Episode 021 – Thomas Grayston of Note Rush on Developing and Launching an App (Part 1)

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Today’s episode is the first of a two-part interview with Thomas Grayston, the developer of the Note Rush app.

In this week’s episode, Thomas puts on his entrepreneur hat and shares his startup story. In next week’s episode, he’ll put on his developer hat and talk about first steps non-technical teachers can take if they have app ideas that they want to bring to market.

Click here to listen to part 2 of Thomas’ interview!


  • Thomas evaluated other apps to find out what worked and what didn’t. He sat on the idea for a few years before he started developing his own.
  • Teacher feedback led him to introduce midi support, even though he didn’t initially think it would be valuable.
  • At launch, the app only had preset levels. Customizability was always the goal, but it wasn’t priority at the start. When launching a new project, start with the basic idea and make improvements from there.
  • Thomas gets feedback from his wife (a piano teacher) on which features are valuable and which are cool, but not as useful. Seeking the opinions of a few people with expertise in your area can help keep a business idea focused and on track.
  • Thomas ran an open beta test for teachers that was meant to get feedback, but seemed most valuable as a marketing tool pre-launch. The communal aspect helped people feel like they were part of something special, and they were compelled to share the app with their fellow teachers when it launched.
  • Facebook music teacher groups have been an effective place to promote the app. Thomas is careful to not spam groups with marketing messages, and makes it a point to participate in the discussions pertaining to note-reading.
  • Releasing seasonal themes for the app gives his natural reasons to promote the app regularly throughout the year.
  • Promotions are an ongoing experiment.
    • Thomas noticed that when he ran 50% off promotions for the app, he generally doubled sales, so his bottom line didn’t change.
    • This year he experimented with a 24-hr Black Friday promotion where he offered the app for free. This produced 10k downloads in one day and doubled sales in the weeks following the promotion.
    • Significant increases in downloads can also boost an app’s rankings in the app store, which may have contributed to the ongoing increase sales of the app
  • There are several app pricing models and pros and cons to each
    • Paid
    • Free w/ In-App Purchase
    • Thomas considered the psychological value of paying for an app and the complexity of developing the app when deciding how to price NoteRush.
  • Having an app in the app store is not free. Having an Apple Developer account to publish an app costs $100/yr. Apple normally takes 30% per download, but drops to 15% for subscriptions for 2nd year and beyond, which is Apple’s way of incentivizing subscription apps
  • Thomas left his developer job to focus on NoteRush only a few months after launching. Today he generates about 80% of his income from developing the NoteRush app.


Podcast Recommendations:

Independence (Especially Independence 42: Freemium, an episode on app pricing models/strategies.) 

Under the Radar

AppMasters – marketing off apps and app store optimization (ASO)

How I Built This 

Startups For the Rest of Us 

Note Rush App: iTunes and Google Play

Note Rush Dinosaur Theme: http://noterushapp.com/musicstudiostartup

Note Rush Teachers on Facebook

Part 2 of interview with Thomas Grayston

Connect with Thomas

Website: https://www.noterushapp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/noterush/

Previous Episode
Episode 020 – Cindy Hsu on Concert Production and Developing an Audience
Next Episode
Episode 022 – Thomas Grayston of Note Rush on Developing and Launching an App (Part 2)