Happy Monday, everyone!
We made it to Issue #140! Thank you to everyone who read last month’s issue ❤️
Today’s issue features Justin Bianco! Justin is one of the kindest souls you’ll ever meet. He was also yet another indie developer I met at Deep Dish Swift last year 🙂 I actually wanted to feature Justin before I met him at Deep Dish but then that whole Indie Dev Monday hiatus thing happened 😅 But its happening now! Justin makes an AMAZING sheet music app called forScore. I’m no musican so this won’t interview won’t get the best questions on that but I do know an best-in-class apps and indie developers… forScore and Justin are both best-in-class and I’m so happy to feature them in this issue!
Also… are you releasing an app on VisionOS soon? Let me know so I can feature it! Fill out this form before Monday, February 5th!
Deep Dish Swift is the best pizza themed iOS and Swift conference being held in Chicago May 5th to May 7th in 2024. The conference brings togethe Swift and iOS developers of all experience levels and backgrounds in an inclusive environment to share knowledge and experience from a diverse set of speakers. There are talks and a live podcast recording specific for indie development and also two full days of Swift and iOS talks!
Today’s Spotlighted Indie Devs
📆 Today I’m featuring Justin Bianco.
👉 Please make sure to follow them or support them anyway you can! 😇 I’m excited to share their indie dev stories.
1) What is your name? Where do you live?
I’m Justin Bianco, and I currently split my time between Vancouver, Washington and Palm Springs, California.
2) Introduce yourself. Education? Background? Main job? Interests outside of tech? Interests inside of tech?
I was born in South Africa but grew up in the California Bay Area. Before I started forScore, I mostly worked in retail (including a long stint at the Apple Store) before deciding I needed a more fulfilling career that gave me more autonomy. Unprofessionally, I’m a musician and amateur photographer.
3) Have you ever considered yourself an indie developer?
Yes, since I quit my day job in June 2010 and went full time making forScore.
4) What got you started/interested in creating your own applications outside of your “normal” job?
I’ve always been interested in computers and tinkering with things. I dabbled in coding over the years and even when I started making electronic music in my early teens I think I approached it from a systematic, programmer-esque perspective. I’d say I was always interested in creating applications, just not always equipped to do so. Then I bought a book in 2009, taught myself enough to get started and learned the rest as I went along.
5) How do you balance your time between friends/family, work, hobbies, and indie dev?
I don’t! I spent most of 2010-2023 working as hard as I could, as much as I could, to make forScore better at the expense of a social life and my health. Last year I finally cracked and decided I needed to take a longer break and ended up finding a house down here in Palm Springs where I could trade endless months of rain and darkness for sun and a pool. Now I’m trying to find a middle ground–I just leased my first office space so I can have a dedicated place to work and to have a demo setup for visionOS screenshots and videos. It’s a process. 😜
6) forScore - I know almost nothing about sheet music but I do know if I was to start playing music, I would want to use my iPad for it. And it seems like a lot of people agree and use forScore for that 😊 When inspired you to start building forScore? Were you a developer that loved music? A musician that needed a better solution? Or somewhere in-between?
I’m a lifelong musician/composer (I mostly play piano) and when I saw the iPad I instantly knew sheet music belonged on it. Paper is great, it had a good run, but the iPad can enable so much more. The funny bit is that I’m terrible at actually reading sheet music–I thought making a sheet music app would force me to stop playing by ear but that didn’t quite pan out. I know enough to make an app, obviously, but I still mostly play by ear.
7) forScore - I would have no idea where to get started if I was to build an app for sheet music but it looks like forScore is built around PDFs! Have PDFs been common in the sheet music world for a while? Would you now consider yourself a PDF expert? What features in forScore were made easier because of the use of PDFs? Which features were more difficult because of PDFs?
There’s a lot more that you can do with a format like musicXML but a strict technical description of music leaves a lot up to interpretation and can get quite nuanced. I didn’t have the skills or the desire to dive into rendering that, and most people use PDFs anyway, so I decided that I had to bring the technology to people’s existing collections rather than try to force them over to a different format. It made creating forScore very easy since PDFs are so common, but on the other hand forScore has no idea what music is on the page and can’t follow along or play a song for you. I still think the tradeoffs are worth it but I’d say I’m less of a PDF expert and maybe more of a PDF veteran.
8) forScore - The Reflow feature is sooooo cool! Being able to take a whole PDF of sheet music and turn it into a single horizontal scrolling view for the iPhone sounds super challenging but super fun. What were the initial reactions around Reflow when you released it? Did you have an iPhone app before Reflow? Did you see a lot more iPhone installs after this?
Reflow was an experiment designed first and foremost as an accessibility feature, but also to see if an iPhone version of forScore could be practical. Obviously the small screen is not ideal for sheet music but I wanted to make it useful in some way and once I’d made Reflow I was able to introduce “forScore mini” for iPhone which eventually just became part of forScore itself. Like any accessibility feature, I think Reflow is very important to a small number of people and I’m very happy with that.
9) forScore - I noticed that forScore is a paid upfront app but also offers an in-app subscription. How do you like the approach of having both payment methods? How do you decide what features go into paid upfront and which go into in-app subscription?
I’m always looking for new features to add to forScore but it got to the point where features were niche or complex enough that they were confusing average users and making the app too complicated. The forScore Pro subscription gives me a way to include and maintain those features without detracting from the core experience. As with any app, adding a subscription elicits strong opinions but in the end I think the outcome was worth the growing pains.
10) forScore - Not related to forScore at all but… what instruments do you all play and what is your favorite type of music to play? ☺️
Mostly piano, but I’ve also played saxophone, violin, cello, guitar, bass, flute, and I think I’m probably forgetting a few. I usually play my own songs (you can find my music on most streaming services but please please skip the electronic albums, they’re very very bad).
11) forScore - What’s next?! Do you have any fun future features that you can share with us?
I’m just plugging away at visionOS compatibility right now. forScore is a very complex app so it’s taking a long time to make sure everything is working just the way I want. Beyond that, it really just depends on which iPads Apple updates next and whether or not they include any new capabilities I can take advantage of.
12) What’s been the hardest part of being an indie dev? What’s the most fun part of being an indie dev?
The hardest part is knowing that Apple could kill my business at any time, but also just not having colleagues nearby to rely on or share your successes with. The most fun is being able to control your destiny and be proud of what you’ve done.
13) Is there anything else you’d like to tell the indie dev community about you?
I love being a part of this community, please reach out to me if you’re on Mastodon! @firstname.lastname@example.org
14) Do you have any other indie devs that readers should follow / lookout for?
I was late to the social media party so I think anybody I could mention has already been mentioned here previously. Basically everyone who went to Deep Dish Swift last year and the few who couldn’t make it. 😇
Newly Released and Updated Indie Apps
Here are some newly released and newly updated apps from this past week! If you would like to possibly see your app in this list, please submit your app to the look at me form 👀
Thank you to everybody who made it to this footer! You either spent the time to read or took the effort to scroll 😊
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