Moontoast’s Impulse is a Dedicated Ecommerce Facebook App for Musicians

Moontoast, an app developer with ties to Nashville record label Big Machine Records, launched an ecommerce application for musicians called Impulse this week. Instead of trying to duplicate existing full-featured tools, Impulse attempts to complement these solutions by allowing artists to sell downloads and eventually merchandise directly from their Facebook Page through a 15% revenue sharing program with Moontoast.

The app’s lack of subscription or start-up fees and the chance to cut out more expensive middlemen like iTunes make Impulse attractive to both starving bands and major labels. However, Impulse could become redundant if the more comprehensive musician apps focus on ecommerce.

To use Impulse, artists register through Facebook Connect and upload their songs to Moontoast’s website where they are hosted for free. Musicians can then set prices, select to only give users a 30 second preview of songs, include album artwork, and customize their app’s color scheme. It’s free to add a header image that brands the app — something that BandPage charges for. Since Impulse doesn’t offer many extraneous features, it’s quick for artists and managers to set up and add as a tab to their Facebook Page.

When users click on the tab, they’ll see a landing page explaining that the app lets them buy and listen to music. Since Facebook had scheduled to migrate away from FBML tab applications at the end of 2010, Moontoast built Impulse as an iframe app. Unfortunately the migration has been delayed, meaning users are currently directed away from the artist’s Page to a separate application. This also prevents the app from requiring users to Like the artist’s Page in order to listen to songs.

Once on the Impulse app, users can listen to songs, scroll through different music products, and add items to a shopping cart. The “add to cart” button doesn’t change when clicked. Since only a small numeral appears next to the cart icon, it can be difficult to tell if an item has been successfully added until the warning about a duplicate add appears. When users go to checkout, a PayPal popup appears allowing them to enter payment details without losing their place on Facebook.

Purchased downloads or organized through the Impulse Tracker, which lowers the frequency of requests for replacement downloads.

Users can share the application, an album, or an individual song to their news feed, though there’s no option to post directly to the wall of a specific friend or invite friends to the app. Songs play in-line from feed stories which direct users back to the artist’s app, generating leads.

The 11-person, Nashville-based Moontoast is funded by The Martin Companies and several country music stars including Wyonna Judd and Ben Paisley. The company was founded to create ecommerce and engagement widgets for some of Big Machine Records’ artists including Taylor Swift. The developer’s client services team is courting major and indie labels in an effort to sign on more artists.

Moontoast’s roadmap includes adding a merchandise store, allowing artists to offer free downloads in exchange for a user’s email address, and an enhanced analytics tool which builds on the basic data on sales artists can currently access.. Once the Facebook app has been more fully developed, the company is hoping to create Impulse widgets for embedding on other social networks and sites, allowing musicians to make changes to their app which are pushed to their presences across the web.

Moontoast’s cofounder and CTO Marcus Whitney told us he thinks musicians shouldn’t abandon their MySpace profiles like RootMusic is recommending, as they still have good search engine rankings. Instead, they should keep updating them, preferably by syncing them with other presences the way Moontoast is hoping to allow.

For now, Moontoast’s Impulse is an easy way for artists to avoid using popular online music stores that offer music by other artists that can distract fans. However, many music listeners have already added a credit card to stores like iTunes and Amazon, and might have to endure the friction of inputting payment details to PayPal before they can make purchases.

More troubling for the app is that comprehensive tool suites by ReverbNation and RootMusic already offer much of Impulse’s ecommerce functionality, or soon will, leaving little need for an extra Page tab. Artists want a one-stop shop for at least their Facebook marketing need, if not the entire web, rather than a partial solution they’ll have to augment with other services. Impulse must evolve into an undeniably superior ecommerce app if it doesn’t want to be squeezed out of the market.