Ex-Google Play exec launches Freeform, a new music-streaming platform
Tim Quirk is the ex global head of programming at Google Play (he was responsible for merchandising all of the platform's digital content), former Rhapsody exec and frontman of '90s alt-rock everydudes Too Much Joy.
Last year he left Google and partnered with former Sound Exchange exec and music manager Bryan Calhoun to found Freeform, a music-distribution platform that launched on May 11 with six artist apps. It's designed to share and monetize music using the principles of mobile gaming: make engaging content available for free to as many people as possible, and convert a small but important percentage into paying fans, or perhaps customers of paying partners.
Freeform isn't at - right now - a direct competitor to streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music, nor is it an alternative store to iTunes or Google Play (but it can send interested buyers to those services, and has a partnership with Rhapsody). Its core business is allowing artists to build a free app that, for now, includes an album with one free play of all tracks per day, lyrics, production credits and other info, photos, videos and the ability to unlock unlimited streaming and a free mp3 download by redeeming any partner offer.
We are not game-ifying music. We're just seeing which of these lessons can apply to the music space. People are willing to spend money, just not in a way that the music business has adapted to. The general idea here is 'pushing people up the pyramid.' It doesn't matter if you're Too Much Joy or Taylor Swift, there are more people in the world who don't know and don't care about you than who do. Whenever you have new music, your first job is to get as many people as possible to hear it. Then you want the highest possible subset of them to give you a little bit of money for your music next. Then, the highest possible subset of them, to give you a little bit more money, highest possible subset of them to give you a lot more money.
Quirk points to the number-one mobile game of the past two years, Candy Crush Saga by King, as an example of how the model works:
They give it away for free in the app store and in Google Play. They get a cagillion users as a result - 356 million average users a month - playing Candy Crush Saga. That's bigger than the population of the U.S., right? Ninety-seven percent of the people who install it never pay. Seventy percent of the people who reach the final level never pay. If this were the music business, we'd be suing them, right? We'd be lobbying Congress to change the laws. But the gaming companies, they just say, 'If they're not going to pay, they're not going to pay'.