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Consumer Electronics Show Q&A with Hicks of Heavenspot

Chevon Hicks is the creative director and president of Heavenspot, a digital advertising agency based in Los Angeles. At only 37, Hicks has had time to start his company, sell it and buy it back again.

He's a jack-of-all-trades, with expertise in music, software development, games and digital advertising campaigns. His latest project is Ziggy Marley's Music Mixer, an app that was released last month after winning a coveted relationship with Apple (AAPL) iTunes.

Buyers can use the app to tinker with new songs Hicks had recorded with the singer. The songs are broken down into different tracks, like bass, vocals, and drums. The mixer can produce potentially thousands of different possible combinations. Hicks says he gets a small piece of the action if iTunes customers use the app and buy more iTunes songs.

BNET Analyst Jim Henry interviewed Hicks at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 6. The following are edited excerpts:

BNET: How does one get approval from Apple for an app? Or is it the Wild West, where "official approval" is sort of a last-century idea?

Chevon Hicks: No, you absolutely need Apple's approval. It's not easy to get, and they're not always very predictable ... The goal is very much to go mainstream.

BNET: How do you do that?

CH: Before we do any investment, we do research on what apps are doing what, and which ones are doing well. I've also learned that branded apps, especially if the brand is a celebrity, tend to do much better than non-branded apps. ... There's an example of these guys who came up with a great app, but it never got past the Top 100 Apps. They took the exact same app and rebranded it and it took off.

BNET: Celebrities, like Ziggy Marley?

CH: It turns out a partner of mine was a friend of Ziggy Marley. When we started talking with him he knew what an app was, but that was about it. We immediately ran into problems, right-of-use problems with his existing songs. We had to create brand-new songs and market them as brand-new tracks nobody ever heard before. So he came in and laid down the tracks.

BNET: You must have a pretty interesting resume for a guy your age. It's always interesting to see people with a unique skill set. I used to know an attorney in Nashville who was also in a reggae band, a really good reggae band. He had dreads (dreadlocks), which could be a problem in a courtroom, at least in Tennessee. But somewhere, there's somebody looking for exactly that guy, a defense attorney who's also a reggae musician.

CH: Hey, I'm not that young, look at this (he fingers a few grey hairs in his beard). But yeah, when we first started we were working with these great developers in China, but they weren't musicians. Then we had others who were great musicians but not-so-great developers. You have to be both. We wanted to start this out right. You have to know what the rules are, before you can break them.

BNET: Speaking of breaking the rules, and back to getting quote-unquote "official" approval, can't people just create apps themselves? Or steal them?

CH: There are a certain number of jail-broken iPhones, but it's a very small minority, and they tend to have bugs and software issues that are really, really hard to fix.

BNET: If I were an advertiser, or a market-research guy like I used to be at Mercedes-Benz, how do you go about measuring advertising results in this space?

CH: It helps to have an Internet component. It helps a lot. You can get numbers on click-through rates, the number of people who download, the number of people who delete an app.

BNET: What do your Ziggy Marley Mixer numbers look like?

CH: Don't take this wrong, but nobody much shares those numbers. I will say that for whatever reason Ziggy Marley is doing best in Germany and Austria, and Apple is promoting it there. But not in the United States. We're trying to figure it out ... Apps tend to have kind of a slow burn before they get into the Top 25, the Top 100. Our app dropped Dec. 8, so we have a way to go, to garner the attention we want.

Photo: mPRm Public Relations

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