts that you can share on Twitter and Facebook. Just like you can look at an Instagram photo on a website, you can listen to a 22 update on your computer. But in order to interact with an artist, you have to have the app. I think that it’s going to be a while until we have an Android version, but people will be able to check out what we’re doing through sharing.
Has the app affected your songwriting process in any way?
Yeah, I’ve written songs with fans through the app. I’ve posted a song title and people have sent me lyric ideas one-by-one. I haven’t
actually released a song like that, but it would be fun to make a record like that … I’ve been sharing bits and pieces of new songs and I’ve been getting some really good positive feedback. It’s a good feeling and it keeps you motivated.
How do you envision 22 functioning in the music industry as a whole?
I think what you see now is really good as far as what we intended the app to be. I think it’s just about scaling upward and having more artists on there with their followers and for those artists to interact with other artists, so that fans can find out about new, cool music that’s out there. A big part of this is music discovery. We want artists to be able to promote new content, new music that they’re writing, new photos, or anything that they want to release, as well as connect with other artists and have fans discover new, cool bands. I think this is just going to be a really wonderful tool for artists to build a stronger community, a more active and personal, caring fan base.
Just curious, any dream collaborations?
With my music? Let me think. I don’t know! I’m really so bad at those kind of questions because I just listen to a lot of old music and throwback music. I mean, I love Prince. I’d love to rock out with Prince. I’d be probably too intimidated. Maybe Prince and I can do a rockout over 22 together. Totally.
What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you on tour?
Craziest thing—like ever? Well maybe I’ll mention something from my solo tour since that was the last experience I had. Well, I toured in a limousine (laughing). I mean we bought this old limo, it was a ’90s Lincoln limo, we towed a U-Haul trailer and brought all of our gear and we got to tour all over the United States in a limo. And every venue we pulled up to they were like, “What are you guys doing? This is crazy. We’ve never seen this before.” It was an amazing experience.